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101. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 2
Maija Könönen ‘Infernal’ subtexts in Brodsky’s poem The fifth anniversary
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This essay explores the intertextual relationships of Joseph Brodsky’s poem — an occasional verse dedicated to the fifth anniversary of the poet’s enforced emigration from the Soviet Union. As is common in Brodsky’s poetics, the text is imbued with allusions to other texts, not only from Russian, but from Western belles lettres, as well. Through reminiscences of La Divina Commedia the lost homeland together with the beloved native city of Leningrad is paralleled with Dante’s “lost and accursed” Florence as well as with the lost St.Petersburg of Mandelshtam and Akhmatova, among others. The Dantean undertones are exposed not only on the semantical level of the examined text but in the metrical and structural aspects of the poem, as well.
102. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 2
Mihhail Lotman Atomistic versus holistic semiotics
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The paper is devoted on the foundations of semiotics. It examines the specific features of Peircean and Saussurean traditions and demonstrates that the basis of all the differences is the different conception of the nature of sign: Peirce proceeds from the substitutive concept, Saussure from the bilateral one. The substitutive construction is atomistic by its nature: it is based on a (single) sign which replaces a (single) object, while bilateral is holistic: it is based on the sign system which is divided into (single) signs. The differences of semiosis in atomistic and holistic approach will be pointed out.
103. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 2
Irene Portis-Winner Eric Wolf: the crosser of boundaries
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The subject of this paper is an introduction to my assessment of the work of the late American anthropologist, Eric Wolf (1923–1999), whom I consider to be one of the greatest American anthropologist. I plan a monograph on his total work from a point of view, largely overlooked, emphasizing his sensitive, path-breaking, and poetic insights. I see Wolf’s work as having three interpenetrating periods, which I call (1) Eric Wolf, the poet, focusing primarily on his work on Mexico, (2) the study of peasantry world-wide, emphasizing history, context, power, etc. (from the very beginning Wolf demolished the idea of static isolated cultures that anthropologists so loved to study; and in this respect, Eric Wolf changed anthropology forever), and (3) the third period, reaching to his death and never really finished, was Wolf the philosopher and crosser of boundaries.
104. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 2
Leonid Tchertov Spatial semiosis in culture
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Lotman’s conception of semiosphere opens the way to development of spatial semiotics as a special branch of sign theory. There are a lot of peculiarities in the spatial semiosis, which distinguish it from the temporal ones. These distinctions are connected with some special features of semiotized space, and they touch both upon the spatial texts and upon the spatial codes. The spatial syntax has its own specific structures, which can be reversed, non-linear and continual, created without discrete signs. The differentiation relates also to semantics of spatial signs and texts, which are mainly motivated by their denotates due to similarity or contiguity. There are some pragmatic peculiarities of the spatial semiosis: the greater connection with the praxis, on the one hand, and the greater ability for the preservation of the cultural memory, on the other hand. The mainly visual character of spatial texts in plane of expression can be also considered as its specific pragmatic property. These peculiarities give some special possibilities for the spatial semiosis and make necessary its participation in the various spheres of the culture, where diverse spatial codes interact in different ways between each other and with temporal codes as well.
105. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 2
Andreas Schönle Lotman and cultural studies: The case for cross-fertilization
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This paper seeks to evaluate the extent to which Lotman’s theoretical works could provide a conceptual articulation to the project of British and American cultural studies (CS). Just as CS, Lotman operates with an extensive concept of culture, albeit one mostly limited to nobility culture and focused on the past. His late works can be seen to articulate a semiotic theory of power: his emphasis on the relationship between center and periphery recalls the infatuation with marginality that underpins CS. Lotman shares the (post) structuralist premise about the primary role of discourse in founding reality. Yet his emphasis on the natural striving of culture toward diversity mitigates the subject’s dependence upon discourse. Thus, subjects act on their striving toward autonomy by playing discourses against one another, recoding them in an act of autocommunication that generates novelty in the process. Even though it denies the grand narrative, Cultural Studies emphasizes class, gender, and race differences. Lotman’s concept of the semiosphere emphasizes the ad hoc foundation of group identities, their emergence out of an intrinsic recoding of extrinsic codes, and the circulation of texts and values among groups. Lotman doesn’t privilege any sort of group identity and therefore offers a flexible framework applicable to a broader range of groups. In that sense he offers an alternative to Gramsci’s notion of the rootedness of groups in class realities (which underlies early CS).
106. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 2
Elize Bisanz The abstract structure of the aesthetic sign
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Walter Benjamin foreshadowed many of the aesthetic theories, currently playing a fundamental role in the production and interpretation of art. By emphasising the role of the expressive character of art, or rather the category of expressivity itself, Benjamin defined art as a language. His aesthetics was characterised by the continuous interaction of two almost reciprocal projects: the theoretical critique of art which is based on an understanding of historical processes, and the understanding of historical processes which is formed by the critical experience of art. We find a fundamental similarity between Benjamin’s dialectical character of the aesthetic sign and Lotman’s double-sidedness of the artwork. In classifying the system of art as a language, both theoreticians space out the structure ofart and determine it as the intersection of the synchronic and the diachronic aesthetic discourse. The paper follows the traces of the transition of modern painting from its representational status to an autonomous signification, that is, from being a symbolic expression to a discourse in the grammatological meaning of écriture. Parallel to this transition which resulted into the process of abstraction in painting, there can be observed a shift in the cultural values of art which had its critical bearing upon the world secured not by connections of likeness, but by virtue of the very independence of its values. The abstract form of the modern painting has been the declaration of the language of art as an exemplary realm. What must be expressed and experienced within this realm was (1) the critical reflection on the human condition, and (2) representing the society in so far as art maintained a moral independence from those conditions. This dialectic between the autonomous and social character of art has left deep impacts on the language of painting, a complexity, which has been made transparent through the various semiotic analytic approaches of the aesthetic sign. The paper discusses the processual character of the modern painting and demonstrates briefly the deficiency in the structural analysis of the painting language, encouraging its synthesis with the dynamical character of cultural products as we find it in the Lotmanian culture theory.
107. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 2
Kati Lindström Author, landscape and communication in Estonian haiku
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Present article tries to give insight into the ways in which Estonian haiku models its author and communicates with the reader. The author thinks that while Japanese haiku is a predominantly autocommunicative piece of literature, where even a fixed point of view is not recommended, Estonian literary conventions are oriented towards openly communicational texts, which convey a fixed axiology and rely on abundant use of pronouns and rhetorical questions, addresses and apostrophes. While there is a considerable amount of Estonian haiku that depend on Estonian literary conventions, most of the Estonian haiku texts, however, are oriented to the Japanese model. These texts have been labelled “the catalogues of landscape”, as they are constituted by naming different landscape objects without developing a line of narration. Thereby every landscape element in poetry is granted its own voice, and through this multitude of voices inside the text, the reader is forced to enter an autocommunicative process of remodelling him/herself.
108. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 2
Ülle Pärli, Eleonora Rudakovskaja Juri Lotman on proper name
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The article treats the concept of proper name in Juri Lotman’s semiotics, taking into account also studies in the same field by other authors of the Tartu-Moscow school (V. Ivanov, B. Ogibenin, V. Toporov, B. Uspenski). Focus is laid at three sub-topics: name and myth, name and text, name and artistic creation. One of the sources of treating proper name for both the program article by J. Lotman and B. Uspenski (“Myth — Name — Culture”), and works by several other semioticians of the Tartu–Moscow school is confidence in the connection between proper name and mythical (a-semiotic) thought: semiosis equals here with nomination. Proper name plurality, different re-namings affirm the continuing importance of mythical thinking in later culture. Proper names (such as personal names, place names) belong, in addition to natural language, also into a certain individual system, forming thus an interlinguistic layer located on the boundary of language. J. Lotmanstresses that art has a specific power of uniting general and proper name (proper name characterized here by individuality, explosiveness). An artistic work is even doubly of proper name character: both the act of creation and its reception are by nature individual and unrepeated. In the opinion of the authors the treatment of proper name by the Tartu-Moscow school contains fruitful and promising standpoints for the analysis of contemporary culture that, however, have been applied unjustifiably little.
109. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 2
Sadeq Rahimi Is cultural logic an appropriate concept? A semiotic perspective on the study of culture and logic
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It is argued that (a) the question of ‘cultural logic’ is a valid inquiry for disciplines seeking to comprehend and compare mental processes across cultures, and (b) semiotics, as the science of studying signs and signification, is an appropriate means of approaching the question of cultural logic. It is suggested that a shift needs to be made in studying reasoning across cultures from the traditional value-oriented methods of judgment to a meaning-oriented assessment. Traditional methods of cross-cultural comparison are suggested to be flawed in their attempt to develop a psychological account of why different cultural societies can draw different conclusions from ‘similar’ data, because they typically do not take into account the culturally-specific processes of ‘meaning’ and semiosis. These processes, it is argued, cause input data to develop differentially from one semiotic context to another. In other words, before reaching the cognitive processing level data is already shaped by the semiotic context, thus what is processed cognitively by two individuals in two cultural/semiotic contexts is no longer ‘the same.’ A semiotically conceived notion of cultural logic is therefore a crucial factor in any cross-cultural study of cognitive and psychological systems.
110. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 2
Peeter Torop Introduction: Re-reading of cultural semiotics
111. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 2
Stefano Garzonio Mechanisms of adaptation “to our (Russian) customs” of Italian opera librettos
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Stefano Garzonio. Mechanisms of adaptation “to our (Russian) customs” of Italian opera librettos. The paper deals with the history of poetical translation of Italian musical poetry in the 18th century Russia. In particular, it is focused on the question of pereloženie na russkie nravy, the adaptation to national Russian customs, of Italian opera librettos, cantatas, arias, songs and so on. The author points out three different phases of this process. The first phase, in the 1730s, coincides with the reign of Anna Ioannovna and it is linked to Trediakovsky’s translations of Italian intermezzos, comedies and to the first opera seria, La forza dell’amore e dell’odio (‘The force of love and hate’, 1736) by F. Araja and F. Prata; the second phase, in the period 1740–1770s, is characterized by a very varied production of translations and imitations, which undoubtedly influenced the general developing of Russian musical and dramatic poetry. It is during this periodthat pereloženie na russkie nravy is introduced into dramatic genres and sometimes it is findable in musical poetry as well. The third phase, in the 1780–1790s, is linked with the activity of such poets-translators as Ivan Dmitrevskij, Michail Popov, Vasilij Levšin and is characterized by the new practice of performing operas in Russian translations. In the paper the different forms of pereloženie na russkie nravy are pointed out, starting from the formal niveau of metrics and stylistics up to the adaptation of themes, places and realia.
112. 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.
113. 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.
114. 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.
115. 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.
116. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 31 > Issue: 1
Dalia Satkauskytė “Poeetide rahva” müüt ja massikirjanduse fenomen Leedus. Kokkuvõte
117. 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.
118. 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.
119. 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.
120. 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.