The Trivium and “The Semiotic Iceberg”: A Paradigm for Reading and Responding to Texts

 

Grammar Stage: Making Empirical Observations (Pre-critical)

First-Order Signs: “Above the waterline”; surface-level / obvious

Practical Questions: “Who?” “What?” “Where?” “When?”

 

Logic: Analyzing the Message (Inductive, Critical)

Second-Order Signs: “Below the waterline”; subterranean / not so obvious

(interrelatedness of signs; patterns of meaning as they contribute to the text’s overall expression—see “Tool Kit”: language of genre)

Theoretical, Interpretation-Generating Questions: “How?  ”

(How does this text communicate its message?)

 

Rhetoric: Formulating an Interpretive Position (Post-critical)

Generating Claims & Drawing Broader Conclusions: “Why?” or “So What?”

(Why is this significant? What is the broader ‘so what’?)

 

 

THE SEMIOTIC ICEBERG

     Based on model by Greg Fraser

 

 

Grammar-Level  observations:

“above the waterline”                                                                                    

                                            Visible                                   Waterline to dive below ¯                     

                                                                                            Sign                            

 

                                                                                                                                                                             

 

        ideologies 

                      

              persistent beliefs    

   

underlying meanings

 

                                                                                 commonly held views           

 

  dominant mindsets    outlooks and values

 

 shared hopes, dreams, and desires         

 

          established power structures     received wisdoms                             

                                     

       historical factors        principles       figurative meanings

 

                                                  cultural anxieties     supposed eternal truths    unspoken tensions         

 

considerations of what is ‘natural’ or ‘normal’           assumptions 

 

                                            ideas and ideals      standard mentalities      historical underpinnings         

 

 longstanding biases          expectations        intellectual traditions       

 

                                       “master narratives”       morals and mores      widespread preoccupations

 

                                 philosophical underpinnings       psychological states         socio-economic factors      

 

connotations               criticisms/critiques                   literary echoes and influences         

 

                   common assumptions about gender, politics, religion, race        subconscious motivations, fears, desires

 

 

 

 

Some Interpretive Questions: Logic and Rhetoric-Stage Questions

 
“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing... Never lose a holy curiosity.” –Albert Einstein