I have been on an Introducing graphic guide series binge lately. Introducing Semiotics is the latest one I finished reading from the series. It provides a broad overview of the field of Semiotics and a brief glimpse into the history and different systems that emerged within it.
It is an interesting read for the breadth of the author’s knowledge in different areas of the field and the scholarship that has gone into it. This helps in simplifying the content matter to make it accessible for an enthusiastic first-time reader.
Brief introductions are given to ideas such as:
- Natural and Conventional Signs
- Signifier and Significant
- Parole and Langue
- Diachronic and Synchronic modes
- Syntagm and Paradigm
- Trichotomy of Charles Pierce
- Denotation and Connotation
- Umwelt and Zoosemiotics
- Object and Ground
- Links to Information Theory
Life and works of eminent authors such as Saussure, Peirce, Levi Strauss, Barthes, Lacan, Jakobson, the Cyberneticians, Umberto Eco are briefly touched upon.
Now coming to the shortcomings, some of the segues into ideas felt unwarranted, which could be because of an epistemic gap existing between different areas. But then again there were noticeably hasty descriptions of certain ideas possibly because of the limited size of the book (most of the Introducing Series books have a page count of ~170 pages I have noticed). These aspects combined with the general nature of the prose gave a sense of a structured narrative framework being absent from the text. The approach of the book works if a reader chooses it to get a feel for the breadth of the great works in the field. One can then start researching in-depth about one or more of the works that are of interest for furthering their understanding.
A particular notable flaw towards the end was that there was some kind of pressure to communicate semiotics as something that has found application in day to day concerns of the industrial world rather than being lofty theory. This is signaled via advertising of a certain company. Narrowing it to just one company makes it feel like a blatant plug and out of place concerning the broad subject matter addressed thus far in the book.
Overall a broad strokes picture of the field with room left for users to read more books to fine stroke in the details. Some of the intriguing ideas and social circumstances of the luminaries in the book sure left me wanting to read an in-depth material on them. Towards that end I have included here a small reading section underneath this review for interested people to follow through.
If you are interested, you can buy the book on Amazon.com for less than $10 or for around ₹200 from Amazon.in