Option #1
What is semiotic analysis? This prompt asks you to examine semiotic analysis as a viable method of cultural and media analysis. In this paper you should, first, explain what semiotic analysis is as a method and as a theoretical formulation. What interventions is it making into media analysis? What are its assumptions and what constitutes its theoretical groundwork? Is it useful for media studies and its historical development as a discipline? Why or why not? Second, using key concepts and methods provided by semiotics, you should analyze a series of advertisements (4-6 ads in all). These advertisements should all belong to the same genre or even, the same brand (Apple ads, perfume ads, alcohol ads, Dos Equis ads, etc.). Your semiotic analysis should address what these ads mean – how they gain meaning – and how they fit into larger cultural discourses or narratives (what is at stake in the perpetuation of these narratives?).
Option #2
How do we understand the relationship between semiotics and the theories put forth by the Birmingham School? First, this prompt asks you to consider the theoretical relationship between two schools of thought that gained wide prominence around the same time – Semiotics and its Structuralist formulation on the one hand, and the Birmingham School’s version of Cultural Studies on the other. What are the similarities and the differences between these two theoretical positions in terms of method, theory, conception of audiences and conception of cultural production? What interventions was each formulation attempting to make and why? What does this tell us about the political motivations that energized each group of theorists? Second, which theoretical formulation do you find more useful for media analysis and why? Provide one example to explain your position.

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