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101. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 2
Massimo Leone Boundaries and identities in religious conversion: The mirror
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Religious conversion revolutions the boundaries which delimit personal identity. Therefore, the main semiotic problem of mental and cultural representations of this religious phenomenon is to convey simultaneously a feeling of sameness and otherness, identity and change. In the present paper, mirrors are analysed as cultural mechanisms which enable representations to accomplish this paradoxical task. After a brief survey concerning literature on mirrors, some early-modern religious texts using these optical instruments as representative devices are analysed in-depth: a painting of the Magdalene’s conversion by Artemisia Gentileschi, an engraving representing conversion from a 17th-century French book, a fragment from Sainte Theresa’s spiritual autobiography, a passage from John Calvin’s Institution de la religion chrétienne. In its conclusion, the paper underlines the importance of Saint Paul’s metaphoric conception of mirrors for the cultural history of these objects, and tries to define the role which cultural semiotics should play concerning this kind of representative mechanisms.
102. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 2
Juri Lotman Mask in an artistic world of Gogol, and the masks of Anatoli Kaplan
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Juri Lotman. Mask in an artistic world of Gogol, and the masks of Anatoli Kaplan. The paper deals with an intersemiotic problem — how it is possible to represent a verbal image by the means of sculpture. It was written as an afterword for a German edition of N. Gogol’s Dead Souls (illustrated by photos on mask-sculpures by Anatoli Kaplan) thus using a style meant for general reader. However, it includes a deep analysis and several important conclusions about the fancy worlds of Gogol and Kaplan, and about the possibilities to create connections between them. It is stressed that the very artistic illustration is possible only due to its independence, due to the subjective seeing of the author.
103. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 2
Stephen Pain Biorhetorics: An introduction to applied rhetoric
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This paper is an introduction to the new field of biorhetorics. Biorhetorics is an applied form of rhetoric that evolved from the study of classical rhetoric, particularly Aristotelian. The author illustrates the stages of development necessary for the creation of a species-specific rhetoric: by (1) formalising rhetoric so as to create a functional rhetoric, (2) then reducing this to a symbolic rhetoric that can be used in conjunction with the collected data of an organism’s Umwelt (including its genome) to form (3) a species-specific rhetoric. The paper draws upon the latest research on bacterial and viral communication to show the possibilities of biorhetorics. In the course of discussing the nature of biorhetorics the author distinguishes it from argumentation theory and rhetoric/s of biology, and positions alongside other fields used in the life sciences such as biosemiotics, information theory, game theory, etc.
104. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 31 > Issue: 1
Maria del Mar Llera Pragmatic approaches to intercultural ethics: the basis for fostering communication among nationalist groups
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This research is part of a more extensive programme that deals with intercultural ethics from different perspectives. All of them share a common inspiration sprung from UNESCO’s Intercultural Ethics Project. The main goal of this paper consists in offering pragmatic/theoretical tools in order to analyse a cultural and political issue which is currently very important in Spain: the confrontation between those promoting Spanish national culture and those promoting the Basque one. I approach this confrontation in terms of discursive praxis, reaching the conclusion that only if both groups are capable of self-understanding will they be capable of reciprocal-understanding, and only then will it be possible to maintain peace in our country.
105. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 31 > Issue: 1
Torkild Thellefsen, Christian Jantzen What relations are: A case study on conceptual relations, displacement of meaning and knowledge profiling
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The aim of the article is to introduce the knowledge profile as a tool to make realistic representations of knowledge organizations. In order to make these realistic representations, we must identify the fundamental sign of the given knowledge domains, since it seems to be the case that the fundamental sign puts epistemological constraints upon its research objects, eventually making the knowledge organization of a knowledge domain unique. Furthermore, the article points out that in order to make the realistic representations of knowledge organizations, we need a basic understanding of how conceptual relations emerge, develop and become related terms. In order to strengthen the theoretical points and to show the usability of the knowledge profile, we include a case study of a knowledge domain.
106. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 31 > Issue: 1
Augusto Ponzio Modeling, dialogue, and globality: Biosemiotics and semiotics of self. 1. Semiosis, modeling, and dialogism
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With our paper we intend to offer a critical overview of state of the art in semiotics, with specific reference to theoretical problems concerning the relationship between culture and nature. In other words, we intend to focus on the relationship between the concepts of semiosphere (Lotman) and biosphere (Vernadsky) considering the various approaches to this issue and proposing our own point of view. An important reference for a valid overview view of semiotics today is the Handbook Semiotik/Semiotics. It is no incident that the subtitle of this work is A Handbook on the Sign-Theoretic Foundations of Nature and Culture. In this handbook a fundamental role is carried out by Thomas A. Sebeok and his particular approach to semiotics, which may be designated as ‘global semiotics’. One of the pivotal concepts in Sebeok’s global semiotics is that of modeling which traverses nature and culture. This concept connects natural semiosis and cultural semiosis and ensues in an original formulation of the relationship between the notions of ‘semiosphere’ and ‘biosphere’. Such problematics respond to semiotic research in Tartu today, especially as it finds expression in the present journal. And, in fact, as in his book of 2001, Global Semiotics, Sebeok often underlined the importance of the Estonian connection himself in his writings for the development of semiotics.
107. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 31 > Issue: 1
Timo Maran Mimesis as a phenomenon of semiotic communication
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The concept of mimesis is not very often used in the contemporary semiotic dialogue. This article introduces several views on this concept, and on the basis of these, mimesis is comprehended as a phenomenon of communication. By highlighting different semantic dimensions of the concept, mimesis is seen as being composed of phases of communication and as such, it is connected with imitation, representation, iconicity and other semiotic concepts.
108. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 31 > Issue: 1
Marcin Brocki Semiotics of culture and New Polish Ethnology
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The paper deals with the contemporary state of semiotic ethnology in Poland (connected with New Polish Ethnology group), its internal and external influences, its specifics, subjects and its reaction to the other theoretical propositions. The “neotribe” of New Polish Ethnology was established by few younger scholars, ethnologists in the early 1980s, in an opposition to the dominant stream of positivistic ethnology. Today they have become classics of Polish anthropology, masters that have educated a new generation of their students, and lead some anthropological institutes. The most inspiring set of theories that influenced the group and its heirs was taken from Soviet semiotics of culture (Lotman, Uspensky, Toporov, Ivanov), and French structural-semiotics (Levi-Strauss, Barthes), but there are some individual differences also. On that basis they have developed a specific scope, aim and methods of interpretation with as its key terms myth and mythical thinking. They have explained many cultural events (relation we-others, body image, commercials, and anthropology itself) within the framework ofmythical thinking, making it the most productive and attractive frame of interpretation within Polish humanities and social sciences. In the 1990s they had to face critical ethnography, deconstruction and postmodern anthropology and they did it with perfect flexibility that even strengthened their project, because the potential of reflexivity and self-consciousness lied within semiotics from its beginning.
109. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 31 > Issue: 1
Loreta Mačianskaitė Semiotics of guilt in two Lithuanian literary texts
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The idea of the article was suggested by Lotman’s theory about two basic mechanisms of social behaviour — fear and shame. The presented paper aims at highlighting two other mechanisms of such kind — guilt and repentance. The novella Isaac (1960–61) by Antanas Škėma, the Lithuanian writer in exile, is about a Lithuanian patriot who kills a Jew called Isaac during the years of German occupation. The author’s fundamental conception implies that the real perpetrator of crime is not a separate individual but the crowd representing the values of the society. Škėma’s interpretation of history demystifies the moral system in the inter-war Lithuania and proves it to be a collection of futile signs that fail to prevent society from falling into mass psychosis and following primitive impulses. The other Lithuanian novel, Leonardas Gutauskas’ Šešėliai (Shadows) written in 2000, focuses on the tense relationships between Lithuanians and Russians, suggesting that there are several moral systems determining the concepts of guilt-repentance. The Christian agricultural society embodies the ethics of individual responsibility. The domination of the Russian ethic code is associated with the separation of Churches and the strengthening of the Orthodox Church. A moral system based on harmony and aiming to reconcile the guilty and the innocent comes across as a sought ideal. Both novels discussed exemplify different modes of a liberating society. The first one is an account of the society’s effort to become free of the guilt complex and rethink its history. The second one articulates theguilt of the Russian nation against Lithuanians and fights russophobia at the same time.
110. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 31 > Issue: 1
Jelena Grigorjeva Lotman on mimesis
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The article considers some basic notions of semiotics of mimesis by Juri Lotman, such as model, similarity, and relations between an object and its representation. The way Lotman defines and interprets these notions is compared with definitions given by adherents of the “semiotics of the transcendence” (German and Russian romanticism and Neoplatonism, Russian symbolism, theory of mystical symbol). A certain typological proximity ofsome important theoretical statements ensures the necessity to revise the traditional image of Tartu semiotics as a purely positivistic school of thought.
111. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 31 > Issue: 1
Susan Petrilli Modeling, dialogue, and globality: Biosemiotics and semiotics of self. 2. Biosemiotics, semiotics of self, and semioethics
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The main approaches to semiotic inquiry today contradict the idea of the individual as a separate and self-sufficient entity. The body of an organism in the micro- and macrocosm is not an isolated biological entity, it does not belong to the individual, it is not a separate and self-sufficient sphere in itself. The body is an organism that lives in relation to other bodies, it is intercorporeal and interdependent. This concept of the body finds confirmation in cultural practices and worldviews based on intercorporeity, interdependency, exposition and opening, though nowadays such practices are almost extinct. An approach to semiotics that is global and at once capable of surpassing the illusory idea of definitive and ultimate boundaries to identity presupposes dialogue and otherness. Otherness obliges identity to question the tendency to totalizing closure and to reorganize itself always anew in a process related to ‘infinity’, as Emmanuel Levinas teaches us, or to ‘infinite semiosis’, to say it with Charles Sanders Peirce. Another topic of this paper is the interrelation in anthroposemiosis between man and machine and the implications involved for the future of humanity. Our overall purpose is to develop global semiotics in the direction of “semioethics”, as proposed by S.Petrilli and A. Ponzio and their ongoing research.
112. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 31 > Issue: 1
Morten Tønnessen Umwelt ethics
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In this paper I will sketch an Umwelt ethics, i.e., an ethics that rests heavily on fundamental features of Jakob von Uexküll’s Umwelt theory. In the course of an interpretation of the Umwelt theory, a number of concepts are introduced. These include ontological niche, common-Umwelt, total Umwelt and bio-ontological monad. I then present an Uexküllian reading of the deep ecology platform. It is suggested that loss of biodiversity, considered as a physio-phenomenal entity, is the most crucial aspect of the ecological crisis, which can be understood as an ontological crisis.
113. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 31 > Issue: 1
Dalia Satkauskytė The myth of the nation of poets and mass poetry in Lithuania
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There are two problems discussed in the article. The first one is the phenomenon of mass literature and semiotic approach to it. According to Lotman, mass literature of the 20th (and 21st) centuries is not so much an object of semiotics as of sociology. However, it is possible to consider mass literature of earlier times as an object of semiotics of culture. Lotman discusses Russian mass literature of the 18th and 19th centuries as such an object in the article “Massovaya literatura kak istoriko-kulturnaya problema”. Considering mass literature a dynamic factor of the semiotic system, Lotman distinguishes its main features: a high degree of automatization and syndrome of retardedness. In the second part of the article the author discusses the phenomenon of mass poetry in contemporary Lithuania. This kind of mass literature is much more similar to the phenomenon discussed by Lotman than to the mass literature of the postmodernist epoch. Lithuanian mass poetry employs the codes of national romanticism (the end of 19th century) and considers itself an ignored part of high culture. This sort of poetry unknown to Western societies exhibits archaising tendencies in the modern postsoviet culture.
114. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 31 > Issue: 1
Bruno Osimo Strange, very strange, like in a dream: Borders and translations in ‘Strogij Yunosha’
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Semiotics applied to translation studies produces an original approach that is generating scientific texts of high interest. On the other side, the notion of “translation” in a broad sense appears very important within semiotics itself, as in Ch. Peirce’s and J. Lotman’s thought. Distinguishing between translation studies’ influences on semiotics and semiotics’ influence on translation studies becomes increasingly difficult. In this article a synthesis is tried: the Soviet film ‘Strogij Yunosha’ is analyzed using the tools of both disciplines. At first the concept of “strange” is analyzed from a semiotic point of view, looking also for etymological reasons to classify strangeness as simple difference or as inimicality. Then cultural implicit is considered as the problem of mediation between Self and Other, both in a collective and in an individual (psychological) sense. The ways of relating to the Other are then considered in the light of a systemic approach to the cultural polysystem, in which the least unit or subsystem is the individual. The film is then decomposed in many “worlds”, and their borders and relations are viewed in the light of the aforementioned approaches. Such translatological analysis of the film allows to hypothesize why it was banned from the Soviet regime.
115. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 31 > Issue: 1
Frederik Stjernfelt The ontology of espionage in reality and fiction: A case study on iconicity
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A basic form of iconicity in literature is the correspondence between basic conceptual schemata in literary semantics on the one hand and in factual treatments on the other. The semantics of a subject like espionage is argued to be dependent on the ontology of the field in question, with reference to the English philosopher Barry Smith’s “fallibilistic apriorism”. This article outlines such an ontology, on the basis of A. J. Greimas’s semiotics and Carl Schmitt’s philosophy of state, claiming that the semantics of espionage involves politology and narratology on an equal footing. The spy’s “positional” character is analyzed on this basis. A structural difference between police and military espionage is outlined with reference to Georges Dumézil’s theory of the three functions in Indo-European thought. A number of ontological socalled “insecurities” inherent in espionage and its literary representation are outlined. Finally, some hypotheses are stated concerning the connection between espionage and literature, and some central allegorical objects — love, theology — of the spy novel are sketched, and a conclusion on the iconicity of literature is made.
116. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 31 > Issue: 1
Han-liang Chang Is language a primary modeling system? On Juri Lotman’s concept of semiosphere
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Juri Lotman’s well-known distinction of primary modeling system versus secondary modeling system is a lasting legacy of his that has been adhered to, modified, and refuted by semioticians of culture and nature. Adherence aside, modifications and refutations have focused on the issue whether or not language is a primary modeling system, and, if not, what alternatives can be made available to replace it. As Sebeok would concur, for both biosemiosis and anthroposemiosis, language can only be a secondary modeling system on top of the biological experience of Umwelt or human sensory system. This paper proposes to explore the possibility of a “preverbal” modeling system suggested by Lotman’s spatial concept of semiosphere, and discuss its implications in cross-cultural dialogue.
117. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 31 > Issue: 2
Tommi Vehkavaara Natural self-interest, interactive representation, and the emergence of objects and Umwelt: An outline of basic semiotic concepts for biosemiotics
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In biosemiotics, life and living phenomena are described by means of originally anthropomorphic semiotic concepts. This can be justified if we can show that living systems as self-maintaining far from equilibrium systems create and update some kind of representation about the conditions of their self-maintenance. The point of view is the one of semiotic realism where signs and representations are considered as real and objective natural phenomena without any reference to the specifically human interpreter. It is argued that the most basic concept of representation must be forward looking and that both C. Peirce’s and J. v. Uexküll’s concepts of sign assume an unnecessarily complex semiotic agent. The simplest representative systems do not have phenomenal objects or Umwelten at all. Instead, the minimal concept of representation and the source of normativity that is needed in its interpretation can be based on M. Bickhard’s interactivism. The initial normativity or natural self-interest is based on the ‘utility-concept’ of function: anything that contributes to the maintenance of a far from equilibrium system is functional to that system — every self-maintaining far from equilibrium system has a minimal natural self-interest to serve that function, it is its existential precondition. Minimal interactive representation emerges when such systems become able to switch appropriately between two or more means ofmaintaining themselves. At the level of such representations, a potentiality to detect an error may develop although no objects of representation for the system are provided. Phenomenal objects emerge in systems that are more complex. If a system creates a set of ongoingly updated ’situation images’ and can detect temporal invariances in the updating process, these invariances constitute objects for the system itself. Within them, a representative system gets an Umwelt and becomes capable of experiencing triadic signs. The relation between representation and its object is either iconic or indexical at this level. Correspondingly as in Peirce’s semeiotic, symbolic signs appear as more developed — for the symbolic signs, a more complex system is needed.
118. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 31 > Issue: 2
Marina Aptekman The problem of language and reality in Russian modernism: The conception of mirotvorchestvo in A. Remizov’s Rossiya v pis’menah
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Alexej Remizov is usually regarded by literary critics as a Symbolist rather than a Futurist writer. However, I would posit that Remizov similarly to the Futurists viewed language as “logos,” bozhestvennii glagol. According to the mystical interpretation of the famous words “At the beginning there was Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God”, when God was creating the world he named the objects, and these abstract names became a force for the appearance of an object in physical reality. In the light of these words, The Medieval mystical and magical philosophers claimed that one could restore the divine language of Creation, possess the ability to create objects anew, and thereby become Creator himself. One can argue that a major goal of Remizov was similar to that of hisMedieval predecessors: to reveal the mystical power of language in order to create, not to describe reality. The paper analyzes three chapters from Alexej Remizov’s Rossiya v pis’menah, a book which can be read as a manifesto of Remizov’s attitude toward language and reality, and discuss possible sourcesthat might have influenced Remizov in his attitude towards language.
119. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 31 > Issue: 2
Peeter Torop Semiospherical understanding: Textuality
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The semiospherical approach to semiotics and especially to semiotics of culture entails the need of juxtaposing several terminological fields. Among the most important, the fields of textuality, chronotopicality, and multimodality or multimediality should be listed. Textuality in this paper denotes a general principle with the help of which it is possible to observe and to interpret different aspects of the workings of culture. Textuality combines in itself text as a well-defined artefact and textualization as an abstraction (presentation or definition as text). In culture, we can pose in principle the same questions both to a concrete and to an abstract text, although an abstract text is only an operational means for defining, with the help of textualization, a certain phenomenon in the interests of a holistic and systemic analysis. The practice of textualization in turn helps us to understand the necessity of distinguishing between articulation emerging from the textual material itself and articulation ensuing from textuality or textualization — the former provides for comparability between texts made from the same material, thelatter makes comparable all textualized phenomena irrespective of their material. Textuality is a possibility that culture offers to its analyser, and at the same time it is an ontological property of culture and an epistemological principle for investigating culture.
120. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 31 > Issue: 2
Ilia Kalinin The semiotic model of a historical process: History — between grammar and rhetoric
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The paper is devoted to the problem of the linguistic grounds of the semiotic model of history, according to which history is described as a communication process circulating within a society. An analogy of principle between language and culture is the theoretical premise of that semiotic approach. Proceeding on this assumption semiotics (B. Uspensky’s case for instance) regards historical process as the process of text outcome and reading, while at the same time control over communication is provided through the cultural code or in other words — through the grammar of history. But the description of history as just the functioning of a single and unified grammatical code doesn’t make it possible to explain the appearance of new meanings or history par excellence. J. Lotman interpreted the rhetorical mechanism of text outcome as the working of two (at a minimum) interplaying semiotic systems. It is the principle of its working that he takes as abasis of his semiotic version of cultural diachrony. And at the very point semiotics finds itself in front of the choice: either to stop at the decomposition the rhetorical machine on separate cultural codes and at the description their separate grammars, or to conceptualize a historical event as un-grammatism, grammatical error, “wrong text”. The analytical way leads to an extremely reduced theoretical construction; the synthetic way undermines status of the semiotic model of history as a positivistic scientific project.