The Role Of Individual-Author Semantics In Meaning Formation Of A Literary Text


The article contains the results of the study into the semantic and meaning structure of the literary texts of the novels, comprising the cycle "The Dark Tower" by S. King. The texts of the seven main novels of the cycle "The Dark Tower" are considered by the authors of the article as a hypertext, in the space of which the basic meanings, ideas and symbols significant to the author’s definition of objectives are being unfolded. In the course of the study, the lexical unit "rose" was identified as one of the most frequently employed by the author. The card index including 359 cases of objectification of the studied lexical unit in the text has been made up. The analysis of the lexical unit "rose" has revealed the occurrence of individual-author semantics; their significant predominance over the usual semantics was also noticed. Basing on the results of the card index analysis the presence of thirteen individual-author semantics implemented in the texts of the studied novels was stated. The data of the research allowed to maintain the belonging of the lexical unit "rose" to the semantic dominants of the text space and to make assumptions about its significance in the process of meaning formation and interpretation of the text.

Keywords: Individual-author semanticsinterpretationlexical unitmeaning formationrose


Stephen King is a cult American writer who has written 56 novels and more than two hundred stories. The works by S. King are actively studied by domestic and foreign researchers. Two main approaches can be distinguished in contemporary studies of his works.

The first is related to the analysis of the connections between S. King’s works and the works of other writers or literary forms. As it was correctly stated by Zikic (2019): “Narrative motives are established as a mean of connection of this book series with some of the classic works of English and European literature, and the whole series is fashioned according to the literary form of the (folk or fairy) tale” (p. 1067).

The study of M. Miquel-Baldellou (2019) aims at showing E. Poe’s legacy in the works by S. King through the demonstration of Gerard Genette’s transtextuality theory (p. 289). The research by Paiva et al. (2019) was carried out in the same direction, aiming at the establishment of intertextual links. The authors compare the works by William Wilson, Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King on the basis of the common traits of the genre which they define as science fiction.

The second aspect of research touches on the subject of the human psyche, reflected in some of S. King’s works. In Tozzi’s (2020) work an emphasis is made on defining how Stephen King verbalizes the experience of meeting with "the dark half" of oneself in his horror novels. The author says that the writer creates images and symbols, capable of connecting human individual experience with the experience of a collective. Bialeki (2019) also considers mystical aspects of Stephen King’s works in "America's Dark Theologian: The Religious Imagination of Stephen King". S. King’s appeal to the unconscious and insanity is noted in the study of Nagornaya (2018), who analyses individual models of creativity and modelling of individual metaphorical landscapes of literary texts. The focus of the article is on Stephen King’s prose, the study is specifically focused on metaphors of insanity implemented by the writer. Our study considers one of the most significant works by King (2016) – "The Dark Tower". It took King 34 years to complete his work on the cycle. Its influence on the author was so great that many of his other novels, one way or another, were connected with it. One gets the impression that the embodiment of some ideas, meanings and images within the cycle inspired the author so much that they were transferred to his other works, where they got further expansion in new text worlds.

Problem Statement

The problem of meaning formation of a literary text has been considered in the researches of such scientists as V. G. Admoni, L. G. Babenko, N. S. Bolotnova, D. V. Psurtsev, I. A. Pushkareva, N. G. Petrova, S. M. Karpenko, A. V. Kuryanovich, E. V. Veselovskaya, A. A. Vasilieva, O. V. Orlova, I. N. Tyukova. The idea of meaning formation corresponds with the statement that "intentional (active-creative) perception means that in its course gradual meaning construction/formation is carried out by an interpreter" (Psurtsev, 2009, p. 80). The researchers in this field determine the process of meaning construction through various terms but following Psurtsev (2009) we lean towards the term "meaning formation". We also accept his treatment of bidirectional character of meaning formation, which implies the detection of generative and receptive perspectives of the aspect, realized in the ratio of intentionality on the part of an author and an interpreter.

