Semiotic Approaches to a Fictional Text

Robert Scholes

in Foundational Essays in James Joyce Studies

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780813035291
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780813038483 | DOI:
Semiotic Approaches to a Fictional Text

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This chapter argues and demonstrates how certain semiotic approaches to fictional texts, each incomplete in itself, can be combined in a manner that facilitates the practical criticism of fiction. The chapter tries to combine the three approaches, namely that of Tzvetan Todorov, as illustrated in his Grammaire du Décameron, that of Gérard Genette in “Discours du récit” from Figures III, and that of Roland Barthes in S/Z, into a single methodology. These three writers offer a grammar, a rhetoric, and finally a semiotic of fiction. The critic of modern fictional texts employs Todorov's approach as a heuristic tool, a way of focusing interpretation upon features of all fictional texts. Genette begins his study of narrative by examining aspects of what he calls fictional “tense.” In the temporal arrangements of fiction he discerns three major areas for investigation: order, duration, and frequency. Through S/Z, Barthes' book-length analysis of Balzac's story “Sarrasine,” he works his way through the text, a few phrases, or sentences at a time, interpreting these “lexias,” as he calls them, according to the ways they generate meanings in five signifying systems or codes.

Keywords: semiotic fiction; criticism; modern fictional texts; fictional tense; lexias

Chapter.  6514 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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