Space as a Sign System’: Exploring Lexical Semantics in Relation to Cultural Geography – A Case Study of Ursula K. Le Guin’s ‘Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight’


The research paper attempts to examine as to how the idea of ‘space’ when regarded as a literary construct, may be ideally mapped in a given text: first in terms of the literal and obvious elemental descriptions of ‘cartographic geography’ available to a casual reader-aka-somnambulist at a cursory glance; and second, in terms of its logical extension to the abstraction of ‘cultural geography’ that can only be revealed by one consciously mining a labyrinth of lexical structures. The resultant contention is, the dynamics of ‘space’ in a stipulated context can be studied as a comprehensive ‘sign system’, devoid of extrinsic support. Stemming from this line of enquiry, the proposition is to establish the theoretical connection between ‘Lexical Semantics’ and ‘Cultural Geography’ using Ursula K. Le Guin’s ethnographic fiction as a potential case study. While Cultural Geography correlates the natural environment with the human organization of space, its conceptual base branches into three discursive figments: ‘traditional’ cultural geography (where signs for intervention in the natural landscape are studied – e.g. buildings, dams, technology), ‘new’ cultural geography (where signs for non-material culture are studied – e.g. identity, power, ideology), and ‘more-than-representational’ geographies (where signs expand unto the enactment or performance of the more-than-human, more-than-textual aspects)(Lorimer, 2005). Similarly, Lexical Semantics as an approach to reading a text seeks to assign meanings to words, phrases, expressions or idioms by emphasizing the lush nexus of semantic relations in a predatory lexical environment.

Author Information
Anupa Lewis, Manipal Institute of Communication, India

Paper Information
Conference: ACAH2020
Stream: Literature/Literary Studies

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon