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Running head: MEANING IN LITERATURE 1

Finding the ‘Meaning’ in Literature


Student’s Name
Institutional Affiliation
MEANING IN LITERATURE 2

Abstract

The entire case of signifying meaning with respect to the literature is perhaps the
most debatable topic there is since it covers so much ground all across the board.
In this report, one can see that the inherent connections that ‘meaning’ of a piece of
literature goes deeper and wider than any stretch of imagination. The ultimate
result of it implies that there is a definite case to be made against Structuralism and
Post-Structuralism Theoretical Frameworks as being closest to imply and direct
what ‘meaning’ actually implied. This exceptionally recalled everything in relation
to the topic of who is actually closer to defining the ‘meaning’ of a literary piece,
the author or the reader.
MEANING IN LITERATURE 3

Table of Contents
Abstract ......................................................................................................................2
1. Introduction ............................................................................................................4
1.1 Purpose of Research..........................................................................................5
1.2 Research Question/Thesis Statement ................................................................5
1.3 Methodology and Layout of the Research ........................................................5
2. Literature Review...................................................................................................6
2.1 ‘Meaning’ as a Complex Phenomena ...............................................................6
2.2 Finding the Importance of Meaning in Language ............................................7
2.3 Meaning as understood from the Narrative ......................................................8
3. Methodology ........................................................................................................10
3.1 Research Philosophy .......................................................................................10
3.2 Research Approach .........................................................................................11
3.3 Research Strategy ...........................................................................................11
3.4 Data Collection ...............................................................................................11
3.5 Research Ethics and Limitations ....................................................................12
4. Findings/Discussion .............................................................................................13
4.1 How Structuralism Works ..............................................................................13
4.2 Beyond Structuralism in these Narratives ......................................................15
4.3 What Predominantly Post-Structural Narratives Offer...................................16
4.4 Discussing ‘The Death of the Author’ ............................................................17
5. Conclusion and Recommendations ......................................................................17
References ................................................................................................................19
MEANING IN LITERATURE 4

1. Introduction

When people discuss literature, in general, the discussion often relates to the
defining factor of the conveyance of meaning. ‘What is the meaning behind this
passage, paragraph, chapter or the entire text?’ is a question that is frequently
discussed by people who read literature. However, it can be argued that this relates
to any form of media as well. Humans have constantly tried to derive meaning
from their surroundings. It can be argued that the entire existence of modern
civilization has been due to the constant pursuit of trying to define the actual
meaning (Rimmon-Kenan, 1983). It considers the smallest possible form of
existence, as well as phenomena and occurrences that lie far beyond any realistic
grasp of understanding.
If one considers the field of science, it is apparent that meaning is never in
the same position. Considering the case of classical mechanics, it is pretty apparent
that the modern field of quantum mechanics showcase a scenario where it almost
completely everything that the former actually stood for. But, it is essential to
remember the fact that the former is inherently wrong or imaginary (Rimmon-
Kenan, 1983). Humans have existed for a long perceived time, but considering this
across the age of the Universe indicates the existence as nothing but a blink of the
eye. However, this does not mean that as an average lifetime is so short, it remains
the dominant perception across many people’s minds and observational
capabilities.
When discussing this particular knowledge of meaning is seemingly
something that has a great deal of consequence for the entire field of literature at
large. While there is a great deal of debate as to what exactly classifies as
literature, it is without a doubt a significant influence upon the discussion as a
whole. In essence, the entire definition of meaning in Western Literature has
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considered a ‘centrality’ that has persisted until the present. But, one would be
remiss if there was not any definitive statement that specifically highlights this
particular case. Across all circumstances, even if there are a variety of meanings
the focus has always tried to relate everything back to what the authorship tried to
relate with respect to meaning.
1.1 Purpose of Research

