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Conversations with Lotman

Conversations with Lotman: The Implications of Cultural Semiotics in Language, Literature, and Cognition

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  • Book Info
    Conversations with Lotman
    Book Description:

    Andrews grapples with Lotman's difficult, sometimes contradictory, theories of human language, perception, and memory, offering semioticians the opportunity to read the first sustained study of Lotman's work in English.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7345-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xvi)

    As we move into the twenty-first century, there has been an explosion of interest in the study of human culture. As more scholars in the humanities and social sciences shift their research agendas to incorporate questions that were once defined mainly within the domains of anthropology and sociology, there has been a burgeoning of new theoretical approaches and modelling systems that attempt to identify and explain the central aspects of cultural phenomena. One field that has been especially concerned with defining and explaining cultural paradigms has beenanthroposemiotics,one of the most visible trends in European, Canadian, and American semiotics...


    • CHAPTER ONE Lotman’s Contributions to the Semiotics of Culture
      (pp. 3-12)

      Lotman’s most important contributions to the construction of a robust theory of the semiotics of culture are his definitions ofcultureandculture text.In a series of works written over a span of thirty years, he attempted to build a theory of culture culminating in the semiosphere defined as the fundamental space-context that is a prerequisite for the existence and functioning of culture and culture texts. Before discussing and contextualizing Lotman’s semiosphere (developed in chapters 3 and 4), I will introduce some of Lotman’s key working definitions of culture and show how he modified them in his later works....

    • CHAPTER TWO The Structure of Cultural Semiotic Systems
      (pp. 13-25)

      To initiate a discussion of the relationship between language and culture, and to begin to understand culture as a fundamentally semiotic phenomenon, Lotman attempts to set out a clear and succinct working definition ofculture.In a 1971 essay, he and his co-author Uspenskij define culture first and foremost as a bounded sign system (a relatively open system) that is made up of marks (Lotman 1993: III. 326–30). But this definition is not sufficient to distinguish the semiotic principles that define any system from the unique functional nature of culture. Semiotic systems are so ubiquitous in nature that it...

    • CHAPTER THREE Introduction to the Semiosphere
      (pp. 26-41)

      Sebeok characterizes communication as ‘that critical attribute of life which retards the disorganizing effects of the Second Law of Thermodynamics; that is, communication tends to decrease entropy locally. In the broadest way, communication can be regarded as the transmission of any influence from one part of a living system to another part, thus producing change. It is messages [i.e., information] that are being transmitted’ (1991: 22).

      Entropy can be defined as the physical measurement characterizing the heat of a body or cell, or of a system of bodies or cells. From a molecular perspective, entropy is the measure of probability...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Characteristics and Origins of the Semiosphere
      (pp. 42-70)

      InCulture and Explosion(1992), Lotman sets forth a mature, fully developed version of his theory of semiotic systems as they are defined by their accompanying semiotic space. The need for defining the fundamental principles of any sign system is explicated in the multiplicity of texts that serve to differentiate internal and external boundaries, different layers, and different levels of complexity within and among layers moving at many different and variable speeds. One of the key mechanisms that allows these texts to communicate with one another and to cross over the internal boundaries of cultural space is the existence varying...


    • CHAPTER FIVE Lotman, Bulgakov, and Zamyatin
      (pp. 73-92)

      All of Lotman’s numerous works on the history of Russian culture and Russian literary texts, from the Old Russian period to the twentieth century, are attempts to show the profound connections between the structural principles that define semiotic space in the context of specific instantiations of verbal (written and oral) and visual mediums of symbolic translation. As we have noted, culture texts for Lotman are sign-based invariant constructs that contribute to a definition of culture. Culture texts include verbal texts (including aesthetic, religious, and poetic text types), but are more broadly defined to encompass a variety of non-verbal texts – visual,...

    • CHAPTER SIX Bulgakov and Zamyatin
      (pp. 93-111)

      Soviet literature has a unique history – many of its most talented writers found their works forbidden, confiscated, or destroyed. Many Soviet writers were silenced through emigration, through imprisonment, or through death (by execution or suicide). Evgenij Zamyatin (1884–1937) and Mikhail Bulgakov (1891–1940) were two such silenced writers: Zamyatin’s works were not published between 1930 and 1988; Bulgakov’s prose was not published from the end of the 1920s until 1961. The links between these two writers’ works will be discussed in the context of two of their major works – Zamyatin’s ‘Drakon’ (1918) and Bulgakov’sThe Master and Margarita(completed...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Extending Lotmanian Theory
      (pp. 112-130)

      Lotman has argued, and I think convincingly, that the author of a literary text does not dominate the creation of artistic space - that person is but one of many creators. This shared creativity springs from unique position that such a text occupies as a ‘self-organizing mechanism’ that ‘repeats the general principles of the culture’s organization’ (Lotman 1992b: I. 206). Furthermore, any artistic space is only partially captured by a given artistic text (cf. the case in which an author develops her/his model of the world in a number of discrete texts). We have already seen thatlinear, planar,and...


    • CHAPTER EIGHT Visual and Auditory Signs in Human Language: Perception and Imagery
      (pp. 133-146)

      Roman Jakobson’s article ‘On the Relation between Visual and Auditory Signs’ articulates and analyses an important set of issues that are central in both the study of semiotics and in imagining technology and neuroscience. Although Jakobson’s original study encompassed a wide range of semiotic systems, including language, visual arts, film, and music (all from the anthroposemiotic sphere), I will focus on his conclusions as they relate to linguistic sign systems specifically, and attempt to demonstrate that the structural and perceptual importance of visual signs is no less significant than that of auditory signs in building and maintaining linguistic structures at...

    • CHAPTER NINE The Language of Memory in the Memory of Language
      (pp. 147-160)

      Peircean semiotic theory has repeatedly shown that the interaction of signs in semiosis is neither linear nor homogeneous. In fact, any activated sign becomes determinable and makes the transition from a merely potential sign to an actual functioning sign complex via multiple levels of interpretants. The modulation between the different kinds of interpretant types is determined by the degree of completeness of interaction – that is, whether or not we are dealing with a ‘third of thirds’ or something less developed (Peirce 1931–58: 8.315; Savan 1980: 257–60). The implications of such variability in sign development are clearly articulated by...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 161-178)
  9. References
    (pp. 179-192)
  10. Index
    (pp. 193-204)