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A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand

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As I (along with the rest of the country and much of the world) await the final outcome of an election that has so strained the bonds that hold this country together—so much so that one wonders whether it can ever be united again—I cannot help but be minded of Abraham Lincoln's famous adaptation of Mark 3:25: "A house divided against itself cannot stand." For whatever the electoral outcome (and I do have my own predictions, but they are not the stuff of cultural semiotics), one thing is certain: roughly one half of the country is going to be enraged by it. And this is something that does belong to the practice of cultural semiotics—something, in fact, that Sonia Maasik and I anticipated as we worked on the 10th edition of Signs of Life in the U.S.A., restructuring the text to make its foundational chapter "American Paradox: Culture, Conflict, and Contradiction in the U.S.A.," as well as focusing its inaugural exemplary semiotic analysis (found in the book's general Introduction) on the two-part Avengers saga, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.

If you wish to explore the cultural significance of Election 2020 in your classes, these sections of the new edition provide you with ample resources for doing so, resources that engage critical thinking upon the current state of our nation without inviting partisan conflict among your students. I think it quite unlikely that anyone will disagree on the basic point that the country is very badly divided, so what the text does is provide ways for understanding how we got this way and what to expect in the foreseeable future. And, as always, the book leaves it up to you and your students to determine how you may want to respond to it all.

With that, I will return to my own obsessive internet surveying of the latest election news (this is being written on the evening of November 4), and hope that the new edition of Signs of Life (which has just appeared in print) will be useful to you.

Photo Credit: Pixabay Image 3801639 by GDJ, used under Pixabay License

About the Author
Jack Solomon is professor of English at California State University, Northridge, where he teaches literature, critical theory and history, and popular cultural semiotics. At present he is Director of the Office of Academic Assessment and Program Review, a task to which he frequently applies the critical thinking insights that cultural semiotics can reveal. He is often interviewed by the California media for analysis of current events and trends. He is co-author, with Sonia Maasik, of Signs of Life in the U.S.A.: Readings on Popular Culture for Writers, and California Dreams and Realities: Readings for Critical Thinkers and Writers, and is also the author of The Signs of Our Time, an introductory text to popular cultural semiotics, and Discourse and Reference in the Nuclear Age, a critique of poststructural semiotics that proposes an alternative semiotic paradigm.