Elementary

October 26th, 2011

Step by Step, by Saussure.

Posted by sasha in Uncategorized

1. First, let’s read the poem, and try to understand it as a whole. Individual words don’t mean much. Words only really mean something when they are given in relation to other words, so our first step is to look at the poem as a whole to look for meaning.

2. Now we can look at the connotation and denotation of the words in the poem, and we’ll do so by looking at each word in comparison to the other words. What do the words in this line connote and denote? What does this mean for the meaning of the poem as a whole? The conflict that occurs when we try to find which meaning fits is what gives to various interpretations of a poem. We know the meaning of a poem because of these differences.

3. Is there assonance or onomatopoeia and etc. in the poem? Maybe the author uses “sh” a lot while describing a curtain to make the curtains seem like they are swishing in the poem through both descriptions and sounds…according to Saussure’s theories when applied to poetry, saying this would not help you learn the poem’s meaning or explore it’s structure, because these things are arbitrary. When using these theories, maybe one should focus on other forms of literary analysis, like individual words meanings that lend to the meaning of the poem as a whole. So let’s look for structural evidence in the poem for meaning. What words are used? What words could have been used instead of that specific word? How does using that word instead of another change the poem’s meaning?

Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea,
But sad mortality o’er-sways their power,
How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,
Whose action is no stronger than a flower?
O, how shall summer’s honey breath hold out
Against the wreckful siege of battering days,
When rocks impregnable are not so stout,
Nor gates of steel so strong, but Time decays?
O fearful meditation! where, alack,
Shall Time’s best jewel from Time’s chest lie hid?
Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back?
Or who his spoil of beauty can forbid?
O, none, unless this miracle have might,
That in black ink my love may still shine bright.

1. The poem talks about “sad mortality,” or death. It eventually claims everyone in the end. However, with the poet’s “black ink,” the love he describes can bypass mortality and live on in the pages.

2. A. Flower
Denotation: A flower is a plant structure.
Connotation: In the poem, it represents something weak and delicate.

B. Honey
Denotation: A kind of syrup(?) that bees produce.
Connotation: Sweet

C. Spoil
Denotation: To rot.
Connotation: The end.

Depending on the meaning the context clues leads you to, the connotation and denotation leads to conflict, which then leads to meaning when they come together naturally.

3. In order to know “sad mortality,” we have to know what its not, as in the first line of the sonnet. We know what it is through its differences, by what it is not.

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4 Responses to ' Step by Step, by Saussure. '

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  1.    Kevin L. Ferguson said,

    on October 26th, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    I think your first step seems right on! I’m not sure what exactly to do with step 3 though… what if there’s not any onomatopoeia? Dos that mean it’s a bad poem?

  2.    sasha said,

    on October 26th, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    Haha, I had a tough time with my step 3 as well, I’ll go ahead and revise it!

  3.    mikadroz said,

    on October 26th, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    Interesting– I think connotation and denotation are very important; otherwise it’s a bunch of words with meanings that make no sense. You do a good job at getting that across!


  4. on October 26th, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    We have the same idea…I agree when you mentioned thinking about which words could have been used instead of others.
    This post made it a lot clearer of what to do with the part of the assignment that asks us what a semioticians would say about our steps.

    Your steps are very detailed…I’m going to have to go over mine

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