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The American Journal of Semiotics

Volume 23, Issue 1/4, 2007
Semiotics in the Chinese Umwelt

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1. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 1/4
Hsiu-chih Tsai Preface: Semiotics in the Chinese Umwelt
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2. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 1/4
Han-liang Chang The Rise of Chinese Literary Theory: Intertextuality and System Mutations in Classical Texts
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In traditional Chinese literary criticism, textual strategies comparable to intertextuality have governed Chinese critics’ and poets’ reading and writing aboutliterature throughout the dynasties. Drawing on the intertextual theories of Kristeva and Riffaterre, the paper probes into the phenomenon of sign system-mutations in two highly influential ancient texts: the Confucian Classic of Changes of the fifth century B.C.E. and Liu Xie’s The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons, an ars poetica in the third century. The transformation of sign systems from nonverbal to verbal, in the case of the Changes, and from literate to literary or “creative” to “theoretical”, in the case of the Dragons, bears witness to the Hjelmslevian reciprocity of object-semiotic and meta-semiotic.
3. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 1/4
Dennis C. H. Cheng East Asian Semiotics: Graphic Interpretations of Body, Mind and the Universe
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In East Asia, there has been a long tradition of using graphs and diagrams to express abstract ideas. This paper is to give an account of the East Asian methodsfor representing body, mind and the universe. The fundamental ideas of East Asian graphic interpretation mostly originated from the Yijing (I Ching, Zhouyi), and were later developed by Confucian and Daoist thinkers to describe the universe, the mind, and the body as an organic totality. By comparing different approaches to portraying the universe, this paper offers a critical analysis of East Asian semiotics.
4. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 1/4
You-zheng Li Signification and Performance of Nonverbal Signs in the Confucianist Ritual System
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The Confucianist learning of rites and related code systems are full of performing details realized in patterned conducts, programmed processes and multiplemedia-emblematic network most of which exhibit themselves as nonverbal signs and rhetoric. Those nonverbal ritual codes and the related regular performance exercise an extremely effective impact on the directed communication and domination of the society. As a result, in the Li-System the nonverbal signs and codes could function more relevantly and effectively than the related verbal part which itself functions also at a quasi-nonverbal level.
5. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 1/4
Youzheng Li Distinguishing Reality from Discourse in Chinese: Historiography from a Point of View of Historical Semiotics
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Interdisciplinary and cross-cultural semiotics will systematically change the present-day academic compartmentalization, especially impacting the constitutionof historiography. Emphasizing the distinction between reality and discourse this paper suggests a new historiographic view based on documents-centrism rather than periodical division. Then historians can more reasonably reach historical truth in a hermeneutic term. Following a semiotic rereading of a modern Chinese historical school Gu-Shi-Bian (textual criticism of historical literature), a more serious comparative historical theory will be established in the global humanities. This modern critical Chinese historiography will be instructive to the development of historical science in the world.
6. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 1/4
Jie Zhang, Haihong Ji Three Cornerstones of the Former Soviet Semiotics: A Comparative Study of the Semiotic Theories of Bakhtin, Lotman, and Uspenskij
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Bakhtin’s social semiotics, Lotman’s structural literary semiotics, and Uspenskij’s linguistic cultural semiotics are the three important theoretical cornerstones of the mansion of semiotics in the former Soviet Union, whose influences have long gone beyond the territory of the former Soviet Union, and have attracted widespread attention of the literary and semiotic circle from China and the rest of the world as well. However, researches so far have been mainly separate studies of their distinct theories, while a comparative study of the characteristics of Bakhtin, Lotman, and Uspenskij’s theories and methodologies has not been initiated. This paper attempts to compare the Russian troika’s conceptions and research methodologies of semiotics, and explores how they reach the same goal of the study of social-cultural system from different approaches — linguistics and trans-linguistics. This paper further reveals how they break the thinking mode of dualism and construct a pluralistic critical mode, and finally points out the contribution they have made to semiotics and the overall studies of humanities and social sciences.
7. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 1/4
Ersu Ding Saussure, Peirce, and the Chinese Picto-phonetic Sign
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Ferdinand de Saussure and Charles Sanders Peirce are two founding fathers of modern semiotics but, up until fairly recently, their theories have fared differentlyon the mainland of China, with the former canonized in university textbooks and the latter banished from academic discussion for political reasons. What this article tries to show is that, thanks to its picto-phonetic origin, the Chinese language lends itself particularly well to theorization from the Peircean perspective, hence the importance of embracing his trichotomous approach to language and other types of signs.
8. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 1/4
Chi-hsiang Lee The “Blanks” and the “Writing”: A Narratological Description of Spring and Autumn
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This paper is intended to discourse upon the state of the “blankness” in the first sentence of Spring and Autumn. Chinese traditional scholars tend to explain“blanks” as the “chueh wen/blanks of text” or the “pu shu/unwritten” on the basis of Commentaries. The former is a kind of “to be written” while the latter refers to the “blank”, which is “already written”, not “non-written”. “Blanks of text” is a term from The Analects of Confucius, coined first by Master Confucius to refer to the relationship between court historians, writing and tradition, while “blank written” is a term in the Commentaries in reference to the relationship between thepractice of “meaning-given” and the “blank narrative” of “unwritten/blank written” in the text of Spring and Autumn. On account of the two terms, this study attempts to argue that the status of the “blanks” is explainable.
9. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 1/4
Ying-hsiung Chou Can the Uncanny Be Represented?
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If the uncanny is something one cannot quite come to terms with in the first place, can the uncanny really be represented? There is clearly in the act itselfsomething quite against the grain of referentiality. What in other words is the point of saying that which cannot very well be said in explicit terms? And how do we account for an increase in modern times of efforts to perform what at first look seems infeasible? It also remains to be seen how the Chinese uncanny is represented with the help of a seemingly inane rhetorical tour de force in which the uncanny is confirmed as being historically true despite everything else in the story that points in the opposite direction.
10. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 1/4
Hsiu-chih Tsai Female Sexuality: Its Allurement and Repression in Geling Yan’s “White Snake”
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This paper aims at addressing how the question of Chinese female sexuality is questioned and challenged by the Chinese woman writer Geling Yan’s novella“White Snake” (1999). By adopting a similar title to the famous traditional Chinese monster story that narrates a white serpent transformed herself into a pretty lady to pursue and experience human love, Geling Yan’s novella carries the mimicry of the theme by portraying her protagonist as a serpent-embodying woman whose sexual power was deemed abnormal and monstrous. This imprisoned woman as a monstrous other, though sinuously gazed, desired and mocked, her monstrous sexuality, not as the un-human, but as the conflation where the social and cultural anxiety encounters the fear of desire and the difference, is given the chance to be re-initiated, re-directed and unleashed into another heterogeneous state and territory of the unsaid and unnamed behind the traditional cultural prison house.
11. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 1/4
Hsien-hao Sebastian Liao A Chinese Sinthome: Chan, Modern Subject and Politico-Semioticizing Dream of the Red Chamber
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Aiming at the long repressed politico-semiotic dimension of Dream of the Red Chamber, this essay employs Lacanian theories of discourse and subjectivity inconjunction with the Chan Buddhist idea of enlightenment to analyze the coming into being of the what Zizek defines as a “modern subject” at the historical juncture of the Manchu conquest of China. Attempting to come to terms with the historical trauma caused by the Manchu conquest, the novel re-examines the fate of the emerging Chinese modernity founded in the discourse of qing or “feeling” by re-visiting the last forty years or so of the Ming resistance against the invasion. The examination, however, reveals that the subject involved in this nationalist struggle unwittingly becomes a “modern subject” because of what Zizek describes as a “redoubled renunciation”: he who sacrifices his particular attachment for the purpose of bolstering the universal Cause ends up losing both. Also unprecedented in classical Chinese literature is that this “modern subject” eventually is able somehow doubly to “identify with the symptom/ sinthome” as his only consistency: “man” on the level of the “framed story” in the metafictional structure of the novel, and “contingency” on the level of the framing story.
12. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 1/4
Yong Wang From the Sublime to the Obscene: Modalities of Totalitarianism and Jouissance
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Drawing on Yan’s novella Serve the People (2005), the author examines the metamorphosis of the titular master signifier that has served as a central moral mandate in the Chinese Communist Party’s ideological discourse. Relying on a Lacanian framework via Žižek’s and others’ writings, this paper attempts to show that totalitarian ideological transformation hinges on the organization of jouissance (enjoyment) that has undergone three ideological modes — proto-, post-, and neo-totalitarianism. In the first mode, the subject procures enjoyment from the symbolic order through a gesture of sacrifice. Due to the collapse of the imaginary of the Socialist New Man that sustains the totalitarian gaze, the post-totalitarian subject’s cynical distance from the “official” ideology functions as the very support for the effectiveness of the ideological apparatuses. Finally neo-totalitarianism is characterized as the inverse of proto-totalitarianism: the obscene underside that supports the totalitarian order is brought to the front stage as the new symbolic mandate to enjoy. The manifestations of such metamorphosis in literary and filmic works follow the path that starts from the sublime and ends at the obscene.
13. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 1/4
Yü-yü Cheng Bodily Movement and Geographic Categories: Xie Lingyun’s “Rhapsody on Mountain Dwelling” and the Jin-Song Discourse on Mountains and Rivers
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While studies of Chinese landscape literature usually focus on landscape poetry (shanshui shi), I wish to take Xie Lingyun’s “Rhapsody on Mountain Dwelling” as my point of departure to discuss how the rhapsody draws from the categorization of geographic designations and local products (mingwu leiju) at work in traditional geographical texts such the “Yu Gong [Tribute to Yu]” chapter in Shangshu and the “Diguan [Regional Offices]” chapter in Zhouli More broadly, I discuss how “landscape literature” participated in contemporaneous writings on geography. Xie was part of an Eastern Jin discovery of the landscape that engaged it through bodily movement. This new embodied mode of experience altered the system of naming and explicating the terms of landscape. Xie Lingyun, hailed asthe great “landscape poet” of Chinese literature, might be better described as someone who helped construct a new geographical discourse.
14. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 1/4
Ming-Yu Tseng Space Metaphor as a Signifying Force in Chan Poems
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This paper analyzes how space is metaphorized in some Chan poems, and it investigates how space metaphor contributes to Chan culture. It concentrates onorientational metaphors, metaphor associated with an upward or/and a downward orientation. Orientational metaphors tend to be grounded in dichotomized thought, e.g., “GOOD IS UP” vs. “BAD IS DOWN”, “DIVINE IS UP” vs. “MORTAL IS DOWN”, etc. This paper will demonstrate that in some Chan poems, orientational metaphors do not function this way. Instead, what is foregrounded is the kind of spatial relationship created by opposite orientations, namely, the broad, ever-extending space. To demonstrate how this metaphorical understanding of space is achieved, this paper addresses three particular space-related issues: (1) how certain entities representing dimensional space serve to function as a cognitive metaphor that is common in Chan poetry as a genre; (2) how up-down orientations can interact and form a metaphorical pattern in a text; and (3) how spatial image schemas (e.g., VERTICALITY, NEAR-FAR, PATH, CENTER-PERIPHERY, CONTAINER, etc.) can be identified, interact with one another, and underpin the pattern of metaphor communicating the idea of that broad, ever-extending, imaginal space. All in all, this study aims to demonstrate how space metaphor, as a signifying force, functions in Chan poems and how suchmetaphor represents Chinese Chan culture.
15. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 1/4
Hans-Georg Moeller Presence, Representation, and Significance: An Analysis of Semiotic Structures and Corresponding Conceptions of Nature and Culture
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This article introduces a semiotic methodology that can be applied in Comparative Philosophy as an alternative to still dominating content-based methods. Isuggest distinguishing between three semiotic structures that operate on the basis of different relations between the signifier and the signified. These are the structures of “presence”, “representation”, and “significance”. I argue that ancient Chinese philosophy tends to employ the first structure whereas traditional Western philosophy tends toward the second. Postmodern philosophy, however, gives preference to the third one. In accordance with these different semiotic structures, culturally and historically different conceptions of nature and culture have emerged.
16. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 1/4
Charles E. Hammond The Chinese Strategy of Transcendence
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Sources of angst in Chinese society, ranging from concerns about the environment to political stability and the ongoing economic reforms have persisted into the late 1990s and early 2000s. While official policy often discouraged directly addressing these anxieties in public forums, several articles printed in various officialnewspapers, many of them subsequently reprinted by the People’s Daily, offer advice on dealing with stress or frustration. Self-transcendence is a characteristically Chinese method that many of these articles advocate. Self-transcendence, which one could define as expanding one’s boundaries of the self to take on broader life perspectives to help one make one’s life more meaningful, has religious, philosophical, and psychological dimensions. Chinese philosophy, the historical interactions between the people and their rulers, and even their language have all worked to make the strategy of transcendence a particularly appealing one to the Chinese.
17. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 1/4
Hsiu-chih Tsai The Semiotic Structuration of Home and Identity in A Song of the Sad Coffee Shop
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This paper deals with the function of metonymy in A Song of the Sad Coffee Shop (1996), a novel by Taiwan’s woman writer Shao-lin Chu (b. 1966). For my reading of the novel’s narrative, I should like to appropriate a Jakobsonian understanding of metaphoric and metonymic functions. This approach will hopefully help in analyzing the significance of the protagonist’s quest for identification in her trip to Madagascar, in which the juxtaposition of places of similar geographical features works to construct a contiguity between them, and goes on to achieve a rapprochement of mind and body in the practice and process of philosophical cultivation. The protagonist’s trip, as a quest for home and identity, through the metonymic power of identification and localization, finally calls into question the fixity of the concept of home and homeland, the expedition itself turning into a mysterious journey of self-cultivation and home-coming.
18. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 1/4
Tim-hung Ku Psychoanalytic Semiotics and the Interpretation of Dream Paintings: An Example from Salvador Dali
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The present paper is divided into two parts. Part one is an attempt to reconstruct the semiotic models of Freudian-Lacanian psychoanalysis, in which conceptsfrom De Saussure, C. S. Peirce, Jakobson, Lotman, Eco are drawn for mutual illumination and synthesis. Psychoanalytic semiotics is considered a particular areaand discipline in semiotics, aiming at the unconscious dimension of the subject. Lacan could be considered a post-structuralist revision and extension of Freud. Part two is an application of psychoanalytic semiotics to the interpretation of dream painting, focusing on the Dali example. Essential issues in psychoanalytic semiotics of dream painting are explored in the Dali example, such as dream indexes, dream mechanisms, self-portraits as imago and icon, and psychoanalytic Nirvana as a recovery and memory of a non-alienated subject. My reading of Dali demonstrates the possibility of a convergence of semiotics, psychoanalysis, and art criticism.
19. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 1/4
Hong Wang, Ph.D. Greimas’s Semiotic Square and Its Application in the Anti-corruption Campaign in Mainland China
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A semiotic study seeks to find sign significance in its relation with others. This paper is a search for the semiotic manifestation of certain signs in the contemporary campaign against corruption in mainland China. It uses Greimas’s semiotic square as a theoretical base upon which an examination of official discourse pertaining to anti-corruption is conducted. Power, agency, and sexual relation are the three parameters of analysis. The study comes to the tentative conclusion that the marked combinatory presence of women in anti-corruption discourse implicates women as the primary benefactors in the male-dominated corruption practice, thus directing the public attention to a gender issue of minor importance.
20. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 23 > Issue: 1/4
Yun Xia We Are Digitized Long Before We Have Computers: Analog and Digital Communication in the Written Sign System of Human Communication
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As two fundamental modes of communication, analog and digital communication are not only ways of information transmission but also two mental habits in our perception and representation of the perception in the creation of communication sign systems. In a broader sense, analog and digital communication are not only for electronic communication or high technology computer networking communication. Language is featured by both analog and digital communication,especially in the development of the writing system. The development of the writing system from images or icons to alphabets is the development of an analog communication to a digital communication. The creation and development of Chinese pictographs illustrate the trend from low digitization to high digitization. From this perspective, we can say that the creation and development of the writing system is a process of digitization.