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Chapter 5

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Media Studies
Michael Petit

MDSA01 2012 - Critical Media Studies: An Introduction Chapter 5 Rhetoric: an Overview  Rhetoric – refers to the ancient art of oratory, or as Aristotle famously defined it “an ability, in each particular case, to see the available means of persuasion” o we might simply define rhetoric as the use of symbols by humans to influence and move other humans Theories of the sign  Sign – is something that invites someone to think of something other than itself, such as the way an image of a person invites one to think of that person or the way the unique letter combination d/o/g invites one to think of a four-legged canine  Ferdinand de Saussure (1857 – 1913) - regarded as the “founder of modern linguistics” o Semiology – is a “science which studies the role of signs as part of social life… Semiology would investigate the nature of signs and the laws governing them” o All linguistics signs were a combination of signifier (significant) and signified (signifie)  Signifier (sound-image) – refers to the material form of a sign as perceived by the senses, such as the word “dog” as heard by a listener  Signified (mental concept) – is the idea evoked by the signifier; in this case, the idea of “dogness” o Linguistic signs has two defining traits  Signs are arbitrary – there is no natural correspondence, no necessary relationship, between signifier and signified  Signs is linearity – it means the signifiers operate in a temporal chain, which if reordered, changes the meaning of what is being said  Signs is difference – signify by virtue of their difference from other signs  If we cannot distinguish one word from another, we cannot communicate o Langue – linguistic system  Study the rules and conventions that organize the system o Parole – individual speech acts  Study specific uses or performances of language  Charles Sanders Peirce (1839 – 1914) – a Harvard-trained American Philosophy that developed his own theory at the same time as de Saussure o Semiotic – is the “quasi-necessary, or formal, doctrine of signs”  Differs from Saussure’s semiology because it both repudiates the principle of arbitrariness and expands the category of signs to include all modes of human communication (not just language)  “A sign is something which stands to somebody for something in some respect or capacity”  The equivalent sign it creates in a persons mind is the known as the interpretant, and the something that the sign stands for is its object o Classified sign into three categories  Iconic signs – operate according to the logic of similarity or likeness; icons are representamens that structurally resemble the objects they stand for MDSA01 2012 - Critical Media Studies: An Introduction  Examples: maps, diagrams  Indexical signs – are linked by cause or association to the objects they represent  Example: smoke (as it indicates fire), knock on door (as it indicates arrival)  Symbols – are linked to their corresponding objects purely by social convention or agreement  Example: all words, sentences, books  Roland Barthes (1915 – 1980) – the most important French thinker to emerge from the post-war period o Barthes’s theory of signs, which we term the signifying system to distinguish it from semiology and semiotics, draws heavily upon the work of both Saussure and Peirce.  How “cultural” practices and beliefs are “naturalized”, an idea he first began to explore in his writings on myth o Denotation – describes first-order signification or what Barthes called the first “plane of expression”  The denotative plane involves the literal or explicit meanings of words and other phenomena  Example: when one hears the word “lion”, he or she may briefly form the mental image of a large cat, but that mental image will evoke still other associations such as “courage” or “pride” o Connotation – operates at the level of ideology and myth  Example: the connotative meaning of dog c
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