Structuralism and Semiotics
1. From the textbook, we can learn that "structuralism" is an approach to literary analysis. According to the name, we can know that "structuralism" is a literary analysis, which emphasizes on the form and the structure of texts. The most important thing in 'structuralism" is not the content or the meaning which the texts want to convey; the chief interest is how texts mean. Structuralism includes many elements and opinions, such as binary oppositions, metaphor and metonymy, and rhyme. Binary oppositions is "semantic structure and approaches" for people to analyze the text. By analyzing the binary oppositions in the text, we can find out how the meaning of the story develops. In The Purloined Letter, we can see the complicated binary oppositions in the text. Meanwhile, each binary oppositions interacts each other.
There are three complex binary oppositions in The Purloined Letter, each binary opposition influences each other and let us know how text means. First of all, the center of the three is unconcealment and concealment; secondly, the relationship of power and powerless; thirdly, smartness and stupidity. For the first part of the unconcealment and concealment, it's obvious for us to know how this opposition makes the development of the story. Meanwhile, the first part also influences a lot to the second part - power and powerless. In the beginning, the lady cannot conceal the letter from Minister D (concealment+power); here, she belongs to unconealment, and become powerless toward Minister D. In another way, we can also say that the lady wants to conceal the letter; she belongs to concealment but becomes powerless; as for D, he (unconcealment) becomes powerful. Later, the police Prefect cannot find the letter in D's premises, and his action also be known by Minister D; here, to D (concealment+power), Prefect belongs to unconcealment, and becomes powerless. In another way, we can also say that Prefect wants to conceal himself from D; he belongs to concealment but becomes powerless. Then, Dupin find out the letter from Minister D, because he put himself into D's shoes and use the same way to get back the letter; here, Minister belongs to unconcealment and become powerless. Also, if we explain in another way, Dupin will belong to unconcealment but become powerful.
The third relationship - smartness and stupidity - is simpler than the previous two binary oppositions. However, I think there are four items that can interpret the binary opposition. The relationship between Minister D and the lady, Minister D and Prefect, Dupin and Prefect, and Dupin vs. Minister D. The three binary oppositions interact with each other, and let us find out how the meaning of the story evolves. It's the example of how structuralism emphasizes on the form and structure, and is an approach to literary analysis.
2. "Semiotics", which is similar to structuralism, is also talk about the form of the texts. However, semiotics emphasizes on all signs in the world; structuralism talks about that language as a sign. We can observe the relationship between semiotics and formalism. Semiotics focuses on how the forms produce meaning from the universalizing formalism to specific formalism. The "sign" is very important in semiotics. There are three special nouns in semiotics: signifier, signified, and sign. Modern myths are good examples for us to analyze semiotics. When we use the three special nouns to analyze modern myths, there are two levels. In the first level, both signifier and signified are empty. In the second level, the "sign" comes out; signifier empties out and becomes the "sign"; signified becomes the concept of the sign. So, signs are made up by two parts: signifier and signified.
Here, I want to use an advertisement from Mc Donald's as an example. The advertisement talks about that a father always sings the same song in the morning, so his son has already been familiar with the song and felt bored. Mc Donald's use this to advertise the new menu - cake (ÃP»æ). And the song the father sings becomes the music of Mc Donald's. The advertisement tells people that don't always be the same; sometimes, there can be some changes in the life, so, try the cake.
One of the important sign in the case is "the song". In the first level, signifier and signified are empty and don't have any special meaning. What we see is just the actions in the advertisement. In the second level, the "sign" comes out, it's the change of the song; signifier becomes the "sign"; signified interprets the concept of change in life. From the example, we can see that semiotics can help us to analyze a very simple text in our lives. It helps us to learn how the forms produce meaning from universalizing formalism to specific formalism.