Language and Myth
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

denotative: Panzani
cultural conception: Italianness
connotative: the name Panzani = "Italianicity"
  • still life painting
  • market fresh food
  • home cooked (good)
  • plenty of food
  • feeling of comfort, health, and liveliness

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

langue = code, structure, or set of rules. French for "language"

parole = one instance in particular; French for "speech"
 
Langue describes the social, impersonal rules governing language or visual communication as signs, while parole describes the individual, personal use of language/communication by a specific subject.
 
It is a system in that it has a large number of elements whereby meaning is created in the arrangements of its elements and the consequent relationships between these arranged elements.
 
Parole is the concrete use of the language, the actual utterances. It is an external manifestation of langue. It is the usage of the system, but not the system.
 
By defining Langue and Parole, Saussure differentiates between the language and how it is used, and therefore enabling these two very different things to be studied as separate entities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marxist Mikhail Bakhtin (1929) criticized the splitting of langue and parole as separating individuals and society where it matters most, at the point of production. He developed a 'dialogic' theory of utterances where language is understood in terms of how it orients the speaker / writer to the listener / reader. Words are subject to negotiation, contest and struggle. Language is strongly affected by social context.

 
Modification of langue at the point of parole is used to create new meaning, either where the speaker has limited grasp of language or where deliberate distortion is used.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conventions are agreed systems of understanding that allow us to interpret what is happening. They are so much a part of culture that we fail to realize that the codes they use are not always transparent to cultures other than our own.
Plaque placed on the Pioneer F spacecraft, 1972.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What sorts of things should we classify as "art"?
 
Another way of asking the same thing is, what is our definition of "art"?
 
Marcel Duchamp, Fountain, 1917.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Semiotic Review
Language

{

a) signifier
b) signified
Denotation and connotation are terms describing the relationship between the signifier and its signified. Meaning includes both denotation and connotation.
Myth
 
{
c) sign
1. signifier
2. signified
3.sign
denotation = literal, obvious or commonsense meaning of a sign. In the case of linguistic signs, the denotative meaning is what the dictionary attempts to provide. For the art historian Erwin Panofsky, the denotation of a representational visual image is what all viewers from any culture and at any time would recognize the image as depicting
   

connotation = the socio-cultural, personal, and emotional associations of the sign. These are typically related to the interpreter's class, age, gender, ethnicity and so on.

Signs are more 'polysemic' - more open to interpretation - in their connotations than their denotations. There is a danger here of stressing the 'individual subjectivity' of connotation: 'intersubjective' responses are shared to some degree by members of a culture; with any individual example only a limited range of connotations would make any sense. Connotations are not purely 'personal' meanings - they are determined by the codes to which the interpreter has access.
   
Language

{

a) signifier
b) signified
Connotation and denotation are often described in terms of levels of representation or levels of meaning. The first order of signification is that of denotation: at this level there is a sign consisting of a signifier and a signified. Connotation is a second-order of signification which uses the denotative sign (signifier and signified) as its signifier and attaches to it an additional signified.
Myth
{
c) sign
1. signifier
2. signified
3.sign

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fiske warns that 'it is often easy to read connotative values as denotative facts' (Fiske 1982, 92). Just as dangerously seductive, however, is the tendency to accept denotation as the 'literal', 'self-evident' 'truth'. Semiotic analysis can help us to counter such habits of mind.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Genre – the category of expression

 

non-fiction book
athlete
art / sculpture / photographic evidence
Hall of Fame NFL quarterback, Deacon Jones
Jessica Rath, "Deacon Jones" sculpture from the "Take Me to the Apple Breeder" project, 2011.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Style – the manner of expression

 

Abstract Expressionism
Pop
Robert Motherwell, Elegy to the Spanish Republic
no. 110, 1971.
Roy Lichtenstein, Big Painting no. 6, 1965.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stereotype – the cliches or norms of expressions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Institution – the place or site of expression

 

magazine
museum
social media
Gallery Tally Project

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ideology – the ideas and values that are employed to justify, support or guide expression

 


 
Life Magazine, 1941
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Discourse – the uses of expression that create or reflect different aspects of social order; help us to form ideas through regulated forms of use and by setting the boundaries of systems

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Myth – the stories that represent and shape individual or collective expression; help us to understand

 

Since myth is a type of speech, everything can be a myth provided it is conveyed by a discourse. Myth is not defined by the object of its message, but by the way in which it utters its message. Myth is…in short…a type of social usage which is added to pure matter.

     
Praxiteles, Aphrodite of Knidos, 4th Century BC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paradigm – the theories that configure expression; a way of seeing the unit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vincent Van Gogh, Chair with Pipe, 1888.
 
Semantic Unit
chair as seen by user (unusual presentation in paintings)
 
Genre
still-life
 
Style
Post-Impressionist / Expressionist
 
Stereotype
regular chair, perhaps belonging in the kitchen; casual corn-cob pipe
 
Institution
represented in a painting
 
Ideology
metonymic self-portrait (the artist identified with yellow and used it often)
 
Discourse
simple, practical and rustic artist's chair. Painted in the artist's characteristic (indexical) style with rough texture, thick outlines in black and deep shadows in blue.
 
 
Myth
the artist was very poor and mentally unstable. This is verified in the stories relating to Van Gogh and Gauguin's fiery friendship and break up.
 
 
Paradigm
art

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pope Innocent X
Study After Velazquez
Diego Velazquez, Pope Innocent X, 1650.
Francis Bacon, Study After Velazquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X, 1953.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Study After Velazquez
Semantic Unit
throne? modern chair? torture device?
 
Genre
portrait
 
Style
Abstract Expressionist
 
Stereotype
golden throne of power
 
Institution
represented in a painting
 
Ideology
religion is untrustworthy, life is suffering
 
Discourse
simple, practical and rustic artist's chair. Painted in the artist's characteristic (indexical) style with rough texture, thick outlines in black and deep shadows in blue.
 
 
Myth
"Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions." - Karl Marx
 
   
 
Paradigm
Catholicism and modern cynicism

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Semantic Unit
electric chair
 
Linguistic message
“The most dependable fishing line in the world.”
 
Genre
advertisement
 
Style
shock, vintage
 
Stereotype
need to control criminals
 
Institution
magazine
 
Ideology
capitol punishment
 
Discourse
toughness (on crime & fish) is masculine (and so is criminality)
 
 
Myth
Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea
 
Paradigm
masculinity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Semantic Unit
wax electric chair
 
Linguistic message
“DEATH TO THE DEATH PENALTY. 139 countries have wiped out the death penalty. Only 58 are left to convince. Join us at www.amnesty.fr”
 
 
Genre
advertisement
 
Style
shock
 
Stereotype
the shock of the electric chair is melted into obscurity
 
 
Institution
French internet
 
Ideology
Liberal Humanitarian position arguing that the death penalty is an inhumane punishment in all circumstances.
 
 
Discourse
wax electric chair connects to the candle logo of Amnesty International, with the candle connoting an enlightened view that outlaws capital punishment.
 
 
Myth
capital punishment is serial murder conducted by the State, a power / authority that is always suspect.
 
 
Paradigm
all life is sacred, rehabilitation is better for society than punishment, all humans have inalliable rights that must be protected by the State