Anti-Heroism Essay

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1 Semiotic Analysis I face this assignment—explaining semiotics and showing how it can be applied to television and popular culture to those who know little or nothing about the subject—with a certain amount of apprehension. I’m not sure whether semiotics is a subject, a movement, a philosophy, or a cult-like religion. I do know that there is a large and rapidly expanding literature on the subject and that many of the writings of semioticians are difficult to understand and highly technical. So my mission, if not impossible, is quite challenging: Not only am I to explain the fundamental notions or elements of semiotics, but I am also to apply them to television and television productions as well as to popular culture in general. It is a large undertaking, but I think it can be done. The price I must pay involves a certain amount of simplification and narrowness of focus. I am going to explain the basic principles of semiotics and discuss some sample applications. I hope that after reading this chapter and the annotated bibliography provided, those interested in semiotics will probe more deeply into it at their own convenience. A Brief History of the Subject Although interest in signs and the way they communicate has a long history (medieval philosophers, John Locke, and others have shown interest), modern semiotic analysis can be said to have begun with two men: Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure (1857–1913) and American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce (1839–1914). (Peirce called his system semiotics, and that has become the dominant term used for the science of signs. Saussure’s semiology differs from Peirce’s semiotics in some respects, but as both are concerned with signs, I will treat the two as more or less the same in this chapter.) 3 4—PART I TECHNIQUES OF INTERPRETATION Saussure’s book A Course in General Linguistics,

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