Connotative and Denotative Meaning
William S. Burroughs, Thanksgiving Prayer, 1986.











Devices used to produce non-literal meaning:
metaphor = a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable
Ricky and Jane watching a soliloquy to a bag












simile = a figure of speech involving the comparison of one thing with another thing of a different kind, used to make a description more emphatic or vivid (e.g., as brave as a lion, crazy like a fox )











metonym = a word, name, or expression used as a substitute for something else with which it is closely associated. For example, Washington is a metonym for the federal government of the US.











synecdoche = a figure of speech in which a part is made to represent the whole or vice versa, as in Cleveland won by six runs (meaning “Cleveland's baseball team”)











irony = the expression of one's meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect.











lies = intentionally false statements











depiction = the action or result of depicting something, especially in art










representation = the description or portrayal of someone or something in a particular way or as being of a certain nature
* more on this to come
Linda Popple
Monica Bock, Maternal Exposure (don't forget the lunches), 1999 & 2000. Folded sheet lead, cast glycerin.











Roland Barthes' Rhetoric of the Image
Three Classes of Message:
1. Linguistic message
2. Symbolic message
3. Literal message











Linguistic Message
composed of denotative and connotative messages
so, we receive and decode the message simultaneously
denotative = refers to the literal meaning of a word / the "dictionary definition." For example, if you look up the word snake in a dictionary, you will discover that one of its denotative meanings is "any of numerous scaly, legless, sometimes venomous reptiles having a long, tapering, cylindrical body ..."
literally what the sign is
ad caption and labels on products
connotative = the emotions and cultural associations connected to a word; to imply or suggest an idea or feeling in adition to literal meaning
what the sign points to > other signifiers
"Panzani" = Italianicity











The Literal Message (or denoted image)
message without a code
signifier and signified are the same thing
  • image of tomato = tomato
  • image of pepper = pepper
  • image of net bag = net bag
  • image of bag of spaghetti = bag of spaghetti
  • image of can of tomato sauce = can of tomato sauce