Linguistic approach to the problem of meaning formation involves stating how and with the help of which linguistic techniques applied to organize the text structure, the author manages to embody certain relevant meanings in it; exploiting what marking techniques the author succeeds in drawing the recipient’s attention to the textual elements that are significant and how lexical material can verify the validity of certain meanings for the process of meaning formation. The starting point is identifying the cases of foregrounding, objectified by repetitions at both lexical and semantic levels that dominate the surrounding text space, organizing it according to the author’s definition of objectives. Such elements in the language structure of a text were determined by Novikov (2007) as meaning dominants, they are correspondent with the notion of keywords: "a typical manifestation of such dominance is operating with units like keywords, meaning milestones and strong points that create a kind of «relief» of the semantic space, formed in the consciousness" (p. 56). According to Novikov (2007), meaning dominants are the organizing parameter of meaning structure. As the scientist notes, a dominant "centres a certain content around itself, restructures it, and thereby organizes the semantic space in a certain way. Finding such dominants may be a transition to a meaning code" (p. 56). Meaning dominants contribute to foregrounding of the most significant elements for meaning formation of a text. By creating a relief of semantic space, they promote the emergence of a supra-linear meaning level. The identification of meaning dominants, as well as the establishment of their functions, underlies the analysis of meaning formation of a literary text. The possibility of transition to a meaning code, as we see it, lies precisely in semantic space, to be exact in semantic repetitions (Malushko et al., 2016, p. 670). Realizing the ability for foregrounding, semantic elements bring perception and analysis to a supra-linear level. Meaning dominant organizes the semantic space around itself. Dominants structure the text and reveal the mechanisms of its organization to the recipient. The foregrounding of text dominants is most effectively realized through the marking of semantic elements, in particular, through the introduction of new, individual-author semantics of a certain lexical unit into the narration. Meaning dominants indicate the presence of meaning lines, which, being integrated, form the initial meaning of the text. "The initial meaning is characterized as the most influential element of the meaning system. It occupies the dominant position in a literary text meaning structure hierarchy, thereby functioning as an organizing principle of a text and ensuring correlation of all its elements" (Zhurkova & Khomutnikova, 2019, p. 747).

Research Questions

The lexical unit "rose" implements a significant number of individual-author semantics in the text of the studied cycle that participate in formation of its meanings. The considered lexical unit has an extremely strong energy potential, which is realized in the process of developing the initial meaning of the text.

In the process of analysis of the cycle "The Dark Tower", we have identified the lexical unit "rose" as one of the most frequently used by the author, that is, we have initially determined the marking of this unit by cases of lexical repetition. Then we have carried out a semantic analysis of this unit, which has shown the presence of individual-author semantics. This allowed stating semantic foregrounding of the unit and its belonging to the meaning dominants of the text space and consequently its significance for the process of meaning formation of the text. A card index has been made up, containing 376 cases of objectification of the lexical unit "rose" in the text. The analysis of the card index data has allowed concluding on the presence of thirteen individual-author semantics implemented in the texts of the novels of the cycle.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study is to reveal individual-author semantics of the lexical unit "rose" as an element of meaning formation in the cycle of S. King’s novels "The Dark Tower".

The object of the study is the lexical system of S. King’s cycle of novels "The Dark Tower". The subject of the study is individual-author semantics of the lexical unit "rose" in S. King’s cycle "The Dark Tower". The study hypothesis is that the lexical unit "rose" actualizes individual-author semantics in the space of the studied texts and can be distinguished as an element of meaning formation of the hypertext of "The Dark Tower". The cycle of novels by one author should be considered as hypertext due to such characteristics as continuity and integrity, ensuring that "the multitude of texts created by the writer forms a multidimensional text space where texts intersect and debouch one into another" (Olizko & Zhurkova, 2019, p. 524). Moreover, hypertextual relations enable reception with nonlinear traits because hypertext serves not only as "a mechanism or a way of nonlinear storage of information, but also as a way of organizing the text itself as an object of linguistic research" (Popov, 2015, p. 171).

