The Semiotic Method- Reading Notes (English 101 course)

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You are required to turn in a set of notes taken based on the reading assigned for the week.  These notes will consist of the following:

-Two (2) quotes/passages from the reading will be used for discussion in class.

-Analyze each quote: Why did you choose the quote? How is it important?

-One question you have for the class (which means that you will have an answer for this question that you will share with the class after we have discussed and attempted to answer the question you present to us).

-One question that you have for the professor regarding the reading that you need to be answered.

-One short, informal reflective paragraph on the reading for the week.


Introduction to Semiotics:



-Linguistic Theory

            Modifiers canchange the meaning of language/ words

                        Ex.Jump (root word)

                              Add a suffix, such as ed and Jumpbecomes Jumped

  (from present to past tense)

Roland Barthes

            -Frenchman whotook the Semiotic linguistic theory and applied it to culture

            -WHY? He arguesthat written language is only one form of communication

                        If semiotics decodes writtenlanguage then it can be used to decode other forms


            -In his book ofshort essays, titled Mythologies, Barthes uses semiotics to analyze

differentelements of French culture, such as striptease, wrestling, toys and


            *By analyzing popculture/ ethnic culture Barthes was able to decode and understand

theunderlying messages being communicated, thus, gaining an in-depth

understandingof the French


Basic Elements of Semiotic Analysis:

Semiotics: means the study of signs.


-To find meaning, interpret, and write effectively about the signsof popular culture.

-Anything can be taken as a sign- a message to be decoded andanalyzed to discover its


-The point of semiotics is that all social behavior is politicalin the sense that it

reflects some personal or group interests.

The Semiotic Method:

Semiotics is about signs, symbols ideology, and power.

Analyze and question everything.

Everything carries meaning, therefore, everything is a sign.

Signs carry multiple meanings, so the meaning of a sign lies inits relations to other signs,

            Signsare also influenced by historical context.

-Cultural Mythologies: Beliefs taught by a society/culture to its population and

accepted as truth, but have no basisin fact.

                        CulturalMyths may change over time, but do so slowly

MostCommon Types of Cultural Myths:

Gender: Beliefs about what is expectedof and makes a male or female ideal

Race: Beliefs about race (often commonstereotypes) that label an entire group in a

positiveor negative fashion.

Class: Beliefs about socioeconomicstatus (Upper Class, Middle Class, Working Class)

Beauty: Beliefs about what isconsidered to be beautiful; often a very narrow #038;

  unrealistic view of beauty.

Nationalism:  Extreme patriotism that involves a view thatones nation is always correct


The Nuclear Family:  The belief of the perfect family isCaucasian and consists of a

husband,wife, 2-3 children, and 1-2 pets, usually middle to the upper class.

Rugged Individualism:  The idealization of the self-made man,pioneer, explorer… a

a loner witha heart of gold and a spirit for adventure.


First Steps in Semiotic Analysis:

1. Everything is a Sign and Every Sign has Multiple Meanings:

Exle- RED

The color red can mean…. death, blood, danger, love, lust,tomato, fire, cherry jolly rancher


2. Because a sign ON ITS OWN has so many possiblemeanings… it means nothing

Which of the above meanings is correct??


3. A signs meaning becomes clear only in its connection toother signs:

Exle- RED#038; Tight Dress with Low Cleavage… lust, danger, fire


Exle- RED#038; a loose-fitting skirt with a turtle neck.. love, passion

*Once a sign is connected to other signs a specific meaningemerges and the message is communicated*


Categories for analysis:



Body Language





Fact/ Idea List:

(sign)/ Meaning



Ideas: death, blood, danger, love, lust, tomato, fire,cherry jolly rancher

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