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Web Wednesday: Lots of Writing Edition [10/26]

I know why I couldn’t answer Michelle’s question about Saussure–he didn’t actually publish what we read; it was put together later from his students’ notes.

Check out wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Course_in_General_Linguistics

Prewriting: In your own words, tweet the most important idea of Saussure’s essay. 
(I’ll also use this for attendance).

1) Literary Studies Part I: In the comments below, reflect on two qualities of poetry you think a Semiotician would prize most of all. For example, the New Critics prized poems that successfully fused “form” and “content” into an “organic unity.” What would a Semiotician say the best poems do? Find two quotations from Saussure that could serve as evidence for your claim (although he’s not really writing about poetry).

2) Writing Part: But what does Saussure have to do with reading literature?
When we read the article about the New Critics, we paid attention to how the method (the steps of what a New Critic would actually do) came from the New Critic’s theory of language. With Saussure, we just read about his theory, but we don’t yet have a method.
Create a post on your own blog that describes the steps that a Semiotician would follow when trying to interpret a poem. Spend about 15 minutes doing this and tweet once you are done so others can check out what you did. Be as concrete and practical as you can (Step 1: …)

3) Literary Studies Part II:  Next, add to your post a reading of Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 65” that comes out of the steps you just identified (not your own interpretation, or a New Critic’s reading, but what you think a Semiotician would say following the steps you described).

4) Literary Studies Part III: Use the blogroll to look at two of your peers’ blogs and leave specific feedback that would help them revise their reading to include one step that you emphasized but they didn’t.

5) Homework:  Catch up–finish the annotated paragraph assignment if you haven’t! I will be looking at these over the weekend . . .

Posted in Web Wednesday.


26 Responses

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  1. clo120 says

    Semioticians would would prize “differences in the placement of letters/symbols” and “words not chosen” in an effort to make the reader understand what is NOT being discussed, in order to clarify what the author is in fact writing about. The best poems would be able to tell the reader of differences between the words on the page, and use process of elimination to clarify its meaning. “It is true that not all of them are equally obvious at first glance. . .” “. . .only after many detours does one discover them, and with them the primordial importance of the principle.”

    • Kevin L. Ferguson says

      “process of elimination”–I like this; it almost makes it seem like a metaphor for reading is solving a puzzle or playing a game.

      • clo120 says

        The sheer volume of words in the English language, let alone the rest of the languages available in the world, does make it a game of Tetris; it’s all about finding the right piece to fit in the proper slot or opening.

  2. jtrezza says

    I think a Semiotician would prize the use of metaphor in poetry. On page 845 of his writing, Saussure states that “all values are apparently governed by the same paradoxical principle. They are always composed – 1) of a dissimilar thing that can be exchanged for a thing for which the value is being determined.” This sounds like metaphor to me, the comparison of two unlike things.

    He then goes on to say that values are always always composed of “similar things that can be compared with the thing of which the value is being determined.” I can think of numerous similes in where similar things are being compared, and while Saussure doesn’t explicitly say that the words “like” or “as” must be used, I think he is talking about a similar type of comparison.

    • Kevin L. Ferguson says

      Great observation, especially considering the more nuanced definition of metaphor we’ve been working with, which maybe only works because Saussure is right that language contains differences.

  3. Jessica Danielle Powell says

    Semioticians would believe that:
    “But this rather naïve approach can bring us near the truth by showing us that the linguistic unit is a double entity formed by the associating of two terms” (Saussure 842).
    1. Signified (Concept) is to Literal meaning as Signifier (Sound Image) is to Literary meaning.
    The best poems consist of Literary meaning which translates into a Literal meaning. The concept of poetry will be presented by the sounds and images presented in the poem. All poetry would be a “double entity”. Since poetry is made with words, and all words to Semioticians has a double entity then poetry would also have to have that same characteristic. Not only will poetry be a double entity but that double entity would arouse the senses (see below).
    2. The best poems use sound to arouse the senses and awaken the mind to make an impression on its reader.
    “The later is not the material sound, a purely physical thing, but the psychological imprint of the sound, the impression that it makes on our senses” (Saussure 842).

