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The Pursuit of Signs: Semiotics, Literature, Deconstruction
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The Pursuit of Signs: Semiotics, Literature, Deconstruction

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  82 Ratings  ·  9 Reviews
The primary task of literary theory, Jonathan Culler asserts in the new edition of his classic in this field, is not to illuminate individual literary works but to explain the system of literary signification--the rules and conventions that determine a reader's understanding of a text and that make literary communication possible. In this wide-ranging book, he investigates ...more
Paperback, Augmented ed., 272 pages
Published 2001 by Cornell University Press (first published 1981)
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I had never heard of this book before, or its author. Now, that might not sound terribly surprising, but I have been reading quite a lot about semiotics lately. Anyway, I was at Readings and they had ‘Routledge Classics’ on a three-for-two sale and this was one of them on the table.

This utterly changed (and very much for the better) with Chapter Three, Semiotics as a Theory of Reading. What he does here with Blake’s London is really lovely – and worth reading all on its own if you only have the

Having read a few books and essays on semiotics, my opinion is that it's a hopelessly broad and floppy term: writings on semiotics seem to either be about things and the significance or meaning they have, or the way in which things can mean or signify other things. This encompasses everything from semantics to social perceptions and conditioning. Culler here makes a damn good effort to draw some of this together here but he's also throwing in 'literature' and 'deconstruction' into th
Ahmad Sharabiani
The Pursuit of Signs: Semiotics, Literature, Deconstruction, Jonathan Culler
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Chapters 1 and 2 most interesting for me. Literary analysis that follows less so. Chapter on metaphor largely a faff as is the final chapter on graduate school. Still, an important book I hope to come back to.
Des Small
Jun 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is another of Culler's clever works of criticism. The chapter on apostrophe should be required reading for anyone interested in poetry, and the chapter on narrative brings new insights into what is often a dull discipline. He often illustrates his literary theory with famous literary works, i.e. Shelley, Proust, Shakespeare but don't be discouraged if you haven't read them. You can follow his explanations even if you haven't read the texts he discusses.

This book is less deconstructive than
Jan 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
I had used this as a source on a paper in one of my linguistics classes. It looked interesting at the time, so now that I've had some time I've read it. It's very interesting. The chapter on metaphor and metonymy really caught me. Probably the strongest in the book.
Jeff Keehr
Jan 11, 2017 rated it liked it
One of the books I had to read for the PhD program at Penn State. I found it interesting but not something I ever wanted to reread.
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Heavy going i places but the best introduction to the field of semiotics
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Culler's Structuralist Poetics: Structuralism, Linguistics and the Study of Literature won the James Russell Lowell Prize from the Modern Language Association of America in 1976 for an outstanding book of criticism. Structuralist Poetics was one of the first introductions to the French structuralist movement available in English.

Culler’s contribution to the Very Short Introductions series, Literar
More about Jonathan Culler