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²z½×¹ê½î­ì«h Practice: Structuralist/Semiotic Approach

Before you start to work on your paper, bear in mind that "structure" does not mean the external structure (organization of different parts) or the organic one (the pattern of imagery, voice, irony, etc.); instead, it means

  1. the structure of meanings and signs, and
  2. the deeper narrative structure.
  1. structuralist narratology: thematic structure or narrative structure (using Propp or Greimas)

  2. Pick 1 or a group of short narratives (for instance Aesop's Fables, or Chinese myths and fantasies) and see if there is a structure common to them. Try to use Propp's, or Greimas' categories, or devise your own. If you are familiar with detective stories or soap operas, you can also work on their common structure. After the investigation of the common structure, you have, among others, two directions to take: 1) find out if a text does some significant variation to the common structure, 2) explain why there is such a common structure.
  3. semiotics Use Barthes and do a semiotic reading of ads, store signs, government propanga or a short poem (preferably one or a group of short texts). By analyzing the different levels of signification, you will try to answer questions such as "how an advertisement or a government's propaganda arrive at its central message," "how a (national) myth is formed" or "how a poem become symbolic." Remember, don't just explain what a text means.(process of analyzing an ad.
    1. first order signification to second order-- to create symbolic meanings/a central message/a myth
    2. organic whole == formalism; subtext)
    Reference: elements of advertisement: from
  4. structure of narration
    1. Examine different aspects of a short story's narration: for example, the distance between the narrator and the protagonist and/or the reader, the use of different tenses (or different periods of time) in his narration, the different between story and plot.
  5. Explain binary oppositions or Greimas' semantic rectangle, or the lack of them, in any narrative.

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    Barthes' Semiotics

    1. signification = form (a girl smelling a rose)+ content (first love, divine)
    2. sign(ification)= form (a black soldier giving the French salute) + content (patriotism, militarism)
    3. primary: national flag=(red-blue-white) + (blood on earth-blue sky-white sun)--(the 72 martyrs) \ philanthropy, liberty, equality

    4. secondary: national flag= national flag + patriotism --connotation

    5. national signs

    6. primary: Every Oct. 10 = Oct 10, '11 + revolution --denotation
      secondary: double tenth = every Oct 10 + nation's birthday
      -- connotation]

      the other signs for the nation=5000-year culture, Dragon, Huang-Emperor, national anthem

      "a connoted system is a system whose plane of expression (i.e. signifier) is itself constituted by a signifying system"

    In short, the signifiers of connotation are made up of the signs of the denoted system, and this makes connotation, and so literature at large, one of the numbers of 'second-order signifying systems'...
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