Eng 500:  A Semiotic/Cultural Analysis

As an amusing way of demonstrating your grasp of our readings in literary theory, semiotics, and cultural studies, I'd like you to pick some "text" from contemporary popular culture and do a semiotic analysis of it, a la Barthes, Eco, and Kron.

That "text" might be a short story in a magazine, a movie or TV program, an advertisement (print or video), a place, an object or objects (ex: the toys on display in the window of Toys R Us).  Any element of our culture susceptible to semiotic analysis.

Note that this exercise is devoted to semiotics as a form of cultural study rather than literary theory.  But, as Jonathan Culler points out, one way to think about recent critical theory is to see it as an extension of the close reading of texts to the "extra-literary."

Your analysis should be approximately 900 words in length, conform to MLA style (if citations are needed), and be submitted in electronic form on November 10.

A Primer on Semiotic Analysis

As one more, strictly optional, aid to understanding semiotic analysis, I reproduce a selection (pp. 4-9) from Sonia Maasik and Jack Solomon's composition textbook Signs of Life in the USA (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 1994).  Perhaps because it is addressed to college freshmen, their introduction is particularly lucid in its explanation of semiotic interpretation.