The research specifically tries to relate the fact about de-centrality in


meaning when analyzing specific pieces of literature. There are many different
aspects that are consequential upon this very specific case. Like every other thing
that exists around, humans have tried to define literature with theoretical
understandings. Theory presentation about literature has tried to derive a number
of causalities, which have been interspersed to a certainly definitive degree.
Therefore, among all circumstances, it is important to discuss all possible
theoretical presentations that have tried to define what the meaning could be
behind any piece of literature at large. This research shall centrally focus upon
those theories especially, and try to define ‘meaning’ behind all of it. However, it
is most certainly important to ascertain that there is a need for widespread
consideration and observances that are required to be applied.
1.2 Research Question/Thesis Statement

What is exactly ‘meaning’ in a literary context? Is it central to the point that


Western theoretical underpinnings have tried to present, or is it something
completely foreign?
1.3 Methodology and Layout of the Research

It is verily essential to note that the entire case of determining what exactly
is at hand has a great deal to do with observation. However, for securing this
understanding there is a significant reason to perform an Observational Analysis
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upon the topic at large. It shall involve looking at various pieces of literature in the
Literature Review, and shall highlight everything by undertaking a look into a
structured in the Findings/Discussion part of this particular report. In terms of
analyzing, the report shall also take a look into different pieces of literature, which
may support any particular theory or rationalizing thought.
2. Literature Review

It is imperative to establish a knowledge base when performing any


particular research, and this remains true in this very case too. To understand the
factor of meaning, this researcher has specifically done the work in reading
through multiple sources, which serve as inherently connected with the main
Research Topic. In particular, Culler’s (2000) book can serve as essentially a very
consequential and relevant piece of source that could be even argued as the
primary source of knowledge for the topic. The text reveals that considering the
meaning of any particular text is a complex phenomenon. In literature specifically,
Culler (2000) claims that there are, in total, three specific dimensions of ‘meaning’,
namely of the word, of an utterance and of the text itself. The ‘word’ represents a
possible meaning that is elemental in nature, which is then ‘uttered’ by a speaker,
which then gets represented in the text through the application of literary devices.
2.1 ‘Meaning’ as a Complex Phenomena

But, perhaps, more importantly, it is necessary to include the discussion that


may be highlighted Smagorinsky & O'Donnell‐Allen (1998), which highlighted the
need for attending broader conceptions about literacy across all its many
manifestations. They also speak to the need for having and implementing
intertextuality, as well as inter-contextuality at large to specify the occurrence of
semiotic process under the larger context of interpretation and understanding.
Many years written after the above source, Park (2010) also seemingly relates to
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the fact that making of ‘meaning’ has suffered from an uncontrollable pace that has
seemingly resulted in the overall overcoming of challenges. It has resulted in the
consequence that is being faced today, and it has resulted in a great deal of
confusion, which is not well known among the general public.
Both of these specific seemingly goes along with what Culler (2000) was
trying to achieve at the start, and relates to the fact ‘meaning’ in literature has the
most significant relationship with the language itself. However, the study of the
language of literature is, in itself, a very complex case altogether, because it
implies that there is a need to study the case of language itself. After all, it can be
argued that literature is a product of the development of language itself, and is a
mode for capturing the state of language as a snapshot at any particular moment in
time.
2.2 Finding the Importance of Meaning in Language

It can be argued that finding the importance of ‘meaning’ in language


definitely starts with Saussure’s work regarding the field of ‘structured linguistics’.
The core base of the theory implied that language was nothing but as a system of
differences (Radford & Radford, 2005). This specifically implies the fact that what
every element ‘means’ actually has to do with its innate relationship with other
elements. According to Radford & Radford (2005), Saussure’s determination of
the characteristics of language had a significant relationship with the occurrence of
signs within the context of the same. This relates to the overall function of
literature as a whole, which has a form, known as ‘signifier’, and a meaning, which
he referred to as ‘signified’. Thus, in the application of literature, the entire
discussion about meaning constitutes half of the actual occurrence, but it is based
upon convention that relates to the mutability that is apparent all throughout
literature.
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Nöth (2001) considered this as an important step towards the apparent


knowledge that referred specifically to ‘meaning’ in literature. And, although it has
since been disproved, it stays as an essential point of understanding of what the
general idea implicates regarding the perception of a literary work in modern
culture as a whole. Even before that, Hunter (1984) related the same innate
understanding, referring to Saussure’s view on language as the defining quality
that has accelerated and advanced the entire field of literature more than any time
beforehand. However, he also reflected that Saussure’s determination about
language implied a formal introduction of theoretical underpinnings and the start of
‘structuralism’ in literary discussions.
2.3 Meaning as understood from the Narrative

