Code. Used to designate the rules and conventions by which an individual item is rcognized as belonging to a common linguistic, visual, or cultural system. Thus the English language is a code and this comprises subcodes such as the languages of medicine, computer experts, rock journalists and darts enthuasts. This gives rise to the view that a code is the arcane province of a select roup of users and needs to be 'decoded'though decoding in reality can only translate a less common into a more common code.
The use of the term 'code' in Literary and Cultural Studies is derived in the main from structuralism and traditions in semiology. Structuralism proposed that all communication systems, from the simplest hand signals to the sophistication of film and fictional narratives can be understood by analogy with the primary system of language. An early influential model of communication in this tradition was proposed by the linguist, Roman Jakobson (see ADDRESSER/ADDRESSEE), Two further influences derived from ~e analysis of MYTH by the anthropologist, Claude Levi-Strauss and the terary and cultural semiology of Roland Barthes. Levi-Strauss saw myths i stories that encode and reconcile a general series of binary oppositions (life: .~ter-life; human: supernatural; home: exile). Individual tales function within linked system of myths to ratify the traditions and so confirm the IDENTTTY of ~e tribal COMMUNTTY. This model was employed in film studies in the 1970s pecially in the analysis of POPULAR GENRES such as the western and gangster tm which were seen similarly to encode both general and specific cultural ppositions - between good and evil, the East and West, the system of the law nd natural justice in the narrative settings, character types and TcoNography f individual films.
Roland Barthes's early essays on the IMAGE, on narrative, and on fashion ee Barthes 1977b [ed.]) have a firm place in the history of cultural analysis nd illustrate the wide application to literature, written, visual and MASS tural forms which was one of the immediate attractions of this method. ~'Rhetoric of the Image' (1977), Barthes identified three MESSAGES structur~g the formal composition and meaning of the visual STGN (his example is an Ivertising image): the 'linguistic', comprising the caption and printed text, ~e 'literal', and the 'symbolic', identified as the over-layered aspects of the sual image. The literal message depends on objects in the image being cognized simply for what they are - a car, a book, a bottle of wine - and , said Barthes, non-coded. The symbolic message builds on this to create ~ded symbolic, ideological, or cultural meanings. In 'The Introduction to the tructural Analysis of Narrative', Barthes (1977b) identified the codes which rganize and activate meaning in a narrative sequence. Chief among these ere the 'nuclei', the 'hinge points' in the narrative, and 'catalysers', conse~tive units, themselves of different types, which 'fill in the narrative space tween nuclei' (1977b: 93). His later study SlZ (1975) extended this structurist method to an analysis of the five codes (named the 'hermeneutic', 'semic', ymbolic', 'proairetic', and'cultural') in Balzac's story Sarrasir~e. In itself, this ~d little influence and was overtaken in Barthes's own work and elsewhere by Jststructuralist approaches committed to more open, plural meanings.
_ 3] _ _ A key essay directly employing the language of codes in Cultural Studies; was Stuart Hall's many times reprinted 'The Television Discourse Encoding and Decoding' (1997a ). Here an account of encoding and decoding the' media message at the points of PRODUCTTON and RECEPTTON iS allied with an~ interest in its ideological purposes and effects, for which Hall draws on the theory of HEGEMONY. A TV news bulletin, for example, is coded in a number OT] ways, from the choice of presenter and studio set to the use of stills, film,~ voice-over report or interview, and the running order of items. These are, decided according to both a 'professional code' and an implicit ideologicali agenda. However, Hall advances a model allowing for the way viewers mayl accept, negotiate, or reject these coded assumptions. His discussion it informed by a class perspective which on its own now seems somewhai restrictive, but it continues to offer an important and suggestive model. ~
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