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Art, Culture and the Semiotics of Meaning: Culture's Changing Signs of Life in Poetry, Drama, Painting and Sculpture

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Do the arts mean? Do all the arts mean? Do they all mean in the same way? Does an art work mean in the same way in which a street sign means? More importantly, do all art works mean in a semiotically interesting way? This book argues for the importance of those formal meanings in the arts which most effectively enrich our knowledge of "the way things are" and train our cognitive faculties to deal with them. Jackson Barry examines the meaning of art works as read through their material and formal constituents ...
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Overview

Do the arts mean? Do all the arts mean? Do they all mean in the same way? Does an art work mean in the same way in which a street sign means? More importantly, do all art works mean in a semiotically interesting way? This book argues for the importance of those formal meanings in the arts which most effectively enrich our knowledge of "the way things are" and train our cognitive faculties to deal with them. Jackson Barry examines the meaning of art works as read through their material and formal constituents using a semiotic approach which clarifies the historical and cultural forces molding these sensorially elaborated "signs." Medieval wheel-of-fortune diagrams, a Shakespeare play, non-objective painting, and a stage set for Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire, all demonstrate the interplay between concepts struggling for expression and the available matter and form for their manifestation. At the end, the author considers the biological basis for art as defined in contemporary cognitive science.
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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Barry (English, U. of Maryland) argues that art criticism focusing on assumed ethical generalities inevitably impoverishes the arts. To address this, he makes use of the work of Saussure, Hjelmslev, Greims, Peirce, and new cognitive science to explore how the form of art, its signifier, helps make meaning and enriches our knowledge of the way things are. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312219673
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 6/12/1999
  • Series: Semaphores and Signs Series
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 5.75 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.85 (d)

Meet the Author

Jackson Barry is Associate Professor of English at the University of Maryland. His books include Dramatic Structure: The Shaping of Experience.

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Table of Contents

Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Introduction
Ch. 1 Meaning 1
Ch. 2 Making Meaning: The Physical and Cognitive Materials 13
Ch. 3 Signs of Life: Medieval Schemes of the Ages of Man 25
Ch. 4 Death of a Sign 39
Ch. 5 The Semiotics of Poetry: That a Poem May Mean and Be 57
Ch. 6 The Meaning of the Author: Robert Lowell as Image of an Age 77
Ch. 7 Signs of Space: Jo Mielziner's Stage Sets 89
Ch. 8 Can Nonobjective Art Mean? 103
Ch. 9 Cognitive Science and the Semiotics of Art 119
Conclusion 133
Notes 139
References 161
Index 173
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