An Analysis Of The Semiotics Of Sex By Jeanette Winterson

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Emotion is one of the most ambiguous concepts that humankind wrestles with. Multifaceted and convoluted, emotions are what make us human, and they must always be expressed. And what better way to express one’s self than through art? Both the creation and consumption of art can be an abysmal experience that is indescribable at best, and ought not be taken lightly. Which is probably why the general public’s superficial approach to it pisses Jeanette Winterson off so much.
Her essay, “The Semiotics of Sex,” opens with an anecdote about a confused student. She is under the impression that Radclyffe Hall and Winterson’s work have something in common due to the fact they’re both lesbians. Winterson informs her she is incorrect in her assumption and
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He begins his conversation with the creation of a wooden white bird made in parts of Europe. Two pieces of wood are carefully sculpted and separated to create the effect of a dove in flight. It’s a simple sculpture, held together by just one nail, and “yet, by their very simplicity, they allow one to categorize the qualities which make them pleasing and mysterious to everyone who sees them” (81). These qualities create “aesthetic emotion,” a sense of mystery and wonder in the viewer (81). According to Berger, aesthetic emotion in art is a reflection of the emotions one feels when looking upon nature. “There seem to be certain constants which all cultures have found ‘beautiful’: among them – certain flowers, trees, forms of rock, birds, animals, the moon, running water…” (83). These things invoke a sense of wonder in the viewer, and often lead to what Berger calls a two-faced affirmation: “what has been seen is recognized and affirmed, and at the same time, the seer is affirmed by what he sees” (83). These images bring a silver lining to a world shrouded in dark clouds, reminding us we are not alone. Art tries to imitate this feeling by creating “a message that one receives but cannot translate because, in it, all is instantaneous”

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