The narrative has been a defining quality of literature, and Culler (2000)
seemingly views this concept very essential for the entire discussion that could be
made possible in terms of understanding ‘meaning’ in literature. He considers that
narrative or stories is not just an area for study since it has exceptional
underpinnings with everything that has a significant amount of relation with the
basic drive that makes someone human. He argues that the importance of structure
that is placed over a narrative is significantly essential, whereupon the plot,
presentation, and focalization constitute the essential elements that could be made
under specific structured knowledge (Culler, 2000). This is seemingly the
mainstream perception of the entire case of what ‘meaning’ might be stored inside
of a narrative.
Levashina, Hartwell, Morgeson & Campion (2014) highlight this specific
case itself, showcasing that the entire structured narrative has shown to have
empirical evidence in terms of their relationship with the reader, as well as all other
elements of the story. Culler (2000) claimed that the ‘meaning’ almost always
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depended upon four factors, namely intention, text, context, and the reader. This
specifically implied all notable cases of meaning that is to be derived has innate
connections along these four factors specifically. The structured factors that remain
with a particular narrative is generally referred to as ‘poetics’, which specifically
asks the question about what exactly makes any piece of literature what it is.
Rimmon-Kenan (1983) exceptionally and quite widely covers this specific topic at
large, which implies that certain structures as being pervasive across literature. The
author’s sole reasoning for this is a common reasoning, which states that analysis
of any story reveals that a particular one continues repetition time after time across
centuries and millennia. They specifically imply that specific narrative structures
like the Three-Act or the Five-Act Structure, as well as ‘The Hero with a Thousand
Faces’ represent something inimitable and universal, which have consolidated
themselves as the truth.
However, it is imperative to note that the entire case of a narrative is not
complete without talking about Derrida (1997). This French Philosopher was the
first to introduce the concept of Post-Structuralism, which was essentially a direct
response to the Structuralism discourse permeating all across the first half of the
20th century. Post-Structuralism tackles the issue of the apparent and noticeable
instability in ‘meaning’ across any instance. Derrida (1997) identified that despite
the structuralism teachings across the board between the signifier and the signified.
This resulted in a large and opposing movement that specifically highlighted the
fact that there was no ‘universal truth’ that could exist. It is generally regarded
because of the fact that centrality could be pointed towards in practical
circumstances, but could not be reached through any definitive means.
In essence, Wetherell (1998) discussed with respect to any particular
literature, the language that is used and the narrative it implemented, that there was
certainly occurrence of certain specific inconsistencies that did not reflect the
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structured state as one would assume. There are many instances within literature
itself where one can find a plethora of examples wherein the evidence of post-
structuralism could be found across texts (Wetherell, 1998). And, in terms of what
one could derive from it reflected that meaning has always been de-centered and
instable. It changed as its purpose called upon it to do so. This shall certainly
conclude a hypothesis, which inimitably reflects with what the Research Topic and
Question has been trying to establish or answer at large.
3. Methodology

The proper determination of gathering data is essential when discussing any


research whatsoever. There might be several implications associated with it, most
prominent of which is the fact that the most accurate and correct results need to be
derived across the board (Robson, 2011). However, it is also greatly essential to
highlight the fact that the exact Methodology for Research needs to focus upon
everything at concern with the topic.
3.1 Research Philosophy

