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The American Journal of Semiotics

Volume 31, Issue 3/4, 2015

Semiotics and Logic / Semiotics and Art

Ibrahim Taha
Pages 337-360

Reading Literature
From Decoding to Remodeling

Understanding, empathizing, sympathizing, communicating, knowing, and changing, attained through reading literature, are all natural human needs for survival. Survival in its broadest meanings, in Sebeok’s sense, involves all kinds of activities for improving life. Taking reading literature as a special competence for surviving, a quality/competence specific to humans alone, necessitates two primary activities: awareness and modeling. Awareness refers to humans’ knowing the very fact that they are in a persistent state of needing. Modeling refers to the very need for semiotic strategies so that they can use any natural human activity, such as cognitive and emotional interaction, in any process of interpretation. If the reader treats her/his reading activity as naturally purposive and meaningful, s/he will be able to model this activity so as to maximize the benefits. Knowing the benefits implied in reading literature, the reader will consciously or unconsciously categorize all aspects of this activity in various forms and models. Modeling in this sense is organizing knowledge, but also concretizing knowing. Thus, reading literature improves the readers’ relations with their environment by knowing more about the way humans think, but also by generating new texts, namely, producing new ways of knowing. Knowing authors’ knowing is one of the major purposes of reading literature. Knowing of knowing is the naturalizing process of the culture, and as such it is a question of anthroposemiotics. The anthropsemiotic approach to reading literature is not concerned with understanding itself but the way we conduct understanding and the use of such an understanding. Producing new meanings and new ways of knowing from existing knowledge is undoubtedly an evolutional property specific to humans as verbally communicative organisms.

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