When we speak of understanding fiction we mean much more than the retelling of the plot, the rendering of the story or the enumeration of facts given in a work of verbal art. The factual aspect of fiction is the "tip of the iceberg." A student of philology is expected to read "between the lines," continuously questioning the esthetic relevance of this or that stretch of the text with respect to the author's purport. Philological reading is a permanent "quest for meaning." Much depends on the reader's intuition, education, background knowledge and linguistic sophistication.
Linguopoetics (Akhmanova, Zadornova 1977) provides us with the method of linguopoetic stratification ("slicing and splicing") of a work of fiction; the latter is the necessary prerequisite of literary semiotics. Literary semiotics comes in when we have analyzed a work of verbal art linguopoetically. On a higher level of semiotic abstraction we can arrive at one or more general purports (or themes) signaled to us by different texts of the same author or literary trend, irrespective of the dissimilarities between the respective linguopoetic entities. For instance, if we would like to speak of the semiotics of Anita Brookner's novels then we must be able to grasp a recurrent Brooknerian theme, such as the "bravely borne loneliness of a woman," in a number of different novels (Hotel du Lac, A Friend from England, The Misalliance). Another theme is the life-literature relationship (The Debut and Providence). In Lewus Percy, however, the author expands the inventory of favored themes and addresses the loneliness and suffering of a man, thus presenting semioticians with another generalization apt to be discovered in different texts with respect to different linguistic expressions. Literary semiotics of this kind verges on literary criticism, the difference being that literary critics find it difficult to "keep their eyes" on the text all the time, whereas literary semiotics is linguopoetics-based, the extended global work of verbal art in the unity of written and oral forms being its primary object and study.