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Sign Systems Studies

Volume 28, 2000

Thomas G. Winner
Pages 158-179

Czech and Tartu-Moscow Semiotics
The Cultural Semiotics of Vladimir Macura (1945-1999)

Among the national scientific groups, it was the Prague Linguistic Circle that had the most decisive affinity to the work of the Moscow-Tartu school. This paper examines the work of one of the most tireless contemporary Czech interpreters of the Lutman school, Vladimir Macura (1945-1999), whose work on Czech literary and historical texts are outstanding examples of the reverberation of Lotmanian semiotics of culture in the Czech Republic. This is particularly the case in Macura's reevaluations of the texts of the Czech National Revival of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, especially in two books, Znamení zrodu (Signs of Birth) (1995) and Český sen (The Czech Dream) (1998). In these works Macura looked at this critical period in Czech national history as a multi-layered semiotic text in both the verbal and visual spheres. The present paper is an attempt at an exploration of Macura's treatment in this manner of the following: the Czech language, the city of Prague, the question of Czech national self-identification in general and as part of a larger category, the world of the Slavs. An important aspect of this project is an examination of Macura's exploration of the value functions of symbolic animals and plants in Czech Revival culture, and its relation to the axiology of Czech (Slavic) cultural identity. The paper is dedicated to Macura's memory.