Semiotics and Interpretation

Semiotics and Interpretation

ROBERT SCHOLES
Copyright Date: 1982
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 162
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt32bt0m
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  • Book Info
    Semiotics and Interpretation
    Book Description:

    "Accessible yet challenging, this book will be the indispensable introductory text for semiotics-indeed for any theoretical course in the humanities and social sciences that deals with the theory of these disciplines."-Choice"The book offers . . . a clutch of examples of semiotics usefully and intelligently applied, which Schole's patient, cheerful tone and his resolutely concrete vocabulary manage to combine into a breezily informative American confection."-Terence Hawkes,Times Literary Supplement"This critique demonstrates once more that Scholes . . . is one of the most authoritative scholars in the field of semiotics."-The Antioch Review"[Scholes] applies the range of semiotic theory to a series of other texts-poems, stories, films, a scene from a play, bumper stickers, even a part of the human anatomy. . . . When we finish this text (which includes a useful glossary and descriptive bibliography), we feel that we have learned the basic principles of semiotics and can apply them in our teaching and criticism; as a bonus, we gain many new insights into familiar texts."-Richard Pearce,Novel"[Scholes] is among our best interpreters of literary theory. . . . He provides not only an argument for semiotics but an informed criticism of it as well."-Martin Green,The Literary Review

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16093-2
    Subjects: Linguistics, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    R.S.
  4. 1 THE HUMANITIES, CRITICISM, AND SEMIOTICS
    (pp. 1-16)

    The humanities may be defined as those disciplines primarily devoted to the study of texts. As the physical sciences concentrate on the study of natural phenomena, and the social sciences on the behavior of sentient creatures, the humanities are connected by their common interest in communicative objects, or texts. Human beings are text-producing animals, and those disciplines called “humanities” are primarily engaged in the analysis, interpretation, evaluation, and production of texts. Where there are texts, of course, there are rules governing text production and interpretation. These sets of rules or customs, with their physical or cultural constraints—variously described as...

  5. 2 TOWARD A SEMIOTICS OF LITERATURE
    (pp. 17-36)

    “Literature,” of course, is a word, not a thing. In casual conversation the word is used in many ways, some of them in conflict with one another. “Literature” may be thought of as true writing versus false, as beautiful writing versus useful, as nontrue writing versus true/false writing, and so on. It can be thought of as consisting of a few established generic forms, such as poem, play, and story, with such debatable genres as the essay and the film lurking on the borders. Most departments of literature function with no better concepts than these, and, as F. E. Sparshott...

  6. 3 SEMIOTICS OF THE POETIC TEXT
    (pp. 37-56)

    Let us begin with one of the shortest poetic texts in the English language, “Elegy” by W. S. Merwin:

    Elegy

    Who would I show it to

    One line, one sentence, unpunctuated, but proclaimed an interrogative by its grammar and syntax—what makes it a poem? Certainly without its title it would not be a poem; but neither would the title alone constitute a poetic text. Nor do the two together simply make a poem by themselves. Given the title and the text, thereaderis encouraged to make a poem. He is not forced to do so, but there is...

  7. 4 NARRATION AND NARRATIVITY IN FILM AND FICTION
    (pp. 57-72)

    Let us assume that there is something called narrative that can exist apart from any particular method of narration or any particular narrative utterance, as we assume that there is something called the English language that exists apart from any particular form of discourse or any individual speech act in English. Narration is, first of all, a kind of human behavior. It is specifically a mimetic or representative behavior, through which human beings communicate certain kinds of message. The modes of narration may vary extraordinarily. (In passing, I should say that I am aware of our customary distinction between what...

  8. 5 A SEMIOTIC APPROACH TO IRONY IN DRAMA AND FICTION
    (pp. 73-86)

    I would like to begin with a brief excerpt from a literary text, a short story by H. G. Wells called “The Country of the Blind.” In the story a sighted person wanders into a remote village where all the inhabitants have been blind for generations. Keeping the old adage in mind, the sighted man expects to become master among the blind, but events do not work out that way, and he becomes a prisoner, thought by his captors to be mad. At one point he challenges one of his captors:

    “My time will come,” he said.

    “You’ll learn,” the...

  9. 6 SEMIOTIC APPROACHES TO JOYCE’S “EVELINE”
    (pp. 87-109)
    James Joyce

    The purpose of this chapter is a simple one. I wish to argue, and to demonstrate as well as possible, that certain semiotic approaches to fictional texts, each incomplete in itself, can be combined in a manner that facilitates the practical criticism of fiction. The three approaches I wish to combine into a single methodology are the following:

    1. that of Tzvetan Todorov, as illustrated in hisGrammaire du Décaméron

    2. that of Gérard Genette inNarrative Discourse

    3. that of Roland Barthes inS/Z.

    In each of these cases the critic has attempted to generate a method of analysis appropriate to the...

  10. 7 DECODING PAPA: “A VERY SHORT STORY” AS WORK AND TEXT
    (pp. 110-126)

    The semiotic study of a literary text is not wholly unlike traditional interpretation or rhetorical analysis, nor is it meant to replace these other modes of response to literary works. But the semiotic critic situates the text somewhat differently, privileges different dimensions of the text, and uses a critical methodology adpated to the semiotic enterprise. Most interpretive methods privilege the “meaning” of the text. Hermeneutic critics seek authorial or intentional meaning; the New Critics seek the ambiguities of “textual” meaning; the “reader response” critics allow readers to make meaning. With respect to meaning the semiotic critic is situated differently. Such...

  11. 8 UNCODING MAMA: THE FEMALE BODY AS TEXT
    (pp. 127-142)

    It is a tenet of semiotic studies—and one to which I fully subscribe—that much of what we take to be natural is in fact cultural. Part of the critical enterprise of this discipline is a continual process of defamiliarization: the exposing of conventions, the discovering of codes that have become so ingrained we do not notice them but believe ourselves to behold through their transparency the real itself. Nowhere is this process more important or more powerful than in our perceptions of our own bodies. We think we know ourselves directly, but both the “we” that know and...

  12. GLOSSARY OF SEMIOTIC TERMINOLOGY
    (pp. 143-150)
  13. SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 151-156)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 157-161)