UH 400 Semiotics of Communication: WINTER 2010

Dr. Elliot Gaines, Office: 411 Millett

email: elliot.gaines@wright.edu       web site: www.wright.edu/~elliot.gaines

Office hours: 2-4 p.m. T-Th.

Class Meetings: Tuesday-Thursday, 8:30-10:10 p.m.  Room 242 Millett

COURSE DESCRIPTION: Semiotics is the study of the life of signs.  Signs are anything that can stand for or represent something.  The course provides theories and practices useful for critical thinking and analysis of communication and interdisciplinary topics.  Students will develop an understanding of semiotics and its application to the analysis of communication and the interpretation of meaning.

COURSE GOALS:  The goals of the class are to gain a practical understanding of semiotics, improve critical thinking skills, and to demonstrate understanding of semiotics through written and oral analysis of communication.  Students will learn to think logically through the systematic practices of basic semiotics and be able to apply semiotic methods to their specific area of interest.

READINGS are posted on LIBRARY RESERVE, on COURSE STUDIO, and Dr. GainesŐ web site


ALL ASSIGNMENTS WILL BE COLLECTED IN CLASS ON THE DESIGNATED DATE.  Deviations from assignment deadlines are not allowed unless permission from the professor is granted.

Knowledge Forms are available on Dr. GainesŐ web site.  A Knowledge Form is due each date when a reading assignment is due. Completing these forms helps provide a review of each reading assignment. 

Papers: Writing assignments will be described in class.  Papers will be about 600 words or less (250 words per page, double-spaced), and must conform to APA or MLA style with references.  The topics of the papers must address semiotic analysis of an approved subject.  Handouts designed to help prepare papers and presentations are available On-line at Dr. GainesŐ web site.  These handouts address questions about writing, and outline keys to critical thinking and semiotic analysis methods.

Papers and presentations must use references to readings and demonstrate understanding of concepts, theories, and methods of semiotics.

The Presentation Assignment will be based on semiotic analysis and follow the same critical standards required in written assignments. Details will be discussed in class.

*Students should be aware of the Wright State University Attendance and Drop Policy.

*All students should be familiar with Wright State UniversityŐs policy on academic dishonesty. Cheating and plagiarism--submitting someone elseŐs work or ideas as your own--will not be tolerated.

Cell phone ringing in class, or other disturbances or unprofessional behaviors, may result in a student losing points or other disciplinary actions including the possibility that a student may be dismissed from the class.

Absolutely no cell phone, Internet use, or other devises are permitted during class without the expressed permission of the instructor.   Up to 20 points will be deducted if this rule is ignored and a student may be asked to leave the class.

GRADING POLICY:  Grades are based on the meeting criteria specified in each assignment, timely completion of written assignments and presentations.  All questions about individual grades and individual progress may be addressed during office hours.  Grades and papers are not returned in class.  Individual meetings during office hours are advised.


The course is intended to provide an opportunity to learn by participating in activities such as class meetings, readings, and assignments. There is an underlying assumption that each student that takes the class understands their own responsibilities. That is, in order to succeed at the goal of accomplishing the course objectives, each student must follow the steps provided in the syllabus and by the instructor. The best results come from getting things done on time, reading before class meetings, and generally approaching the subject with curiosity and motivation to get what you can out of the experience.

It is important to recognize each assignment as a small step toward accomplishing a goal. If you donŐt understand the significance of the assignment and its relationship to the goals of the class, PLEASE ASK WITH ENOUGH TIME BEFORE THE ASSIGNMENT IS DUE! The real measure of your success in the course is determined by the quality of your personal experience. There is enormous value in questioning yourself about your level of commitment and motivation, and understanding your responsibility for the extent of your accomplishments in the course.


The point distribution may be adjusted as the term progresses. 

Papers; Assignments #1, 2, 3 =  10 points each  = 30 points

Knowledge Forms=  4 points (total may vary)      = 32 points

Presentations                                                       = 15 points

Attendance/Participation/Quizzes                        =  23 points

*** POTENTIAL*** POINTS: the points may be adjusted if there are changes to the schedule or assignments.  Any changes will be discussed in class.

Disturbances or unacceptable behaviors will not be tolerated and may result in a student losing points, being asked to leave the class, or other disciplinary actions.

Readings are due on the date listed in the schedule.  Read the selections BEFORE the class meeting.

KNOWLEDGE FORMS are due at the same time as each reading. KNOWLEDGE FORMS are available on-line on Dr. GainesŐ web site. KNOWLEDGE FORMS must prepared as computer files.  They function as your own notes and a record of the readings that are necessary for writing papers for the class.


UH 400 Schedule, WINTER 2009  

(Subject to change as the quarter progresses).

Week/DATE                                   Activity


1).    Jan. 5:   Syllabus Introduction to the class: Basic concepts clips from Serendipity, Chan is Missing, Name of the Rose

              Jan. 7:           READ: Teaching Semiotics Through BrentŐs Narrative Biography Of Peirce.  (Course Studio)  Video: C.S. Peirce; Semiotics and the Logic of Pragmatism (GainesŐ web site)

2).    Jan. 12   READ: the_quest_for_meaning.pdf by Danesi. (Library Reserve)

            Jan. 14    Quiz  (discuss Tonya Harding: SR/SD chart)

3).    Jan. 19   READ: signs.pdf (Library Reserve) Ch1 by Sebeok

            Jan. 21    Paper 1 DUE.  Discussion: Lisa Simpson

4).    Jan. 26   READ: theory_of_semiotics.pdf (Library Reserve) by Eco

          Jan. 28   Discussion

5).       Feb. 2      Paper 2 DUE.  READ: Gaines: SSA.02.Ambiguity (Course Studio)

            Feb. 4     Discussion: Seinfeld

6).       Feb. 9     READ: foundations_of_the_theory_of_signs.pdf (Library Reserve) by Morris

            Feb. 11     Paper 3 DUE.  Discussion

7).      Feb. 16     READ: SEMIOTICA.08.Future of Semiotics.pdf  (Course Studio) by Gaines

            Feb. 18     READ: Gaines Settling Opinions pdf  (Course Studio)

                      Student presentations DISCUSSED

8).       Feb. 23    Student presentations/Discussion

            Feb. 25    Student presentations/Discussion

9).       March 2    Student presentations/Discussion

           March 4   Student presentations/Discussion

10).    March 9   Student presentations/Discussion

            March 11  Student presentations/Discussion

11).    March 16     final