  4. mikadroz says

    I think that a Semiotician would prize comparison and contrast in his/her poems. Saussure goes into detail describing how a word needs to have words with comparable and contrasting meanings to make sense, and that ‘both values are necessary for the existence of a value’.

    Another thing he/she would prize would be the words themselves being written in a clear and understandable meaning. Saussure says ‘We shall see below that the individiual does not have the power to change a sign in any way once it has become established in the linguistic community.’ He also refers to the written word being understood only because the signs used to write it are not mistaken for other signs. Because of this I doubt a Semiotician would appreciate creative spelling and would instead want a poem in which the words are clear to the reader.

  5. sasha says

    The best poems will lead us to its meaning by pointing out what its meaning is not. As Saussure says, “in language, there are only differences.” We only know what a word means because we know what it is not. The best poems from this perspective will only have one ultimate meaning, since a word in certain contexts will mean one thing and not another, especially in relation to the other words in the poem. Also, when we read a poem, “their elements are presented in succession; they form a chain.” So perhaps the best poems give their meaning in chronological order, progressing in time with each passing line in the stanza. We learn more about the poem. The words all mean something together, as opposed to just reading each word and deriving info from them individually.

    • Kevin L. Ferguson says

      “perhaps the best poems give their meaning in chronological order”–interesting: like showing off the “chain.” I bet EM Forster (story v. plot guy) would hate that!

  6. egallone24 says

    A Semiotician would say that the best poems do a good job at linking the connection between the signified and the signifier. According to Saussure, each of his main “Principles” are functioned around the role that either the signified or the signifier has. Another quality a Semiotician looks for in poetry would be the value and the signification of the word. Can the word be exchanged for a fixed quantity? Can the word be compared with a similar value? These are all things that Saussure mentions when talking about the linguistic value from a conceptional viewpoint.

  7. Henna says

    A semiotician appreciates poetry rich with paradigmatic options. “Difference makes characters just as it makes value and unit.” Recognizing the connotation of one word in against that of the others in its paradigm lends character the word, asserting it unique and, thus forth, valuable in it’s inability to be duplicated by anything else.

    Likewise, poetry dense with juxtaposition is useful in the semiotic’s quest to develop on understanding what a specific word, or words, is not. “Language is a system of interdependent terms in which each term results solely from the simultaneous presence of the other terms.” As Shakespeare wrote in line one of Sonnet 65, “Since brass, not stone, nor boundless sea,” the semiotician can decipher the uniqueness of each representation, what it defines and what it doesn’t, of earthy longevity based on a comparison with surrounding alternatives.

    • Kevin L. Ferguson says

      “rich with paradigmatic options”: So–pick words that are members of a large class of paradigms? Don’t pick words that don’t resonate with lots of other similar words?

      • Henna says

        Being that every word is habitually part of paradigm, any one chosen automatically falls under that instruction.

  8. andycrazn says

    Semioticians would prize poetry for its use of metaphors. sometimes the whole poetry is a giant metaphor and reading it in a denotative kind of way would not work for poetry because the “bond” between the signifier and the signified is arbitrary. if words mean one thing and one thing only then language would have a lot of limitations.

  9. femi says

    Two qualities of poetry that a semiotician would prize most is symbolism and imagery. I think this because semioticians study the signs and symbols and their relationship with language. Saussure agrees that a linguistic sign is made up two points: the concept aka signified and the sound image aka signifier. “The two elements are intimately united, and each recalls the other”, contends Saussure. Symbolism in a poem would deliberately acknowledge the two parts that make up a symbol and use the relationship between the concept and the sound image to enhance their poem.
    Imagery would also be prized in a poem because of the psychological effects. It leaves an impression on the senses. Saussure also contends that ” linguistic sign unites, not a thing and a name, but a concept and a sound image”. As poets uses sensory details and words that exaggerate the mental associations of that word, they also heighten the relationship of a signifier highlighting the signified. This reiterates the idea that language doesn’t have a nominalist nature but a symbolic nature.