In this case, it is quite evident that the entire case is greatly dependent on the
discussion of Literary Theories and the various literatures that have shaped and, by
extension, been shaped by the language itself (Egger, Smith & Schneider, 2001).
Therefore, the entire predicament shall specifically point towards the use of a
Pragmatism-based Philosophy, which mainly considers mixed Research Methods
(Pansiri, 2005). The case for this is mainly because of the fact that the Researcher
determines what the best course of the Method is supposed to be (Robson, 2011).
In essence, as this Research greatly considers a major and defining aspect of
Literature, it is imperative for this Researcher to determine what exactly the best
course of action might possibly be.
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3.2 Research Approach

The entire case of the Research Approach elicits a specific case in which the
entire perspective of the Research goes deeper, into something more substantial.
To that end, the preferred mode of Approach, in this case, involves something
Inductive as opposed to Deductive mainly because of the fact that there is a great
need for addressing that the entire premise supposedly gives evidences that
showcase the need to address some specific hypotheses (Patton, 2005). More
importantly, inductive research moves away from the quantitative form of Data
Collection, instead preferring a more Observational Approach at large. This shall
be the predominant form of collecting data at large.
3.3 Research Strategy

The predominant form of Research, in this case, shall utilize observation


done upon Archives, which are supposed to represent the most useful and
appropriate premises discussed in the Literature Review (Robson, 2011). This
specifically implies a significant application of consideration and selection based
upon what the main focus of this Research is supposed to represent. In the end, the
entire Research Strategy shall focus upon careful analysis, and shall present data
that have been collected, analyzed and presented in a really reflexive and
consequential fashion.
3.4 Data Collection

The entire perspective of Research is supposedly based upon the focus of


gathering data that essentially showcases everything in relation to the Topic or
Research Question. For this reason, this Researcher has decided to conduct a
widespread Observational Analysis upon the Archives that are determined
constantly, under all circumstances, as specific pieces of Literature (Patton, 2005).
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One can find that the majority, as well as expert consensus, shall state that these
pieces are especially evocative of literary pieces on the whole.
For the sake of the Research, all such pieces collected and analyzed has been
through from a perspective of practical statement of knowledge. These involve the
cases of theoretical perspectives, as they have been understood to available and
considerate secondary sources at large (Pansiri, 2005). Not only shall these give
evidence with regards to the hypotheses that the Research is working towards, but
it will also make sense in terms of everything in relation to proper discussion and
considerate analysis.
This researcher has taken time to assign reading a number of specific
Literary Texts, which specifically employ significant elements derived from
Structuralism. The researcher has employed a methodology whereby all the
structural elements are put into use in terms of determining the established,
mainstream forms of elements at large (Egger, Smith & Schneider, 2001). These
shall then eventually take a look at the text from a post-structuralism perspective in
order to derive specific instances of what that theory implies across the entire text
at large. However, the researcher has taken time to highlight some specific
essentially post-structural narratives (Pansiri, 2005). These texts have been
discussed in full instances at the case at hand with full details and specific forms of
literary analysis forms employed at large.
3.5 Research Ethics and Limitations

As there is hardly any outside contact with participants, much of the ethics
application for this research lies squarely upon the actions and decisions made by
this Researcher. For this reason, the Researcher has taken time to carefully
highlight citations of the main pieces from which all data has been collected at
large (Patton, 2005). The ultimate result is the achievement of a careful
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presentation that looks at Research in a way that gives a new perspective in terms
of the available knowledge with regards to almost everything involved (Pansiri,
2005). Obviously, that is certainly the specific case of limitation for this Research
as well wherein there is a great deal of confirmation as to what makes available
knowledge works. However, this Research does not promise anything that would
not be proved or depicted as incorrect or different upon any future instance.

