Semiotics has suddenly piqued my interest and I want to learn about it.
Where are some good places to start?
For me Barthes' 'Semiotic Challenge' was a pretty good introduction. After it, if you are interested in discursive semiotics, read Propp / Jakobson. If you are more interested in plastic and figurative semiotics, read A. J. Greimas, he often overlaps with Barthes, but I personally like him more.
What /lit/ will tell you is that you should start with Saussere and Pierce and then work chronologically towards contemporary thinkers but I think that a textbook or summary is enough to get a basic understanding. Like Saussere and Pierce can be summed up quite quckly but you need time to wrap your head around it.
I did a presentation on semiotics for my design courses and once I was done with it the idea of decoding the world through signs (consciously and un-consciously) occupied my mind for months - that's when the real fun starts, I felt like rediscovering the inner mechanisms of life, the psyche and everything else you can apply the sign analogy to.
When you're done Charles S Pierce and Ferdinard De Saussere, you can march on to Max Bense, Baudrillard, Umberto Eco, R Barthes and maybe look up the ancient definition signs by Aristotle. Again, no need for the original texts, an introduction to semiotics is more than enoguh
This is actually how I pronounced their names all this time, I beg your pardon
Barthes expanded on the previous definitions of semiotics, so inform yourself on previous iterations of the term. I got much more out of the book on my second reading, when I came in prepared.
As >>7665177 said, some essays don't require cultural context, like the ones about wrestling, or steak, others will need a bit of background information like who Abbe Pierre was or how other cars compared to Citroes DS at that time. But in the end even without a theoretical background you'll get hints of Barthes' brilliance