Research Methods

The material of the study is the text of the cycle of novels "The Dark Tower" by Stephen King. Within the scale of this study we consider only the texts of the seven main novels of the cycle ("The Gunslinger", "The Drawing of the Three", "The Waste Lands", "Wizard and Glass", "Wolves of the Calla", "Song of Susannah", "The Dark Tower"). We do not take into consideration two additional novels of the cycle, which are "The Wind through the Keyhole", and "The Little Sisters of Eluria".

The following methods of linguistic analysis were applied in the course of the study: descriptive method, componential analysis method, contextual analysis, keyword analysis, method of modelling and formalization of meaning.


Before providing the analysis of individual-author semantics we shall first define the usual semantics of the lexical unit "rose" represented by dictionary data. The Oxford Dictionary of Modern English gives three definitions of the unit "rose": Rose – 1) a flower with a sweet smell that grows on a bush with thorns (sharp points) on its stems; 2) a deep pink colour; 3) a sprinkling-nozzle with many holes, e.g. on a watering can or hosepipe (Wehmeier, 2005). Similar semantics are recorded in other dictionaries. It should be noted that in the cycle of novels "The Dark Tower", the author uses the first and second usual semantics of the lexeme, but even in these cases he uses them only as a basis, at the same time endowing them with such strong symbolic potential that the greatest part of these semantics can be considered as individual-author.

Basing on the data of the lexical material presented by the card index, we have revealed thirteen individual-author semantics of the lexical unit “rose” in the text of the studied cycle. The rose in the discourse of "The Dark Tower" act as a symbol connected with the fate of Roland and his ka-tet (53 occurrences), blood sacrificed to the Tower (15 occurrences), the embodiment of ultimate, divine beauty (11 occurrences), the strongest source of vital energy (6 occurrences), a wonder (12 occurrences), the object of worship (7 occurrences), a powerful magnet (37 occurrences), the object that has power of improving spiritual order and health (30 occurrences), a gateway, means of transmitting information (31 occurrences), the object, calling for protection (50 occurrences), the object that dark forces seek to destroy (16 occurrences), the projection of the Dark Tower, the axis (48 occurrences), flowers surrounding the Dark Tower (32 occurrences). These semantics are based on the first usual semantics recorded by the dictionary, though the potential semes introduced into it by the addresser allow interpreting them as individual author. However, in a few cases, the lexeme has the first usual semantics. More often, the lexical unit “rose” is used in the cycle in the second usual semantics to indicate colour. The author also uses lexical unit “rose” as a naming unit of blush due to the metonymic transfer of colour component: "Her skin was pale, except for two wild roses—pink, like those in the bouquet he’d sent her by way of Sheemie—glowing high up on her cheekbones" ("Wizard and Glass"). In the course of the study, 28 occurrences of the lexical unit “rose” in its usual semantics have been recorded.

Individual-author semantics is implied in the text to a much greater extent – we identified 348 occurrences. In this article we will give the description of the major individual-author semantics, depicted in the text of the studied cycle.

