Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

Short and Sweet Version of Sign/Signified/Signifier

One component of formalism is symbolism. I have been conversing with the professor of a blog-enhanced Literary Theory course at The College of Saint Rose. One of her students have recently posted on

Short and Sweet Version of Sign/Signified/Signifier« Cara Whalen

The signifier is the ’configuration of sound elements that represent a word or other units in a language’ ( Therefore, it represents the word. When the signified (the concept/idea/picture) is added with the signifier (the word) you then connect the two and receive the sing (the whole). Therefore, SIGN = SIGNIFIED + SIGNIFIER. This equation shows that you can’t have the sign without both parts. If you have just the word but nothing to relate it to, for example, saying the word cup and not knowing what a cup is. One is not able to link the word with the object. Therefore, it would be meaningless.

Other students have posted on the difference between language and speech, and the material value of signs.

These topics are all related to the linguistic approach to literary criticism, advocated by Ferdinand de Saussure. His linguistic theories of signs and signifiers made their way into lit crit via structuralism. I just saw M. Night Shyamalan's "Lady in the Water," but his "Signs" and "The Sixth Sense" all lend themselves to a structuralist interpretation. ("Lady in the Water" even features an annoying literary critic who arrogantly spouts an incredibly wrong analysis of the plot of the movie in progress; when the protagonist tries to act on this bad analysis, disaster results, and a demon dog kills the literary critic. Analyze THAT, me buckos!)

Those of you who remember Foster's "How to Read Literature Like a Professor" may remember chapters on how everything is a quest, how stories constantly refer to other stories, and there is ultimately only one story.

Saussure was a big influence on many of these ideas. We aren't scheduled to get to structuralism until we get through reader response and realism, but if you'd like to sample lit crit through the experiences of another set of students who are using a different text, I bet there is a lot all of can learn through the discussion.

Permalink | 15 Feb 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

See SHU's production of ''Everyman''

Ex 5 will ask you to apply formalism to SHU's production of Everyman. The production opens Feb 23.

Permalink | 22 Feb 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Spring Break

Permalink | 8 Mar 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Arrange screening of Blade Runner (Director's Cut)

Make plans to attend a screening of Blade Runner (outside of class time). Next week's exercise will apply to this film.

Permalink | 15 Mar 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Start Reading Postmortem for a Postmodernist

On one level, this is a light murder-mystery. On another, it's an introduction to a complex academic subject. So I'm mentioning it this week, so that you can pace your reading time appropriately.

Permalink | 22 Mar 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Easter Break

Permalink | 5 Apr 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Graduating Seniors

I have to get your grades in on Tuesday, May 8. That means the last day you can submit work is Monday, May 7.

I don't think we will have to rearrange any of the other due dates, but if you'd like to meet with me in order to get faster feedback, I'd be happy to save some time for you.

(I'm posting this on March 30... I plan to post more details about the term paper soon.)

Permalink | 8 May 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)