Semiotic Analysis and Cultural "Language"
Semiotic analysis examines groups or clusters of signs that construct cultural phenomena (including literature), and in this way it resembles Levi-Strauss' search for the "mythemes" or "gross constituent units" which underpin a myth's operation. Like the structural anthropologist, the semiotic cultural analyst uses a "meta-language" (Barthes' term) to discuss the construction of hidden value systems and their dramatic representation in cultural products. The drama can be as simple as a series of monthly magazine illustrations of massively impractical ornamental cookery for readers who will "consume" it only with their eyes, or the Saturday night enactment of studio wrestling's moral allegories for working class and lower middle class spectators. The Semiotician or Cultural Critic seeks to explain the "grammar" of the repetitive sub-rituals engaged in by the participants in a popular culture sign system (magazine readers and the food "artists," or the wrestling fans and the wrestling "artists"). When that grammar has been explained, the hidden cultural motives which motivate it can be discovered.