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Semiotics and the Modern Quebec Novel

Semiotics and the Modern Quebec Novel: A Greimassian analysis of Th?riault's Agaguk

PAUL PERRON
Copyright Date: 1996
Pages: 170
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt2tv18c
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  • Book Info
    Semiotics and the Modern Quebec Novel
    Book Description:

    Perron's Greimassian analysis ofAgagukfunctions as both a demonstration of the workings of that text and an example of socio-semiotic analysis, while situating literary semiotics within the larger framework of linguistic theory and literary studies.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8388-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 3-18)

    The choice of an object of study is neither arbitrary nor innocent, and the same holds true for the theoretical underpinnings that ground any methodology or perspective adopted. The aims of this study are threefold: first, to present to an English-speaking audience a new reading of a novel in translation,Agaguk,by Yves Thériault, published just before the Quiet Revolution, a period of major socio-political and cultural transformations at the beginning of the 1960s that radically altered Quebec society; second, to examine a specific theory of European semiotics that has centred around Algirdas Julien Greimas’s work, known as the Paris...

  5. 2 The Semiotics of the Novel
    (pp. 19-32)

    In this chapter I shall examine a specific theory of European semiotics, known as the Paris School of Semiotics, that has centred around the work of Algirdas Julien Greimas and his research group. After exploring the underpinnings of the theory from a general point of view, and highlighting its anthropological foundations within the context of the social sciences, in the remaining chapters of my study I shall work out a detailed methodology and a coherent protocol for the analysis of a specific literary genre, the novel.

    Semiotics can be defined broadly as a domain of investigation that explores the nature...

  6. 3 Agaguk: A Synopsis
    (pp. 33-35)

    The analysis of this ‘Inuit novel’ by Yves Thériault will be based on a close reading and re-reading of the discursive and figurative unfolding of the text. For example, to construct the semiotic subject it is imperative first of all to work out the relation between subjects and objects of value that define them; to understand how certain subjects can appropriate or lose certain objects of value it is necessary to situate them in an intersubjective framework and work out the modalities of competence that enable us to define them as subjects in a disjunctive or conjunctive relation to objects...

  7. 4 Segmentation
    (pp. 36-37)

    As one of the aims of this study is to work out a methodology based on a specific theoretical corpus in order to demonstrate both its limits and its value in discovering new insights when examining such a complex text as a novel, I shall start by raising the issue of where to begin.

    If there exists one area in which semiotics has made real progress it is related to the syntagmatic organization of signification. Nonetheless, it should be noted that what we are dealing with here is not definitive knowledge but a way of approaching the text, the procedures...

  8. 5 The Canonic Relation
    (pp. 38-67)

    In order to provide a conceptual framework for our study by situating the various levels of our analysis in relation to actantial theory in general, I will now give a brief description of Greimas’s narrative grammar that will be worked out in detail in the course of our examination of Thériault’s novel.¹ InStructural Semantics(1983) Greimas stated that a semantic micro-universe can be defined as a universe – that is, as a signifying whole – only if it appears before us as a simple spectacle, as an actantial structure (199).² Moreover, as our study ofAgagukwill make clear, the micro-universe,...

  9. 6 Actantial Topology
    (pp. 68-91)

    Objects of value, or /goods/, it has been suggested, are the sign of a certain type of activity and, in so far as they are the direct result of /doing/, they irrevocably signal the presence of a factitive performance. To recognize their reality is necessarily to acknowledge the existence of an attributive agent. Practical objects of value simultaneously differentiate and generalize the performative subject. Thus, since Agaguk and Iriook /do/, or act, more or less like the rest of the Eskimos in their daily struggle for survival, they end up with almost identical primary and secondary /goods/. What sets one group...

  10. 7 System of Modalities
    (pp. 92-112)

    In the previous chapter we saw how the anthropomorphic actantial dimension establishes relations between subjects and objects, subjects and anti-subjects, subjects and senders and receivers. The first relation, founded on the institution of the subject as a wanting subject and the object as an object of value, can be described in terms of modal utterances.Wanting-to(will) is the first of a series of determined semantic restrictions that specify actants as virtual operators of a doing.Having-to(duty) introduces prescription and necessity as the second semantic restriction. The establishment of the modalities ofbeing-able-to(power) andknowing(knowledge) are the...

  11. 8 Actantial Transformations
    (pp. 113-127)

    One must bear in mind, first, that if a single modality of the series is negated then this necessarily invalidates the others of the set, and second, that the modality ofwillconfers upon the actant the status of personal subject. In so far as the constitution of the actant is completed when the transformations undergone are finally concluded, its formal identity becomes possible only after the restitution of all the elements of the entire series. Moreover, the syntax of the operators, governed by a successive process of affirmation and denegation, establishes an order of textual ‘truth’ when the final...

  12. 9 System of Modalities and Sequential Order
    (pp. 128-134)

    To attempt to define the notion of sequence starting from the manifest plane of a text is invariably to meet with extremely complex methodological problems of identification and segmentation. However, if, as was suggested at the beginning of this work, one accepts as an initial hypothesis that the sequence can be logically linked to the actant, defined as an utterance with a semantically invested predicate in a junctive relationship with an object of value, then by implication the sequence itself can be considered as the topos of the actantial manifestation. Since it is in fact a constructed network, the sequence...

  13. 10 Conclusion
    (pp. 135-142)

    At the end of this study, I would first like to evaluate my critical practice with respect to a number of other commentators who have analysedAgaguk.Second, from a more theoretical perspective, I would like to offer some general comments with the intent of situating my critical stance in relation both to semiotic theory and literary discourse, which attempt to uncover and highlight units of signification, whether they happen to be of a socio-historical nature or of an individual nature originating in the imaginary.

    As André Brochu (1982, 18) notes, from the point of view of depicting a given...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 143-154)
  15. Glossary
    (pp. 155-158)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 159-164)
  17. Index
    (pp. 165-170)