Semiotics of Didactic Discourse

Vanderbilt University
Second International Summer Institute for Semiotic and Structural Studies

June 1-26, 1981

Semiotics of Didactic Discourse (P. Fabbri)
SSS 1705 (Comparative Literature 385A, section 2)

In recent years semioticians have turned their attention to the so-called “didactic discourses” (e.g., Le Bulletin, No. 7). These discourses involve a persuasive doing (a causing-to-know and a causing-to-believe) and also an interpretative doing. Examples of this include literary discourses and scientific texts but also the classroom situation of teacher and student. Within the didactic situation itself the issue of manipulation has come increasingly to the forefront.
In this seminar we will start with some reflections on didactic discourse, considering them within the framework of Greimassian theory. The works of A. J. Greimas will be drawn upon as well as the work done on didactic discursive strategies in the Paris working group directed by myself and J. Fontanille in the Groupe de Recherches Semio-Linguistiques (E.H.E.S.S.).
We will then focus our attention on what might be termed a semiotic theory of manipulation. Under this rubric we will look beyond literary texts to other kinds of discourse—political, advertising, and so on. Once again our theoretical point of departure will be the work of Greimas. These studies of modalities and enunciation set up the problem of manipulation from the side of both the manipulator and the one manipulated. It is hoped that in the seminar we will be able to further develop and refine a typology of the forms of manipulation.

Selected Bibliography
A. J. Greimas, Maupassant (Seuil, 1976),
A. J. Greimas & J. Courtes, Semiotique: Dictionnaire Raisonne de la Theorie du Langage (Hachette, 1979),
A. J. Greimas & E. Landowski, Introduction a l’Analyse du Discours en Sciences Sociales (Hachette, 1979),
E. Landowski, “Towards a Semiotics of Scholarly Discourse” (Structuralist Review, 1978),
Le Bulletin, No. 7, ed. by M. Hammad (Groupe de Recherches Semio-Linguistiques, 1979).

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