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Anne Freadman (Australia)

 

Anne Freadman[i] is Associate professor in Romance Languages at the University of Queensland, Australia. Her research interests include theoretical problems and issues concerning key concepts in general semiotics; the use of the concept of genre as an analytic device in the study of particular semiotic practices; and the intersection of genre and gender. She is currently involved in research into the concept of genre, genre and gender, and the semiotic writings of C.S. Peirce, and is supervising work in feminist cultural analysis (women's diaries, women's installation works), feminist theory (especially literary), rhetoric and translation. Some of her recent publications include Models of Genre for Language Teaching (1996); Music 'in' Peirce (1993); ... you know, the énonciation ... (1995); Feminist Literary Theory (A Question (or Two) About Genre) (1996).

 

Her contribution The Visit Of The Instrument Maker takes as its point of departure an exchange of telegrams and letters between the famed American father of pragmati(ic)ism, Charles Sanders Peirce, and the English philosopher and originator of significs, Lady Victoria Welby. The exchange is interesting because Peirce, excusing himself in a letter for not having replied to a telegram some time back from Welby, does so with reference to a curious visit by an elegant person claiming to be interested in purchasing his house, which had been advertised by a sign outside to be for sale at the time. The visitor, however, it subsequently emerged, was in fact a refuge from a nearby Insane Asylum. The ageing Peirce, probably rather lonely due to being in a very a difficult period in his professional life, and not initially realising all the complexities of the situation, had in the course of talking to the man discovered that they shared an interest in common, since the visitor by profession was an instrument-maker, and the two had engaged in a lengthy conversation. This instant rapport can be explained by the fact that Peirce had worked for a large part of his life at the American Coastal Survey, and was thus very interested in technologies and mathematics of precision in measurement, and personally knew a large number of instrument-makers. Seizing the fact that Peirce used the telling of this particular story to Welby as a means of providing an excuse for a delay in a sequence of correspondence, Anne goes on to use the series of exchanges between Peirce and Welby as an example in discussing and expanding in a very useful way the notions of uptake, whereby it is possible to construe genres as sequences of texts; mixity of genres, where genres of various kinds can be seen as parasitic on one another; and finally, the more general issue of exemplarity, where she discusses the interesting distinction made by Quintillion between use of standard examples in the teaching of writing, which encourages students to mimic the ‘typical’ in some supposed class of genre, and the use of exemplary models, which encourages them to discover and emulate the uniquely excellent – to find in the very best models from the past exactly those features, writing strategies and meaning-making resources, which made them stand out from the pack. Emulation in this context means, then, to aspire to exemplary status, not merely to reproduce its forms.

 



[i] Anne Freadman’s faculty homepage is at: http://www.french-italian.unimelb.edu.au/staff/af.html and she may be contacted by e-mail at: a.freadman@mailbox.uq.edu.au. Some of her recent publications can be found here

 


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