Writing the Signifier & Signified

In Sausserian Linguistics, the two elements of a piece of language—the signifier being the relatively concrete and the signified the relatively abstract. In some situations, there are chains of signifiers: The written “road” signifies the spoken “road,” which in turn signifies the idea of “road,” which, in turn, in an analogy or allegory, can signify life. (A Handbook to Literature)

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Please use Universal Manuscript Guidelines when submitting: .doc or .docx, double spacing, 10-12 pt font, Times New Roman, 1 inch margins, first page header with contact information, section breaks “***” or “#.”

Sources

The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the PresentEric Kandel.

The Banalization of Nihilism: Twentieth-Century Responses to MeaninglessnessKaren L. Carr.

A Handbook to Literature. William Harmon.

“Cogito et Histoire de la Folie.” Jacques Derrida.

Cognitive Neuropsychology Section, Laboratory of Brain and Cognition.

Eats Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. Lynne Truss.

The Elements of Style. William Strunk. 

Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory. Peter Barry.

Critical Theory: A Very Short Introduction. Stephen Eric Bronner.

Critical Theory Today: A User-Friendly Guide. Lois Tyson

The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. David H. Richter.

A Handbook to Literature. William Harmon.

Literary Theories and Schools of Criticism. Purdue Online Writing Lab. 

New Oxford American DictionaryEdited by Angus Stevenson and Christine A. Lindberg.

The Norton Anthology of World LiteratureMartin Puchner, et al.

The Norton Introduction to PhilosophyGideon Rosen and Alex Byrne.

Woe is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English. Patricia T. O’Conner

Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft. Janet Burroway, Elizabeth Stuckey-French & Ned Stuckey-French.

Writing the Other. Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward.

Writing Protagonists

The classic definition of a protagonist is the character who is the focus of the overall narrative and undergoes the most significant change. A literary protagonist is rarely ever considered to be morally “good.” Literary protagonists are complicated and will often challenge the reader’s concept of “good” and “bad.” Keep in mind that the best literary protagonists are usually also their own antagonists to some degree–i.e. person versus self. You might have more than one protagonist, such as in Tom Perrotta’s novel, Little Children.

Burroway’s Writing Fiction addresses the universal paradox and the necessity of individuality, especially in main characters such as protagonists and antagonists:

Though critics often praise literature for exhibiting characteristics of the individual, the typical, and the universal all at the same time, I don’t think this is of much use to the practicing writer. For though you may labor to create an individual character, and you may make that character a credible example of type, I don’t think you can set out to be “universal….” Writing in generalities and typicalities is akin to bigotry—we see only what’s alike about people, not what’s unique. When effective, a description of type blames the character for the failure to individualize, and if an author invariably wants to condemn or ridicule those types….. (Writing Fiction)

Protagonist Writing Exercise No. 1: Schematics

Download and complete The Character Arc: Protagonist

Click on the above link and open the document. Save the document to your hard drive. Follow the directions and the writing assignment as given, step by step, in this document. Take one section at a time. Try not to skip forward to a later section. Let your discovery process build. We are focusing only on the protagonist for this week. We will focus on the main antagonist next week, along with additional antagonist versus protagonist considerations. Please submit both your completed Character Arc and following Narrative Exploration by the Sunday due date.

Protagonist Writing Exercise No. 2: Narrative Exploration

Now that you have explored your character schematically and individually, aside from whatever intention the longer work may have had for the character, you are ready to flesh your character out in his or her own narrative. Write a 1000 word scene or flash fiction about your character. You might center this short short narrative on one of the schematic arc details—i.e. worst or best night. This story must not already be part of the written words in your longer work. This must be new, whether or not you’ve already been thinking on this event in your character’s history.

Submit Your Work for Individualized Feedback

Please use Universal Manuscript Guidelines when submitting: .doc or .docx, double spacing, 10-12 pt font, Times New Roman, 1 inch margins, first page header with contact information, section breaks “***” or “#.”

Sources

A Handbook to Literature. William Harmon.

“Cogito et Histoire de la Folie.” Jacques Derrida.

Eats Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. Lynne Truss.

The Elements of Style. William Strunk. 

New Oxford American DictionaryEdited by Angus Stevenson and Christine A. Lindberg.

The Norton Anthology of World LiteratureMartin Puchner, et al.

The Norton Introduction to PhilosophyGideon Rosen and Alex Byrne.

Woe is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English. Patricia T. O’Conner

Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft. Janet Burroway, Elizabeth Stuckey-French & Ned Stuckey-French.

Writing the Other. Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward.

Writing Semiotics

The study of rules that enable social phenomena, considered as signs, to have meaning. Hence, in literary criticism, semiotics is the analysis of literature in terms of language, conventions, and modes of discourse. (Handbook to Literature) Semiotics include a process of semantics, syntactics and pragmatics.

Semantics: Relationships between each individual sign and to what it refers (denotata or meaning, consider that meaning will be subjective and relevant to an individual’s personal experiences and this is okay in the critical process). On your paper, respond to the following question for each of the three elements:

What does the element mean to you?

Syntactics: Relationships among each individual sign in formal structures (conventional views of the signs and denotata–i.e. the way the signs relate to established languages and schools of thought):

What does the element mean to your society at large?

Pragmatics: Relationships between each individual sign and sign-using agents, specifically in the form of context, which might also include the instance of “utterance” or the sociopolitical intention behind the piece. This is not a personal creator intention, but rather a societal intention. We will use Derrida’s concept of différance, or to defer and differ, in exploring this societal intention. Example: “woman” both defers and differs to “man.” Woman is like man in human shape, thought, creation and so many ways, and yet, woman differs in genitalia, hormones and the ability to create man. 

Deference: What might the obvious intention of the element be?

Difference: What is the ironic or opposite meaning of this obvious intention?

Compare and Contrast: How do the obvious intention and ironic intention compare and contrast?

 

Sources

A Handbook to LiteratureWilliam Harmon.

Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory. Peter Barry.

Critical Theory: A Very Short Introduction. Stephen Eric Bronner.

Critical Theory Today: A User-Friendly Guide. Lois Tyson

The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. David H. Richter

Literary Theories and Schools of Criticism. Purdue Online Writing Lab. 

The Norton Anthology of World Literature: Literary TermsMartin Puchner, et al.

Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft. Janet Burroway, Elizabeth Stuckey-French & Ned Stuckey-French.