The role of individual-author semantics in the disclosure of the symbol of rose

The first major individual-author semantics denotes the rose as a symbol connected with the fate of Roland and his ka-tet (53 occurrences). The dominance of this semantics (it prevails in the number of occurrences) allows concluding on its importance for meaning formation of the text space. The symbol of the rose in the narration is deeply linked with the mission of the protagonist, it represents the will of Ka — divine providence or destiny in the religious teaching of the Mid-World (Rebrina et al., 2017, p. 234). Roland encounters this symbol countless times through his quest. The Man in Black, predicting Roland’s fate, speaks of the importance of such symbols as the rose and the door for Roland’s quest for the Dark Tower; Roland should watch for these symbols, they will show him the way: "Watch for the doorways. Watch for the roses and the unfound doorways" ("The Gunslinger"). In the course of the narration Roland and the members of his ka-tet encountered rose engraved on door handles and on the cover of the watch, presented to Roland, carved on top of the box, in the pattern of the wallpaper; the word “rose” was in the name of the park in one of parallel versions of the Keystone World, in the text of the password, in the names of people whose fates are intertwined with the fates of the protagonists, in texts and books significant to Roland’s quest, in the name of the choir, in graffiti left by Bangko Sank (even the colour of the graffiti is pale rose – the colour of the rose in the vacant lot), in the Keystone World a Ka-Tet of the Rose was formed; Eddie sees the rose in a fire, and the members of ka-tet see the rose in their dreams. Roland also asks to plant the rose on the grave of his spiritual son Jake, and at the end of his quest Roland finds the last door at the very top of the Dark Tower, its knob engraved with a wild rose wound around a revolver. Rose is an important sign that Eddie Dean must remember, along with the shape of the key, to guide Jake from one world to another: "Remember the rose . . . and the shape of the key" ("The Waste Lands"). The inscription on the wall helps Jake choose the correct path to the doorway between the worlds. The characters of the novel feel that the symbol of the rose haunts them: "We’re haunted by roses and trains, he thought" ("Wizard and Glass"). Roland is guided by the smell of roses in the desert: “Roland did seem to smell something other than alkali and devil-grass. He thought it might be flowers. He thought it might be roses” ("The Dark Tower"), and even the name of Roland’s beloved in one of the novels is Rosalita.

The individual-author semantics "the object, calling for protection"

Another major semantics of the lexical unit "rose" - "the object, calling for protection" (50 occurrences) is one of those semantics actively involved in the plot lines development. On the meaning level this semantics is mainly involved in the implementation of two meaning lines - the opposition of good and evil and sacrifice made to achieve a higher goal. This semantics intersects with another semantics of the lexical unit "rose" - "the object that dark forces seek to destroy" (16 occurrences). Since the Crimson King and his servants have an aim to destroy the Tower and bring about Discordia, they also attempt to destroy all nexuses of the Tower, one of which is the rose. The rose being a nexus is vital to the health of the Tower. If the agents of the Red succeed in killing the rose, the Tower will collapse. The rose, being endowed with magical power and magnetism, calls to Roland’s ka-tet for protection. Acting as meaning dominants, these semantics arrange the lexical content of the context around the unit "rose". In the case of semantics "the object, calling for protection", the organization of context is usually managed with the help of such combinations of lexical units as: to protect the rose, to guard the rose, to vault over the rose, to throw oneself on the rose, to own it and then protect it, to secure protection for the rose, to ensure its survival. In such contexts we normally find modal verbs expressing obligation - must, have to: "«We must protect that rose», he said. «We must protect it at all costs»" ("Wizard and Glass"). Attempts to protect the rose from the servants of the Crimson King reveal the character of Roland and the members of his ka-tet as defenders of good and supporters of the White. The fact that the rose is in danger is revealed through the description of its appearance. Jake is the first to notice that something is wrong with the rose: "He looked back at the rose. … It was very beautiful, but not perfect. Some of the petals had curled back; the outer edges of these were brown and dead. … «Are you sick, rose?»" ("The Waste Lands"). The description of rose’s appearance is quite often realized with the help of the phrase "something’s wrong here (with the rose)" repeated by the characters. The author also applies many epithets and comparative speech patterns to give the description of the rose, such as: pulsing in discord, like a deep and ugly scratch across some formerly priceless work of art; darkness, which spread over the field of roses like a stain; like … a deadly fever smouldering beneath the chilly skin of an invalid’s brow; beating like a sick and dirty heart; like two heartbeats, one inside of the other, and the one inside had a disease; an infection. The threat that the rose feels affects its singing - it weakens. However, when Roland and his companions manage to protect it from danger, the rose starts singing at full power: "He heard the rose, singing powerfully and undisturbed" ("Song of Susannah"). The characters of the novel, feeling that the rose is in danger, experience fear for it, which is expressed in the text by the following lexemes and their combinations: dreadful, deadly fear, outright terror, deep shudder gripped him, final, agonized look, he was afraid. Saving the rose and gaining ownership of the vacant lot serves the basis of Roland’s and his companion’s plot lines for a significant part of the narration. For the most part, this semantics correlates with the meaning line of the opposition of good and evil, indicating the belonging of the characters to one of the two warring forces. The second meaning line - sacrifice brought to achieve a higher goal, is objectified by means of the mentioned semantics less frequently. It was Eddie who said that for the sake of saving the rose, he was ready to sacrifice his wife’s life: "«It's the rose I care about», Eddie said. «That’s the only thing worth risking her for»". The protection of the rose is recognized by all members of the ka-tet as the highest priority for which anything can be sacrificed: "«Convince Deepneau that taking care of the rose in that vacant lot is just about the most important job in the world». «You can cut the just-about», Eddie said" ("The Dark Tower"). This semantic line reveals the characters of the members of Roland’s ka-tet and the ka-tet of the rose – these are committed individuals who put the right idea above their own well-being.

