The Simplest of Signs: Victor Hugo and the Language of Images in France, 1850-1950

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University of Delaware Press, 2004 - Literary Criticism - 217 pages
Must we learn how to read pictures? Or are pictures viewed, and texts read? If both pictures and texts are read, what theory accounts both for this reading and the manifest differences that exist between the two sign systems? In response to such questions, Timothy Raser traces the evolution of simple signs from the Romantic moment to the recent past, showing how a desire for direct signification informs both canonical Romantic texts and the art-critical texts of subsequent generations. Employing semiotic analyses, he isolates the devices used by poetry, plays, novels, and art criticism to produce effects of immediacy. So doing, he describes the rhetoric of art criticism as it evolved over the nineteenth century in France. The tropes of this genre are particular to it - resurrection is a favored metaphor - and these tropes, when deconstructed, explain arguments, evaluations, and choices that saturate the field. Timothy Raser is a Professor of French at the University of Georgia.

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Contents

Introduction
13
Simple Signs in Hugo Dates Words Names and Facts
21
Limits of Performative Language in Hugos Theater
29
People Places and Apostrophe in Tristesse dOlympio
40
Revolution and AEsthetics
49
Hugos Textual Systems Antithesis Inscription Ekphrasis
61
Le Dernier Jour dun condamne
74
Reading and Refereince in NotreDame de Paris
87
Art Criticisms Narratives
123
The End of Citation in Baudelaires Art Criticism
134
Fromentin and Claudel
150
This Side of Words
163
Epilogue
188
Notes
192
Works Cited
208
Index

Literary Accounts of the Visual Arts Narrative Citation and Attribution
105
Reading and Denotation
107

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Popular passages

Page 138 - You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them...
Page 116 - II faut aussi que tu n'ailles point Choisir tes mots sans quelque méprise: Rien de plus cher que la chanson grise Oü l'Indécis au Précis se joint.
Page 138 - Vous ne vous ferez point d'image taillée, ni aucune figure de tout ce qui est en haut dans le ciel, et en bas sur la terre, ni de tout ce qui est dans les eaux sous la terre.
Page 116 - C'est le grand jour tremblant de midi, C'est, par un ciel d'automne attiédi, Le bleu fouillis des claires étoiles!
Page 196 - M. Victor Hugo laisse voir dans tous ses tableaux, lyriques et dramatiques, un système d'alignement et de contrastes uniformes. L'excentricité elle-même prend chez lui des formes symétriques.
Page 199 - On peut donc concevoir une science qui étudie la vie des signes au sein de la vie sociale...
Page 56 - One must not be in the least prepossessed in favour of the real existence of the thing, but must preserve complete indifference in this respect, in order to play the part of judge in matters of taste.
Page 68 - ... volcanoes in all their violence of destruction, hurricanes leaving desolation in their track, the boundless ocean rising with rebellious force, the high waterfall of some mighty river, and the like, make our power of resistance of trifling moment in comparison with their might.
Page 199 - A science that studies the life of signs within society is conceivable; it would be a part of social psychology and consequently of general psychology; I shall call it semiology (from the Greek semeion 'sign'). Semiology would show what constitutes signs, what laws govern them.
Page 81 - Antiquity had been a civilization of spectacle. 'To render accessible to a multitude of men the inspection of a small number of objects': this was the problem to which the architecture of temples, theatres and circuses responded. With spectacle, there was a predominance of public life, the intensity of festivals, sensual proximity. In these rituals in which blood flowed, society found new vigour and formed for a moment a single great body.

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