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book review
81. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 31 > Issue: 3/4
Louis Hébert Semiotics and Buddhism: Around Fabio Rambelli’s A Buddhist Theory of Semiotics
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This article provides a review of A Buddhist Theory of Semiotics by Fabio Rambelli (2013) while also broadening the scope of its evaluation to the review author’s own considerations “around” semiotics and Buddhism. After summarizing the general structure of the book, this review provides a qualitative evaluation of the book’s treatment of these two major themes: Buddhism and semiotics. It then approaches the question of interdisciplinarity, both in general and in relation to the book in particular. It discusses the two great anthropological perspectives: the emic (or external approach to a studied culture) and the etic (or internal approach to a studied culture). Finally, this review identifies three major ways of conceiving semiotics and the semiotic in relation to three spheres or levels (physical, semiotic and representational).
ssa presidential address 2014
82. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 31 > Issue: 3/4
Elliot Gaines Everyday Semiotics: The Paradox of a Universal Discipline
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The marginal status of semiotics in society and the academic world is a paradox. Semiotics is not only relevant to every field of inquiry, but is a universal aspect of everyday experiences. Yet even among those that advocate the study of signs, the notion of calling semiotics an academic discipline is controversial. Like any academic area, the language and concepts of semiotics exclude the uninitiated. Ironically, just as the study of semiotics predicts, opinions and beliefs vary and disagreements commonly occur because of a tendency to interpret the world according to cultural habits rather than through critical logic supported by systematic and verifiable evidence. Especially in an age of global media, semiotics provides an effective way to examine messages representing ideas, and communicating values, beliefs, ideologies, and agendas.
articles—semiotics and art
83. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 31 > Issue: 3/4
Farouk Y. Seif Reality Beyond Humanities-Science Schism: Revealing the Mutuality of Design and Semiotics
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What we perceive is not reality itself but reality exposed to our way of perceiving. By relying on the autonomous separation between humanities and science, we seem to have developed a tendency to experience reality in ways that enable us to perceive more of what we value. More than the traditional disciplines of the two dominant cultures of humanities and science, design transcends our assumptions about reality and reveals the hidden connection between factual information and imaginative interpretation. Reality in a transmodern world is a hyperreality, where human beings are able to transform what has been in existence by design. The mutual interrelation between design and semiotics provides the opportunity not only to cross the perceived boundaries among the real, the true, and the imaginary, but also to overcome the humanities-science schism.
84. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 31 > Issue: 3/4
Ibrahim Taha Reading Literature: From Decoding to Remodeling
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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.
in brief—semiotics and art
85. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 31 > Issue: 3/4
Daniel Fawcett Modern Medievalism: Rediscovery of the Medieval Reader
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This article looks at the medieval culture of reading, and suggests that medieval readership and modern reading strategies have significant points of contact including a tolerance for ambiguity, engagement with chains of intertextuality, and an embrace of the fragmentary nature of knowledge. It argues that the medieval reader was not a superstitious bumpkin, but rather a sophisticated interpreter within a complex system of signification. The medieval reader engaged in sophisticated coding, decoding, and recoding. While this article argues for similarity of strategic modes of reading between the medieval scholar and modern reader, similarities should not be mistaken for equivalencies. Where the modern reader embraces intertextuality for its own sake, the medieval reader’s assumption of divine truth served as an anchor to the chain of intertextuality. This article examines Umberto Eco’s reading of Dante’s theory of language to give us insight into medieval approaches to signification, and applies those insights to St. Augustine’s Confessions. As one of the “four doctors” of the Catholic Church, Augustine served as a model of readership for many theologians to follow. St. Augustine’s practices of readership and signification would establish a practice of reading as encoding and decoding sophisticated networks of signs.
86. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 31 > Issue: 3/4
Jimmie Svensson Iconicity in Verse: Overview, Examples, and Challenges
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The aim for this article is to outline a typology of iconicity in verse, ranging from Form miming form to Meaning miming form/meaning. Verse here means the occurrence of rhythmical devices, such as meter, and the division into lines and stanzas. As a starting point, the different possible appearances of ‘representamens’ in mainly twentieth-century poetry will be discussed, following Elleström’s (2010) distinction between visual material signs, auditory material signs and complex cognitive signs. In the article, verse is explored as a sensorically complex, mixed medium, because its ‘representamens’ frequently depend on both visual and auditory traits. Furthermore, it is important to stress that verse can be “form” in a phenomenological, sensorial sense, as well as more complex meaning. For example, the iconic sign in question could be based on the reader’s awareness and identification of a certain stanzaic or metrical form and some of the acquired associations that comes with it. The contention is that iconicity in verse does not necessarily only stand for ‘objects’ which are already present due to symbolic signs.
87. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 31 > Issue: 3/4
Rebecca Dalvesco Kandinsky and Chernikhov: Point, Line, and Plane
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The artist Wassily Kandinsky and the architect Jacob Chernikhov have similar theories and philosophies that they apply to the following elements in their work: point, line, plane, color, and form. They use these elements to create a systematic method of building complex symbols to form a new visual language. Kandinsky and Chernikov incorporated into their philosophies diagrammatic reasoning in order to build a logical program or scientific method for architecture and design. The philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce’s semiotic, particularly his discussion of icon, index and symbol, will help to clarify how Kandinsky and Chernikov form emotional, dynamical architecture and art.
about the authors
88. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 31 > Issue: 3/4
About the Authors
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89. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 31 > Issue: 1/2
Thomas F. Broden A. J. Greimas: Education, Convictions, Career
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This article describes the upbringing and education of the semiotician A. J. Greimas (1917–1992) and explores how they contributed to shaping his subsequent life of ideas. An initial narrative characterizes the linguistic and cultural context in which he grew up, relates his schooling in Lithuania, and details his university studies in 1930s France. This account highlights the individuals, methods, authors, and books of his youth which proved particularly significant for him. A longer second section then synthesizes the experiences recounted. Four cultural and intellectual traditions played a leading role in Greimass development: Lithuanian, Slavic, Germanic, and French. He took a particular interest in poetry, the Middle Ages, philosophy, history, modernism, and philology. The essay inquires into the ways in which these heritages, arts, and topics informed the ensuing evolution of his outlook, his ideas, and his career.
90. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 31 > Issue: 1/2
André De Tienne The Flow of Time and the Flow of Signs: A Basis for Peirce's Cosmosemiotics
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Peirce nurtured a lifelong interest in the mathematics, metaphysics, and logic of time. For him, time was the primal form of continuum, and he studied it as such. That study is fundamentally connected to Peirce’s semiotic and metaphysical exploration of the continuum of consciousness. In this paper I will use two successive approaches to answer the question “To what extent does the flow of time regulate the flow of signs and the flow of signs influence or determine the flow of time?” I will first examine Peirce’s views concerning the connection between time, the flow of perception, and the emergence of perceptual judgments. I will then apply several resulting distinctions (between first- and second-intentional processes, between poneception and anteception, and between two distinct temporal directions) to show how they illuminate the mutual determination of time and semiosis in Peirce’s mature semiotic theory. I will finish with considerations about how Peirce ended up viewing the genealogy of both time and logic in relation to the birth of a semiotic universe.
91. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 31 > Issue: 1/2
Susan Petrilli Identity Today and the Critical Task of Semioethics
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The critical task of semioethics implies recognition of the common condition of dialogical interrelation and the capacity for listening, where dialogue does not imply a relation we choose to concede thanks to a sense of generosity towards the other, but on the contrary is no less than structural to life itself, a necessary condition for life to flourish, an inevitable imposition. With specific reference to anthroposemiosis, semioethics focuses on the concrete singularity of the human individual and the inevitability of intercorporeal interconnection with others. The singular uniqueness of each one of us implies otherness and dialogism. Semioethics assumes that whatever the object of study and however specialized the analysis, human individuals in their concrete singularity cannot ignore the inevitable condition of involvement in the destiny of others, that is, involvement without alibis. From this point of view, the symptoms studied from a semioethical perspective are not only specified in their singularity, on the basis of a unique relationship with the other, the world, self, but are above all social symptoms. Any idea, wish, sentiment, value, interest, need, evil or good examined by semioethics as a symptom is expressed in the word, the unique word, the embodied word, in the voice which arises in the dialectic and dialogical interrelation between singularity and sociality.
92. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 31 > Issue: 1/2
Horst Ruthrof Sufficient Semiosis
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The paper argues for sufficient semiosis as a comprehensive set of constraints within which language functions. As a generalisation of Leibniz’s sufficient reason, sufficient semiosis replaces truth-conditional semantics. The paper opens with a series of ontological commitments about language, that sentence-types have only token potential, sentence-tokens have no more than meaning potential, and that only utterances can have meaning. This is so, the paper claims, because natural language always requires two fundamental ingredients to operate: aboutness and its modification by voice. Sufficient semiosis is then elaborated as a set of social constraints at all levels, phonetic, syntactic, lexical, and discursive, in both habitual and interpretive use. In contrast, truth-conditional semantics can be shown to be parasitic on meaning construction via hypoiconic, diagrammatical schematizations and so rests on a not so well-disguised petitio principii. Peirce’s hypoiconic interpretant is also employed in arguing that semantic identity and ideality are unwarranted imports into the analysis of language. Instead, the paper foregrounds intersubjective mentalism as an inevitable consequence of a Peircean approach to language. In conclusion, the paper rejects the popular idea that language is a symbolic system in favour of a heterosemiotic explanation.
in brief
93. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 31 > Issue: 1/2
James Bryson On G. E. R. Lloyd’s Being, Humanity, and Understanding
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94. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 31 > Issue: 1/2
Adam A. Ferguson Dreams of Signification: Inception, Source Code, and “The Library of Babel”
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While the films Inception and Source Code both hinge on questions of the unconscious/subconscious psyche through dreams, three broader questions emerge: What do the dreams signify; whom do they signify; and how do they signify? Such signification is rooted in a Saussurean understanding of semiosis and semiology. In this sense, dreams are the Deleuzean network that mediate between “words and things, and from bodies to appellations,” insofar as the boundaries between the linguistic/textual and the embodied/corporeal are porous—the relationship between signifier and signified is broken. Using Borges’ short stories “The Library of Babel” and “Ragnarök” as framework, this paper will argue that these psychic phenomena are rooted in a fundamental play between textuality and corporeality, as well as questions of inter-character relationships, agency, and ultimately, how such comes together to define identity in the (post)modern moment.
about the authors
95. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 31 > Issue: 1/2
About the Authors
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96. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 30 > Issue: 3/4
John Deely, Christopher Morrissey Ninth Sebeok Fellow: Introduction
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thomas a. sebeok fellow address
97. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 30 > Issue: 3/4
Paul Cobley Enhancing Survival by Not Enhancing Survival: Sebeok’s Semiotics and the Ultimate Paradox of Modelling: 9th Sebeok Fellow Address
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Tom Sebeok lives in recent memory partly because of his phenomenal networking, administration, editing and promotion of individuals in semiotics as well as the disciplinary field in general. Yet this must not be allowed to obscure a body of published writings that is as original as it is eloquent. One of Sebeok’s most penetrating insights arises from his consideration of a fundamental paradox in modern intellectual life, one that traverses the bridge between the ‘hard’ and ‘human’ sciences. Sebeok’s 1979 review of investigations into animals’ aesthetic behaviour, originally cast as an early chapter of a much larger book, contains the key observation which drives contemporary, twenty-first-century semiotics. Sebeok’s abduction of the riddle posits that “aesthetic sensibility plays the part of a delicate sieve” among animals. In so doing, it not only clarifies the modelling process as a whole, across verbal and averbal modes, but also provides an agenda for re-thinking tertiary modelling, the humanities and global arts policy.
98. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 30 > Issue: 3/4
Paul Cobley What the Humanities Are For: A Semiotic Perspective
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In the wake of both 9/11 and the financial crisis of 2008, the humanities have been offered as constituents of higher education which, if more prominent and more strenuously promoted, might have prevented both events. At the same time, the humanities have undergone an assault from governments in the West, with massively reduced or wholly cut funding as part of an attempt to promote science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in universities. The response from parts of the humanities to these government initiatives has been strident, insisting that a thriving humanities or liberal arts curriculum is crucial to democracy, ethics and citizenship, and that the humanities should be an essential ingredient of science and business education. Contemporary semiotics’ deployment of the concept of Umwelt demonstrates that the contribution the humanities might make to theory, practice and social life remains indispensable. Yet this contribution is of a rather different character to that portrayed in the traditional defence of ‘humanistic’ study. Indeed, the example of semiotics reveals that the humanities themselves are regularly misconceived.
99. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 30 > Issue: 3/4
Paul Cobley To Be Means to Communicate
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This paper explores the idea that ‘structure facilitates’. It argues that the idea is central to contemporary semiotics and refers to two traditions that exemplify the idea in respect of subjectivity. The first tradition stems from ‘sociosemiotics’ and the work of Bakhtin, Halliday, Kress, Ponzio and Petrilli; the second stems from ‘biosemiotics’ and the work of Hoffmeyer, Deely and, especially, Sebeok. The paper argues that, ultimately, the two traditions are closely related in their framing of the subject. This conclusion is reached not just because culture is a part of nature but because the inescapable facts of subjectivity, dialogue and semiosis suffuse the biosphere.
100. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 30 > Issue: 3/4
About the Author
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