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Foundational Essays in James Joyce Studies$
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Michael Patrick Gillespie

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780813035291

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813035291.001.0001

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Semiotic Approaches to a Fictional Text

Semiotic Approaches to a Fictional Text

Joyce's “Eveline”

(p.59) 3 Semiotic Approaches to a Fictional Text
Foundational Essays in James Joyce Studies

Robert Scholes

University Press of Florida

This chapter argues and demonstrates how certain semiotic approaches to fictional texts, each incomplete in itself, can be combined in a manner that facilitates the practical criticism of fiction. The chapter tries to combine the three approaches, namely that of Tzvetan Todorov, as illustrated in his Grammaire du Décameron, that of Gérard Genette in “Discours du récit” from Figures III, and that of Roland Barthes in S/Z, into a single methodology. These three writers offer a grammar, a rhetoric, and finally a semiotic of fiction. The critic of modern fictional texts employs Todorov's approach as a heuristic tool, a way of focusing interpretation upon features of all fictional texts. Genette begins his study of narrative by examining aspects of what he calls fictional “tense.” In the temporal arrangements of fiction he discerns three major areas for investigation: order, duration, and frequency. Through S/Z, Barthes' book-length analysis of Balzac's story “Sarrasine,” he works his way through the text, a few phrases, or sentences at a time, interpreting these “lexias,” as he calls them, according to the ways they generate meanings in five signifying systems or codes.

Keywords:   semiotic fiction, criticism, modern fictional texts, fictional tense, lexias

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