Criticism / Internet
Assisted Courses / English Department
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,
the structure of meanings and signs, and
the deeper narrative structure.
structure of narration
structuralist narratology: thematic structure or narrative structure
(using Propp or Greimas)
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.
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.
Reference: elements of advertisement: from
first order signification to second order-- to create symbolic meanings/a
central message/a myth
organic whole == formalism; subtext)
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.
Explain binary oppositions or Greimas' semantic rectangle, or the
lack of them, in any narrative.
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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'...
signification = form (a girl smelling a rose)+ content (first love, divine)
sign(ification)= form (a black soldier giving the French salute) + content
primary: national flag=(red-blue-white) + (blood on earth-blue sky-white
sun)--(the 72 martyrs) \ philanthropy, liberty, equality
secondary: national flag= national flag + patriotism --connotation
primary: Every Oct. 10 = Oct 10, '11 + revolution --denotation
secondary: double tenth = every Oct 10 + nation's birthday
the other signs for the nation=5000-year culture, Dragon, Huang-Emperor,
"a connoted system is a system whose plane of expression (i.e. signifier)
is itself constituted by a signifying system"