Semi-Semiotic-ing

By Aubrey (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

By Aubrey (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

After reading the Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco a few weeks ago, I decided to learn a bit about semiotics (the study of signs). Eco was a semiotician who taught at the University of Bologna and much of his work is thick with symbols, signsallusions, dreams, allegories and historical ideology that was constantly being interpreted and re-examined by his characters. It seemed so cool to read about.  

Learning about it, however... not so much

As much as I'm intrigued by the idea, reading introductory books on semiotics has been like sitting down with the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, but far less interesting. Umberto, when do we going to learn about pop culture?

I think the biggest complaint I have is that introductory semiotics really is only about trying to apply terms to things we do naturally. I don't need someone to tell me we use symbols to understand the world. I got that from my high school english teacher. I want to semiotics to show me something I don't know or help me discovery something that I don't know.

Maybe I'm going about this the wrong way. Anyone have a handle on semiotics or know of any resources that might help? 

Where's Robert Langdon when you need him?