The desire of the Crimson King’s servants to kill the rose is expressed in the text of the cycle by description of a red bulldozer that is trying to uproot it: "…a huge red bulldozer lunged through. Even the blade was red, although the words slashed across its scoop—all hail the crimson king—were written in a yellow as bright as panic". The minions of the dark side are often mentioned in the text of the novels, these are "Lamerk" and "Sombra Corporation" companies. The desire to kill the rose is expressed by such lexical units and their combinations as: threat to the rose, run that nasty thing over, mash it flat, root and branch, rose would be plowed under, rose is in terrible danger. In the novel "Wizard and Glass" the idea is provided that the Crimson King would like to see the rose drowned: "There’s life in there, terrible life. And maybe there are roses, too. Drowned ones" ("Wizard and Glass").

The struggle for the vacant lot continues from the third to the sixth books of the cycle, thus it is logical that this semantics obtains high frequency. The protection of the rose is the main mission of the ka-tet, but this semantics is implemented, to a greater extent, in order to ensure plot dynamics, rather than in order to contribute to the meaning structure of the cycle.

The individual-author semantics "the axis of existence of numerous universes"

The last major semantics verbalizes the rose as the projection of the Dark Tower, the axis of existence of numerous universes (48 occurrences). This semantics plays a significant role in revealing the nature of the Dark Tower and the world depicted in the cycle. The Tower, like the rose - is the basis of order, supported by the powers of the White, which is opposed to chaos and destruction that the forces of evil or the Red led by the Crimson King seek to establish. The Tower is the axis of many worlds and due to that the rose - its projection, contains numerous shining suns in its centre: "He leaned closer to the rose and saw that its core was not just one sun but many . . . perhaps all suns contained within a ferocious yet fragile shell" ("The Waste Lands"). Roland states that the rose is the projection of the Tower: "Perhaps not just a doorway to the Dark Tower, but the Tower itself" ("Wolves of the Calla"), he also indicates to their sameness: "«There are two hubs of existence» … «The Tower… and the rose. Yet they are the same». «The same», Jake agreed" ("Wolves of the Calla"). Not only the rose keeps the Tower from falling, but also reproduces the character of the latter, which is revealed only in the last book of the cycle, when Roland, rising to the top, passes through many rooms, each of which contains memories from his life. In the same way, the rose shows moments of life to the characters: "Jake saw faces in every angle and shadow. He saw Gasher and Hoots; Tick-Tock and Flagg; he saw Eldred Jonas's gunbunnies, Depape and Reynolds; he saw his mother and father and Greta Shaw, their housekeeper" ("Wolves of the Calla"). It is of particular interest that Jake sees phantoms from Roland’s past (Eldred Jonas's gunbunnies) which means that the Tower, as well as the rose are chiefly linked with Roland’s fate, and other members of ka-tet are only subsidiary. Thus, it is the Tower that chose Roland, not vice versa.

