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Level: Undergraduate
Division: Parsons The New School for Design
School: School of Art and Design History and Theory
Department: Art and Design History
Course Number: PLDS 4872
Course Format: Seminar
Location: NYC campus
Permission Required: No
  • Art History, Theory & Criticism
  • Politics
  • Philosophy
This seminar introduces students to the discipline of semiotics, which examines the signs manufactured in and by culture. The world isn’t simply a matter of brute things; it talks to us by means of signs, not always manifesting their intentions. Signs usually present themselves under the appearance of innocence or as just there in the world, naturally occurring. In fact, they bear messages of both covert as well as overt meaning. It has been said that these messages—of the most diverse manifestations—“put you on your feet,” get you moving and doing things you probably never imagined for yourselves. The theorist of the science of signs, the semiotician, seeks to illuminate the immense world of things hidden from most of us. This revelation can be used in various ways, from doing art to practicing politics; from presentation of the self in everyday life to writing and uttering professional discourse. In order to grasp the complex operation of signs, we will read major texts of the co-founders of modern semiotics: Roland Barthes and Umberto Eco. The two were preoccupied, however, not only with “theory” or philosophy i.e. with abstract discourse but also with applying their ideas to popular culture. In keeping with their practice, the class will perform case studies of popular artifacts, beginning with the novel (and film based upon it), The Hunger Games. Semioticians don’t preach, nor shall we. They revel in making intelligible what formerly was unfathomable.
Course Open to: Degree Students
Course Pre/Co-requisites:
Open to: All university undergraduate degree students. Pre-requisite(s): first-year university writing course and at least two prior history or methods course in art, media, film, or visual culture. One of these courses should be 3000-level.


Open to Undergraduate students.