Published on November 13, 2007
Cultural Studies 1: Cultural Studies 1 Lecture 5 Roland Barthes & Mythologies Saussure: Structural Lingustics: Saussure: Structural Lingustics 1.Signifier 2.Signified (Word/Mark on paper/image (Concept) 3.SIGN Denotation: Denotation The direct representation (the "what it is") of an image or a sign A ‘rose’ is a rose Denotation & Connotation: Denotation & Connotation Saussure's model of the sign focused on denotation at the expense of connotation Connotation is the ‘added value’ of meaning The emotional or cultural associations we make when we perceive a sign Myth: Myth Saussure suggested that signifiers (sounds) and signifieds (concepts) are connected together by the process of signification. Barthes suggested that this process does not necessarily end at this point, A sign can take part in a new level of signification where it becomes the signifier to a new signified at another level. (Myth) Barthes: Mythologies: Barthes: Mythologies Language 1.Signifier 2. Signified (Word/Mark on paper/image) (Concept) SIGN Myth SIGNIFIER SIGNIFIED SIGN/SIGNIFICATION The mythological system: The mythological system In myth there are 2 semiotic systems Linguistic and assimilated modes of representation The ‘meta language’ in which we speak about the first system The signifier in myth is ambiguous: it contains both meaning and form Signification and Myth: Signification and Myth The meaning is complete (a rose is a rose) but the form is empty (it awaits a signifier) The signified in myth represents a chain of causes/motives/explanations/ideology implanted in the concept It represents a ‘knowledge of reality’ The mythical sign/signification functions to distort/obscure or ‘naturalise’ the arbitrary linkage of connotation to denotation At the level of language the signifier is incapable of distortion At the level of myth that is its primary function. Connotation: Connotation The sign "car" can in turn become a signifier for a further signified. One type of bodyshell can conjure up the sign “Rolls Royce", another the sign “Reliant Robin". We tend to see such associations as natural and given (Rolls= "luxury", Reliant= "basic") when in fact they are arbitrary constructions. Connotation is historical or social in the sense that how an image is connoted is entirely dependent on the conventions and expectations of the society within which that image appears Connotation: Connotation Connotation produces the illusion of denotation, the illusion of language as transparent and of the signifier and the signified as being identical. Denotation is just another connotation. From such a perspective denotation can be seen as no more of a 'natural' meaning than is connotation but rather as a process of naturalization. Such a process leads to the powerful illusion that denotation is a purely literal and universal meaning which is not at all ideological Myth and ideology: Myth and ideology Barthes wants to stop taking things for granted, and concentrate rather on what they mean and how they function as signs. In many respects what Barthes is doing is interrogating the obvious, taking a closer look at that which gets taken for granted, making explicit what remains implicit. We inhabit a world of signs which support existing power structures and which purport to be natural. The role of the mythologist, as Barthes sees it, is to expose these signs as the artificial constructs that they are, to reveal their workings and show that what appears to be natural is, in fact, determined by history. Decoding the sign: Decoding the sign The emission and reception of the message both lie within the field of a sociology: it is a matter of studying human groups, of defining motives and attitudes and of trying to link the behaviour of these groups to the social totality of which they are a part Barthes1977 The myth of the natural: The myth of the natural Barthes's understanding of myth is the notion of a socially constructed reality which is passed of as `natural'. The opinions and values of a historically and socially specific class are held up as `universal truths'. Attempts to challenge this naturalization and universalization of a socially constructed reality are dismissed for lacking `bon sens', and therefore excluded from serious consideration. The real power relations in society (between classes, between coloniser and colonised, between men and women etc.) are obscured, reference to all tensions and difficulties blocked out, glossed over, their political threat defused.