Structure of Meaning: A Semiotic Approach to the Play Text

Overview

Structures of Meaning deals in a practical way with theater semiotics. Although not a "primer" in the strictest sense, it sets forth the basic principles of semiotics as they can be applied to the dramatic or play text and especially its relationship to performance. Author Thomas J. Donahue treats the essential elements of most play texts: action, character, space and time, as well as the characters' discourse and the playwright's instructions in their varied forms. He uses plays from various periods and cultures...
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Overview

Structures of Meaning deals in a practical way with theater semiotics. Although not a "primer" in the strictest sense, it sets forth the basic principles of semiotics as they can be applied to the dramatic or play text and especially its relationship to performance. Author Thomas J. Donahue treats the essential elements of most play texts: action, character, space and time, as well as the characters' discourse and the playwright's instructions in their varied forms. He uses plays from various periods and cultures to illustrate the pragmatic aspects of semiotics, while relying principally on the texts of Romeo and Juliet, Tartuffe, The Cherry Orchard, and Waiting for Godot. In this century directors and other practitioners of the theater have insisted that the play text reaches full significance only within the performance. Their insistence that the play text is "something to be done," as Roland Barthes has put it, and not merely something to be read, necessarily influences the way the reader approaches the text intended for representation on the stage. Theater practitioners have always intuited the transformations that take place while they move from first reading through rehearsal to opening night. They know that the written word is transformed when spoken by an actor, and that stage action, lights, sounds, and an audience bring life to a text that might have seemed dull on first reading. Practitioners of the theater read play texts as if they were preparing a production of a play. They are theater semioticians of a practical order. Semiotics of the play text attempts to identify and define the basic grammar of the text - its syntax - while exploring the various ways it produces meaning within a particular context. This it does through an examination of the various systems of signs within the text and their interrelationships. Although originally used by Ferdinand de Saussure as a means of examining how language functions, semiotics no longer is restricted to
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780838634769
  • Publisher: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press
  • Publication date: 5/1/1993
  • Pages: 184

Table of Contents

Preface 9
Acknowledgments 11
1 'something to be done' 15
2 A Grammar of Forces 29
3 A Grammar of Character 47
4 A Grammar of Space 77
5 A Grammar of Time 98
6 The Text: The Discourse of the Characters 130
7 Reading the Text: The Didascalia 147
Notes 166
Bibliography 171
Index 179
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