- Paperback: 752 pages
- Publisher: Bedford/St. Martin's; Sixth edition (December 10, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0312478127
- ISBN-13: 978-0312478124
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 84 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,187,114 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Signs of Life in the USA: Readings on Popular Culture for Writers Sixth Edition
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The table of content, by chapters are the following:
Introduction - Popular Signs: Or, Everything you Always Knew about American Culture (but Nobody Asked)
Chapter I - Consuming Passions: The Culture of American Consumption
Chapter II - Brought to you B(u)y: The Signs of Advertising
Chapter III - Video Dreams: Television, Music, and Cultural Forms
Chapter IV - The Hollywood Sign: The Culture of American Film
Chapter V - You-Topian Dreams: MySpace, YourSpace, and the Semiotics of Web 2.0
Chapter VI - American Paradox: Culture and Contradiction in the U.S.A
Chapter VII - We've Come a Long Way, Maybe: Gender Codes in American Culture
Chapter VIII - Constructing Race: Readings in Multicultural Semiotics
An astonishing 752 pages and 8 chapters is no laughing matter, at least to those who are not well-acquainted with reading books, yet I found myself the ability to read most articles inside the book well enough to understand the key points as if I was reading one of my favorite novels. I believe this is a result of using articles on popular culture as basis for this book. I was extremely conflicted by this approach though, since I sheltered myself from popular culture for about 10 years, but I am sure that people who are in-touch with popular culture will be more motivated to read the articles. As for me, I was genuinely interested in the topics for a personal reason. Even though I was motivated to read, I would be lying if I said I could relate or fully recognize half of the media being analyzed in the articles.
These articles inform the reader of how things came to be or what some things represent in America, which is why semiotic analysis is heavily emphasized in this book. According to Oxford Dictionary, Semiotics is "the study of signs and symbols and their use or interpretation." It is then you analyze the semiotics of these signs or symbols, of course that is a very simplistic view, nonetheless, it is still a powerful tool at your disposal. By using semiotic analysis, you are able to see the possible hidden interior of an item or even an event. It truly is a useful tool that I have been using for many years, yet the term has never been in my vocabulary until I started reading this book. Semiotic analysis invokes a strong thinking process, especially in this case, since popular culture is something that the majority of people deal on a daily basis. I am sure that it has already been outlined in the Book Description on Amazon, but this book makes writing a much more easier task with the help of popular culture.
When you are finished with reading an article, you are given questions in the categories of "Reading the Text" and "Reading the Signs." Both being somewhat thought provoking and finely specified that you would have to read multiple times and annotate just to remember what was read. This is an excellent thing though, as you are told to write most of the time in the "Reading the Signs" category. One thing that may be a negative towards some consumers, is this book relies on a class or group environment on some questions. I understand that it can greatly enhance the reading experience and can create exposure to different perspectives but I myself am not a great socializing creature and was greatly discouraged into doing the verbal questions. Regardless of the questions themselves, I found doing essays on these articles an easy task when compared to doing essays on specific criteria by professors on literature that I am not well acquainted with. I can confidently say I can write and semiotic analyze more effectively now from these exercises. The "Reading the Text" are just your standard 'what happened in the text' questions, in which they have predefined answers most of the time.
As for the articles themselves, I was most pleased with them. Each article was capable of invoking semiotic analysis easy and was most of the time easy to nitpick with the abundance of slanting language and emotion present that outlined the authors point more effectively. I gotta hand it to the consumption of products(Chapter I) and advertising(Chapter II) portion of this anthology, for it was the most helpful in providing me knowledge that I had not known before. It was not very interesting, but it was damn useful in knowing. Wikipedia could have probably just been used instead though. As for the other topics, the one that I was most surprised about was the five video game articles included. I genuinely thought video games were still a niche entertainment where the popular idiom "children only play video games" was still in full effect. Regardless, an interesting development I suppose. Just unsure of if those articles should have been included, for finding somebody else to even discuss about those were difficult.
Despite having an enlarged vocabulary, I found reading these sourced articles annoying when the glossary does not include definitions on the terms in these sourced articles or even a little annotation for these terms. Maybe it is just because I hardly read and do not know how anthologies are written, but having to open up a second book(dictionary) or even an online dictionary just to understand a term is just beyond annoying for myself. I had to look up some difficult terms: Chauvinism, oppugned, libidinous, ineluctable, recapitulated, epigrammatic, ostensibly, efficacious, proselytizers, agora, empiricist. Regardless, I am not gonna take down a star just because the book ceases to be an all-in-one book. I am disappointed for the book not being in all-in-one though, since Amazon's(publishers?) official pricing is currently $52.65; for a price already past $50 I had higher hopes for this book to be more than just being an anthology.
If you enjoy pop culture and writing, then by all means take a look at this book, otherwise, pass it. I'd imagine you can't pass it anyways, since this book is clearly aimed at instructors with students and is probably mandatory for whatever English/writing class you are taking. I would also like to state that it would probably be a better idea to get the newer addition of the Signs of Life in the USA(for self personal uses); after all, the newer published text has more up to date content.
In conclusion, I hope you enjoyed reading this review.