  10. APMimz says

    Semioticians would prize the entire poem opposed to just one line in a poem. For Saussure, the ability to choose specific words out of an abundance to portray what is written is the utmost importance. By accepting the links between each word to each other into a form of a bigger picture, even if the poem is only important because we as readers understand it as such.

    • Kevin L. Ferguson says

      “prize the entire poem opposed to just one line in a poem”: Hmmm… so maybe it’s not possible to analyze line-by-line, but we need to look at the whole thing at once? But what about the picture metaphor (writing is like a “chain”–we can’t see it all at once like a picture).

  11. morgan92 says

    A semiotician would say that signifier and signified have a very important role within poetry. When poetry is read and analyzed we search for signs and whether they are broken down to be shown physical or through educational ideas we are able to decipher and figure out what is being represented by the words in the text. In Saussure work he says “…. suggests vocal activity, is applicable to the spoken word only, to the realization of the inner image in discourse. We can avoid that misunderstanding by speaking of the sounds and syllables of a word provided we remember that the names refer to the sound image.” Also semioticians would focus on the meaning and importance of words. When use language and looking for signs the meaning behind it is very important as well. After figuring out what the words are represented by poetry tends to have particular significances because certain messages are trying to be conveyed. In the text it says “Sometimes the linear nature of the signifier is not obvious. When I accent a syllable, for instance, it seems that I am concentrating more than one significant element on the same point.But this is an illusion; the syllable and its accent constitute only one phonational act. There is no duality within the act but only different oppositions to what precedes and what follows.

  12. mchan says

    Poems would define an idea through the choices that are available or the other options that exist. Saussare writes, “similar things that can be compared with the thing of which the value is to be determined” The best poems would be able to describe something to its readers without having to state it specifically, but rather use its context or similar items to explain it.

    “Signs used in writing are arbitrary.” A poem would not only use the sound of a word to write about the meaning of a poem (alliteration, etc). Meanings cannot be extracted from the words alone because they are signs, and signs, as Saussure wrote, “are arbitrary”,” and cannot be used to derive value.

  13. eldisakaeko88 says

    On page 845 he says ” When we speak of the value of a word, we generally think first of its property of standing for an idea, and this is in face one side of lingusitic value.” I agree, because when you interpret a word like gold for example you negate the other metals like silver and titanium. Gold stands for a idea or significance of wealth, but on the flipside its just a metal like the rest but we give it a certain value. The gold its self isn’t anything, its just physically a metal but in reality its more then a metal its signification is worth something. It’s like a word means a certain thing because we as humans give it its’ meaning or value. A pretty good example is when prof. ferg said about “money” (dollar bill) being just a linin paper but its more then just that it holds a value in society and we can purchase things with just that linin paper.

    • eldisakaeko88 says

      This applies to poems as well its just not a ryhme but has a hidden meaning behind it. its like a puzzle we have to figure out.

  14. Jerry says

    A semiotician would prize the the poem on its use of metaphor and imagery , Saussure says in his article that we should value dissimilar thing that can be exchanged for a thing for which the value is being determined. This can be viewed as the modern day metaphor. Since semioticians are looking for what the words are saying about what we are reading imagery is key. Imagery provides us with pictures scenes and scenarios of whats going on in the poem.

  15. Jerry says

    I believe we can interpret dream just as Freud interprets dreams. In literature the smallest details can sometimes hold the most value and Freud expresses the same beliefs when he is interpreting dreams. Authors in literature always have a “hidden” message or idea they want to set across for the readers but these messages are not usually out in plain view to see but hidden within the lines. Its the very same way when interpreting dreams according to Freud.

    • Jerry says

      I believe we can interpret literature just as Freud interprets dreams.****

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