However, despite the obvious identity of the Tower and the rose, in the sixth book of the cycle, due to the figure of the author brought into the text, the nature and functions of the rose in the world of the cycle undergo certain changes, with some of them even being transferred to the character of Stephen King. For example, some items, possessing magical power (such as the key and the rose-pink bowling bag that Jake found near the rose) could be considered as given by the rose, but are said to be given by King in the last novel of the cycle: "«For that matter, who left the bag in the vacant lot?» Susannah asked. «Or the key?» … «Was it the rose? Did the rose somehow . . . I dunno . . . make them?» Roland thought about it. «Were I to guess» he said, «I’d say that sai King left those signs and siguls»" ("The Dark Tower"). As we have mentioned earlier, the functions of the rose in the cycle text undergo changes. In the sixth and seventh books of the cycle, the rose is stated to be the reflection of the beam, not of the Tower. The significance of the rose has decreased, due to the appearance of the narrative element equally strong - the figure of Stephen King: "Even if they failed at that, two Beams might be enough to hold the Tower in place: the rose in New York and a man named Stephen King in Maine" ("Song of Susannah"). In the text space of the last two novels Stephen King is given as much power and importance as the rose. Moreover, part of the individual-author semantics that we have earlier identified for the lexical unit "rose" are applied to him as well. The author’s name acts as a symbol connected with the fate of Roland and his ka-tet; the figure of the author is the strongest source of vital energy; he functions as a gateway, means of transmitting information; he has to be protected by Roland and his ka-tet; the dark forces attempt to kill him. In the final book of the cycle, a significant part of the narrative shifts away from the the rose and is structured with respect to the line of protecting Stephen King’s character. In this case, we see an alteration of the original semantics caused by the complication of the narrative and meaning structure of the literary text. We also observe the individual-author semantics transmitting from one object to another.


Summing up, we shall highlight that in order to create the universe of the cycle, the author actualized a lot of symbols in the text of the narrative, such as the symbol of the stone, the door, the key, but the most striking in terms of frequency of use and in terms of significance for meaning formation is the symbol of the rose. The rose is one of the key elements of the narration and is in direct connection with the main object of the narrative - the Dark Tower. The analysed literary text presents a combination of several literary genres (the two main ones are science fiction and fantasy) and reveals a world which is drastically different from the real one. That stands for the reason of endowing most significant lexical units with additional individual-author semantics. The occurrence of the individual-author semantics of the lexical unit "rose" in the cycle "The Dark Tower" prevails in the fabric of the text and accounts for 93% of the total number of uses. At the same time usual semantics, recorded in the dictionaries occur in the text in only 7% of cases. The individual-author semantics, in their turn, are actively involved in the process of meaning formation of the literary text of the cycle. The abovementioned allows to state that the symbol "rose" is implemented at all levels of the text structure: at the semantic, lexical and meaning levels. The symbol is of paramount importance for meaning formation of the text and is marked by the author. The variety of individual-author semantics, presented in the text, identifies the symbol of the rose as an element of the text fabric that requires additional interpretation efforts from the addressee.


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28 December 2020

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Zhurkova, M. S., Khomutnikova, E. A., Chalych, N. A., & Medvedeva, I. A. (2020). The Role Of Individual-Author Semantics In Meaning Formation Of A Literary Text. In N. L. Shamne, S. Cindori, E. Y. Malushko, O. Larouk, & V. G. Lizunkov (Eds.), Individual and Society in the Modern Geopolitical Environment, vol 99. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 499-507). European Publisher.