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Peut-on appliquer la littérature aux études culturelles ? - Réflexions sémiologiques autour d'une nouvelle de Maupassant
Vol. XIII/2012/2, pp. 354-368
Keywords: sign, semiology, Maupassant cultural studies, prostitution
Literature has often been, in spite of itself, a pretext: depending on the era, it has been deployed for the study of authors' biographies, modes of production, semiology, structuralism, academic methodology, sociology, and of course, psychoanalysis. Cultural studies, as practiced today, seems to be following a similar trend, namely that of approaching the literary text as a tool for analysis — or even, more plainly, as a document or source —, and with the same status as others, from the perspective of a global and cultural history. Far from succumbing to the temptation to restore literature's lost sacred aura, or affirming literature's alleged centrality among an array of disciplines, it is perhaps time to recognize its specificity, at the very least and, more importantly, to define its points of origin that allow us to analyze the relationship between literature, culture, and knowledge. With this in mind, I propose in particular to examine the sign as concept, which appears seldom modernized within cultural studies, especially in the absence of a historicized viewpoint. What is the state of semiology today? Can it still function as a paradigm capable of deciphering reality? This analysis aims to investigate these questions using the methodological framework of "historicized semiology", which aptly lends itself to structuring the study of literature and cultures by defining different dimensions of literary representation. This project applies this approach to a novella with an eminently semiotic title, Le Signe 'The Sign', by Maupassant.