Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Semester 2
Further Details:

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Other 1 x 2 hour Lecture/Workshop per week


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Essay 2 (2500 words)  Supplementary Assessments will be Essay 1 (50%); Essay 2 (50%)  50%
Semester Assessment Essay 1 (2500 words)  50%
Supplementary Assessment Resit: Essay 2 (2500 Words)  50%
Supplementary Assessment Resit: Essay 1 (2500 Words)  50%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

To apply semiotic approaches to the analysis of mass media texts;

To gain an advanced understanding of the principles of semiotic analysis;

To gain a critical awareness of the usefulness and limitations of semiotic approaches.

to asses the usefulness and limitations of such approaches

Brief description

In this module we explore the practical application of semiotic tools to generate insights in the study of visual texts of many kinds, especially advertisements and photographs. We give particular attention to powerful but challenging concepts such as markedness, alignment and the commutation test and to ideological issues arising from selectivity in various forms of visual representation. Students are encouraged to adopt a critical approach to semiotic theories and applications. Moving beyond the basic Saussurean model and its bracketing of the referent, we explore the distinction between symbolic, iconic and indexical modes of relation between sign vehicles and their referents. We also refer to practical applications in such contexts as marketing (notably brand positioning) and web design (notably visual issues in targeting). For full details see the Module Website at


The lectures are based on the following:

Signifier and Signified
Structural Analysis
Beyond the Literal
Practical Textual Analysis (1)
Photography and Film
Practical Textual Analysis (2)
Intertextuality and Reflexivity
Representation and the Construction of Reality
Reviewing Semiotics

Reading List

Recommended Text
**Bignell, Jonathan (1997) Media Semiotics: An Introduction Manchester: Manchester University Press Primo search **Chandler, Daniel (2002) Semiotics: The Basics London: Routledge Primo search **Cook, Guy (1992) The Discourse of Advertising London: Routledge Primo search **Fairclough, Norman (1995) Media Discourse London: Arnold Primo search **Thwaites, Tony, Lloyd Davis & Warwick Mules (1994) Tools for Cultural Studies: An Introduction South Melbourne: Macmillan Primo search Barthes, Roland (1977) Image-Music-Text London: Fontana Primo search Barthes, Roland (1987[1957]) Mythologies New York: Hill & Wang Primo search Danesi, Marcel (2002) Understanding Media Semiotics London: Arnold Primo search Hodge, Robert & Gunther Kress (1988) Social Semiotics Cambridge: Polity Primo search Jensen, Klaus Bruhn (1995) The Social Semiotics of Mass Communication London: Sage Primo search Kress, Gunther & Theo van Leeuwen (1996) Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design London: Routledge Primo search Langholz Leymore, Varda (1975) Hidden Myth: Structure and Symbolism in Advertising New York: Basic Books Primo search Metz, Christian (1974) Film Language: A Semiotics of the Cinema (trans. Michael Taylor) New York: Oxford University Press Primo search Myers, Greg (1999) Ad Worlds: Brands, Media, Audiences London: Arnold Primo search Williamson, Judith (1978) Decoding Advertisements London: Marion Boyars Primo search **Worth, Sol (1981) 'Studying Visual Communication' [www document] HERON document Bignell: 'Advertisements' Primo search HERON document Leiss, Kline & Jhally: 'Two Approaches to the Study of Advertisements' Primo search Semiotics for Beginners
Essential Reading
Module website


This module is at CQFW Level 6