4. Findings/Discussion

In terms of Observational Analysis of the texts, it is important that there


must be an essential starting point in terms of noting if one could reach the
apparent hypothesis that the Theoretical Framework promises in its essence. The
researcher has taken time to put everything in a narrative format, which is one of
the central aspects of the discussion at hand. This discussion must start at
everything that speaks about Structuralism ideas, which essentially sees language
as a combination of form and meaning, and this remains true across every single
aspect of the narrative. However, it is imperative to maintain that there is a greater
level of intent and context applied across these narratives too.
4.1 How Structuralism Works

The very first piece of literature that this researcher has considered involves
the novel ‘David Copperfield’ by Charles Dickens (1879). The majority of
analyses see the story as a ‘bildungsroman’, which essentially follows a single
narrator, and experiences growth across the narrator’s life, which is significantly
reflected across the entire life. Thus, what Dickens tries to achieve with this book
is an exemplary case of relating his own story, but something that has been heavily
fictionalized in terms of delineating and adhering to narrative elements at large.
Most importantly, one can analyze it as a reflection upon the very real life that the
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author has experienced himself. One cannot deny then that the adherence to
Structuralism theory is quite prescient across all instances (Cordery, 1998).
Although Dickens has been accused of having too idealist and one-dimensional
characters in his narratives, it cannot be denied that this narrative has quite a few
unsavory elements that break away from the fold.
Now, one can also look at another ‘bildungsroman’ in ‘A Portrait of the
Artist as a Young Man’ by James Joyce (2008). It has perhaps even stronger
structuralism elements within it since the author makes a point of employing
internal monologue, as well as narrative device known as ‘stream-of-
consciousness’ throughout the narrative (Joyce, 2008). In terms of employing
Structuralism elements, there is not any doubt that this too reflects a great deal of
the author’s own experiences at large whereupon there is a great deal of
consideration about many factors apparent in this case. The Modernist elements
imply that there are even stronger elements that reflect the entire case at large. This
includes depicting the indiscretions and limitations that the protagonist, Stephen
Dedalus, has to go through (Joyce, 2008). In essence, one can assume that this
form of structuralism started to achieve the ‘realism’ goals that become apparent at
large.
The very last example of a specific case of structuralism employed in
literature is evoked by the Novella ‘The Old Man and The Sea’ (1995). It is a tale
of an old Cuban fisherman whose luck is not with him, and he starts losing
everything and everyone around him. He goes fishing alone in the sea traveling far
beyond what the other fishermen are willing to go, and he eventually catches a
very large swordfish. But, in his return journey, which takes days on end, the entire
fish gets eaten by sharks (Hemingway, 1995). It is a tale that reflects beyond
everything that matters is the fact of proving oneself that he/she has got it.
Although filled with metaphors, the intention and the context reveals the author’s
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own declining career and is one of the most evocative stories of modern times
(Hemingway, 1995). All of these stories exceptionally evoke many different
qualities, but they have been placed under ‘structures’, whether it is most
prominent from the narrative, or other elements employed. But, it is essential to
remember that they can also be specifically dissected to reveal some great
delineations from the formula upon a closer and deeper gaze.
4.2 Beyond Structuralism in these Narratives

Despite the strong elements of the Structuralism Philosophy present in the


texts as mentioned above, it is imperative to remember that it tries to focus upon
the ‘meaning’ being straightforward, intentional, contextual and understandable by
the reader in general. With the advent of Post-Structuralism, however, it has
become quite apparent that it is not such a case by any real measure. The most
apparent of these is Hemingway (1995), the text of which has sparked a great deal
of debate as to what it actually is supposed to mean and indicate. The dominant
view evokes that the overall theme is something positive in the face of decline, and
proving to oneself about one’s own talents, skills, and qualities. But, other
interpretations have certainly come about, especially the factor of man’s constant
pursuit of meaningless, and ultimately, the futility in the act of proving oneself
(Hediger, 2008). This is in direct opposition from the mainstream narrative, but it
certainly not the only one.
Joyce (2008) is also a great example whereupon Post-Structuralism can be
quite widely applied. The author was notable for employing a cavalcade of literary
devices, which specifically aimed at propositioning that there was no, in fact,
specific meaning behind anything. The story could be interpreted as a child’s rising
disillusion of his family, religion, and society as he grew up. However, it could
also be seen as a rising indictment towards individualism, which the author may
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have felt quite torn about. These evidences clearly showcase that analyzing the
novel reveals some of the most interesting facts there is to know, all while focusing
upon how the different ‘meanings’ of the novel reflect the natural decentralization
happening all across life.
Dickens (1879) is also looked upon under greater scrutiny about what it
pertained to the exact intention and context behind the novel. It may have resulted
in a specified state of realizing that antagonists are somehow relatable in a way that
the author may have not had any intention in signifying originally. There are many
things that many analysts have considered to be as fault, but under post-
structuralism defines the faults that shaped the society at the time. Thus,
specifically speaking, the case for the novel showcases the narrator to be inherently
at fault from his own depiction of the events, thoughts and how the entire
deconstruction movement may consider the piece as a product of the times.
4.3 What Predominantly Post-Structural Narratives Offer

