Semiotics (Discussion)

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Television on semiotics

  1. Groups 5 & 1: What would be two examples of C. S. Pierce's "indexical sign" (aka, index) that are not mentioned in the textbooks? Explain how they are examples of this type of sign.
  2. Groups 6 & 2: What would be two examples of C. S. Pierce's "iconic sign" (aka, icon) that are not mentioned in the textbooks? Explain how they are examples of this type of sign.
  3. Group 3: What would be two examples of C. S. Pierce's "symbolic sign" that are not mentioned in the textbooks? Explain how they are examples of this type of sign.
  4. Group 4: What would be one example of syntagmatic structure that is not mentioned in the textbooks? Explain how it is an example of syntagmatic structure.

Ellen Seiter on semiotics

All groups

  1. Define "denotation" and "connotation." What does semiotician Roland Barthes mean by the term, "myth"?
    • What are the denotations and connotations of the Wonder Years' opening montage?
      • Denotations: List/identify as many of the images as you can.
  2. Ellen Seiter, in Channels of Discourse, writes, "The picture [of Fangface] itself is a syntagm. ... In the paradigmatic dimension the options are a pair of categories nature/culture (or animal/human...), which is the source of the image's meaning." She continues, "...Hodge and Trip have introduced the binary opposition (nature/culture) and proceeded to organize the elements of the television image into paradigmatic sets."
    • List three or four "binary oppositions" (aka, "paradigmatic sets") in the "Weirdo on Maple Street" episode of Stranger Things. Provide specific examples from the episode.
    • Analysis of syntagmatic structure asks how the order of a groups of things (shots, chunks of story, musical themes) has an impact on meaning. Take the three instances ("syntagms") that include the Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" At different points in the episode, it serves different narrative functions. What are those functions? How does its third appearance derive meaning from the first two? That is, how does its location in the episode lend it specific meaning?
    • Are there any "binary oppositions"/"paradigmatic sets" to be found in the Wonder Years montage?
    • Both Wonder Years and Stranger Things are about high-school students. How might paradigmatic sets be used to identify a similar thematic structure in the two programs?

Strengths/Weaknesses

All groups

  1. List two strength(s) of semiotic/structuralist analysis. List two weaknesses of this approach (no, a difficult vocabulary does not count). One person in each group should email these to jbutler@ua.edu . Best responses are boldfaced by Dr. Butler.
    • Group 1:
      • s:
      • w:
    • Group 2:
      • s:
      • w:
    • Group 3:
      • s:
      • w:
    • Group 4:
      • s:
      • w:
    • Group 5:
      • s:
      • w:
    • Group 6:
      • s:
      • w:

Bibliography

  1. Jeremy G. Butler, Television: Visual Storytelling and Screen Culture (NY: Routledge, 2011).
  2. Ellen Seiter, "Semiotics, Structuralism and Television," in Robert C. Allen, Channels of Discourse, Reassembled, second edition (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992).

External links