Social Semiotics of Contemporary Literature (LIT2560.01)

An Duplan

Writers don’t just tell stories. They live them. In Familiar Stranger: A Life between Two Islands, Stuart Hall describes his upbringing in 1930’s Jamaica, then a British colony. Eventually, Hall–– who is credited with being one of the founding figures of the field of Cultural Studies––made his way to the UK, where he went on to publish a number of seminal texts. Without a doubt, Hall’s lived experience of colonialism (both in his native Jamaica and later, in England) permeated his later writing on the manifestations of colonialism in popular and media culture. 

Today, equipped with the tools of semiotics and sociolinguistics, we can read literature not just for what is conveyed within the text, but also as a kind of meta-historiography. Writers’ lived experiences, their social positions, and their personal characteristics all play a crucial role in the construction and communication of information, across both creative and critical writing. By analyzing for the presence of literary strategies like code-switching, neologism, and cultural reference, in contemporary poetry and fiction, we can begin to construct a social semiotics of creative writing––that is, a more total understanding of the power of literature to communicate experience.

Book list:

  • feeld, Jos Charles
  • Whose Irish?: Stories, Gish Jen
  • My Year of Meats, Ruth Ozeki
  • Fiction Across Borders: Imagining the Lives of Others in Late-Twentieth-Century Novels, Shameem Black
  • The Collected Poetry of Aimé Césaire, translated by Clayton Eshleman and Annette Smith
  • Familiar Stranger: A Life between Two Islands, Stuart Hall
  • A Barthes Reader, edited by Roland Barthes

Learning Outcomes:
- To gain familiarity with basic principles of semiotics and sociolinguistics
- To apply principles of semiotic analysis to poetry and fiction texts
- To describe the role of social markers in our understanding of contemporary literature


Delivery Method: Fully in-person
Course Level: 2000-level
Credits: 4
M/Th 3:40PM - 5:30PM (Full-term)
Maximum Enrollment: 35
Course Frequency: One time only

Categories: Literature , SCT , Fully In-Person , All courses
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