However, the most exemplary case of Post-Structuralism in a Literature Text


can be seen in William S. Burroughs’ ‘Naked Lunch’ (1990). This particular
narrative eschews every form of narrative structure completely, and there is hardly
any meaning behind even some particular lines that have been written in the text
(Burroughs, 1990). But, it also significantly evokes the duality in pursuing an
analysis under Post-Structuralism as this researcher could not help but find
intention and context within the text. This particular Literature Theory is filled
with contradictions, which specifically puts into question as to indicate whether
both these opposing theories are either applicable or not. It is apparent because the
narratives that display Structuralism from afar gets decentralized in meaning when
one looks at it closely, while the very opposite occurrence takes place in narratives
that are seemingly trying to eschew every possible structural elements.
MEANING IN LITERATURE 17

However, a better example would be Joyce’s second novel in his lifetime


Ulysses (1922), which eschews narrative structure to decentralize the narrative
across a vast array of characters moving around Dublin across a single day. To this
end, the Post-Structural Narrative plays with the apparent progression of the
narrative. This might be relative to the passage of time slowing down, as the author
greatly explores the overall psyche of many of his characters, their fantasies,
nightmares and other psychological and literary elements (Joyce, 1922). To this
end, the narrative also results in a focus of meaning that apparently originates from
the author’s own outlook on life, however, complex or random they may be.
4.4 Discussing ‘The Death of the Author’

It is quite apparent that the discussion and analysis has reached a definitive
point of contradiction from where a possibility of solution looks absolutely look.
While Structural narratives say that there is a centrality of ‘meaning’, upon closer
look it reveals that it is not the case, and the meaning becomes unstable and
changing. On the other hand, narratives that showcase strong Post-Structuralism
showcase their inherent nature, but the approach to those different meanings would
not happen without a proper Structuralism philosophy of focusing upon the
author’s intention, text, and context. However, if the consideration of Barthes
(2001) is any indication, the decentralization of the author having the ‘authority’
over the piece is apparently the natural, as well as perhaps the only conclusion
there could be. Under all circumstances, these represent the apparent nature of the
real-life circumstances wherein the ‘decentralization’ of meaning actually takes
place.
5. Conclusion and Recommendations

Throughout this report, the researcher has considered a great deal of


thoughts, rationales, theories, and frameworks that try to explain the ‘meaning’
MEANING IN LITERATURE 18

behind the various forms of literature. The dominant case resulted in the discussion
about Structuralism against Post-Structuralism at large, with the latter having a
hypothetical rationale to finally arrive at a conclusion. But, it is quite apparent
from the researcher’s own observational analysis of various texts that both
Structuralism and Post-Structuralism has just too many contradictions to stand on
their own ground. But, in the latter’s case, a formidable result of interpreting
Derrida’s (1997) theory does reflect a case whereupon the focus of literature is
bound to shift in terms of the humans responsible for it to exist in the first place. It
is quite clear that Post-Structuralism evokes that there might be a very real case
about the significance of the reader in relation to the narrative than it has to do with
the author (Barthes, 2001). Thus, it specifically indicates that there is no actual
meaning behind a text at all. It is ultimately what the reader derives from the
interpretation of the text upon reading it. Ultimately, this specifically aligns with
the ‘meaning’ being unstable and multifaceted in literature, which ultimately
signifies the overall conclusive body of this Research Report.
MEANING IN LITERATURE 19

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