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The American Journal of Semiotics

Volume 27, Issue 1/4, 2011

Including a Special Section

Ephraim Nissan
Pages 115-162
DOI: 10.5840/ajs2011271/45

The Dog Ate It
The Fate of Homework as a Situational Archetype for a Pretext. Social Context, Medium, and Formalism

Several facets of the “flimsy pretext” archetype “My dog ate my homework” are analysed. We do so by considering textual accounts of events from real life filtered through the media, and we resort to formalisms (episodic formulae, Wigmore Charts) to capture some aspects of their gist. We also analyse several gag cartoons, either one-panel or multi-panel, and either as produced by others, or ones authored by this writer for the very purpose of probing into potential uses of the archetype. Sometimes the archetype can even be used other than as standing for a pretext, but this is only possible when the ‘homework’ metaphor is somewhat overstretched, or then when different idioms are hybridized. Other important topics we consider are intertextuality (textual and possibly also visual); observation levels from Negrotti’s naturoid theory; and ALIBI, an automated inventor of pretexts.

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