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1. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 51 > Issue: 2
Thomas-Andreas Pöder, Matthew L. Kalkman

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semiotic spatiality

2. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 51 > Issue: 2
Thomas-Andreas Pöder

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The article explores the question whether the way in which Juri Lotman uses the categories of semiotic explosion and unpredictability enables and necessitates the need to give space not only to different descriptions, but also to various self-descriptions (auto-communications) of religion in culture. In other words, the question is posed whether his concept of the semiosphere aids in making sense of the synchronic and diachronic contradictions and controversies in religion – both within what is perceived as a religion and between what are understood to be religions. The focus lies especially on whether Lotman’s semiotic theory of culture has a potential of advancing mutual recognition and supportive respect, that is – solidaristic tolerance between different religious and non-religious ways of being human. The claim is made that this is indeed the case as he models the human situation so that the ‘outside of the system’ is not understood only as a continuation of reality, but visualizes and includes within the system a space for a radical intrusion of possibility – for the truly unpredictable – on the level of culture, humanity, as well as the individual. Therefore, Lotman’s theory of culture could be developed further, in the direction of a translation device between different cultures (of religion), opening up new perspectives for dealing with the challenging semiotic situation in which we all find ourselves living in today.
3. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 51 > Issue: 2
Laura Gherlone

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While addressing the decolonial critique of Eurocentric modernity and the call for alternative cosmo-visions, this article retraces Juri Lotman’s culturological exploration towards the concept of ternarity [тернарность]: the scrutiny of the so-called binarism is what connects – without overlapping – the two perspectives. This long-distance dialogue will be built starting with the key notion of binary opposition, which will be analysed as a decolonial problem (Part I) and as a culturological problem (Part II). The analysis will focus on two central issues that stem from the either-or logic: the “othering mindset”, and the culture–nature dualism.
4. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 51 > Issue: 2
Magdalena Maria Kubas

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The representation of the Holy Virgin has long constituted one of the most important thematic lines in Italian poetry, both sacred and profane. In terms of the representation of space, the Blessed Mary was traditionally placed in faraway, celestial hierarchies. In more recent periods, this figure is often placed in the space of earthly life, with which the lyrical subject (the enunciator) is more familiar. Juri Lotman’s perspective on the space of the typological description of culture shows that divinities belong mainly to the exterior (E) space of culture. Building on these considerations, the purpose of this article is to analyse recent Marian representations – both poetic and theological – in Italian culture. I will demonstrate that, during the 20th century in Italy, Marian sacrum was moved closer to or even inside interior space (I), as the Blessed Virgin started to appear mostly in scenes of daily life and her divine traits gradually lost importance. This kind of spatiality is also found in the ecumenical dialogue. The Second Vatican Council normalized both Marian theology and the faithful’s practices, which influenced textual production and brought about further changes in the spatial placement of Mary. While the general social trend towards secularization has been increasing the distance between the human and the divine, Mary’s sanctity was transferred to the interior space (I) of everyday life – and this could be one of the factors that relaunched Marian poetry.


5. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 51 > Issue: 2
Jason Van Boom, Alin Olteanu

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This paper examines the Great Kanon (also Great Canon; in the original Greek, Ὁ Μέγας Κανών) of St Andrew of Crete (ca. 660–740) as a case study in how religious ritual texts deploy autocommunicative processes. To study this complex liturgical hymn that occupies a key role in the ritual practice of Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic Christians we employ a theoretical framework rooted primarily in Juri Lotman’s theory of autocommunication, as complemented by more recent developments in social and cognitive semiotics, particularly ideas of multimodality and viewpoint. We find that the Great Kanon performs a variety of autocommunicative functions, primarily through its provision of a rhetorical metalanguage for the interpretation of the Old and New Testaments. This is a metalanguage which is multimodally enacted in ritual performance. The process makes the believer’s experience of reading the Bible an open and unfolding dialogue, in which the viewpoints of biblical characters become models for (re)interpreting one’s life experiences and reshaping one’s sense of self. The paper ultimately highlights that analyses of ritual texts, which deploy methods from cultural and cognitive semiotics, can deepen our understanding of autocommunication.
6. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 51 > Issue: 2
Jenny Ponzo

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Taking its cue from Juri Lotman’s essay “Pravo na biografiyu”, this paper re-formulates the categories proposed by Lotman in relation to the two models of the saint and the modern intellectual, the former exemplifying the perfect realization of the norm and the latter the rejection of the norm in the name of an individual rule. These two models are considered with reference to two case studies from contemporary culture, respectively provided by the Catholic saints and by intellectuals – especially semioticians. The argument in the former case, which also takes into consideration other fundamental essays by Lotman, shows that contemporary Catholic culture challenges the identification of sanctity with the ideal of perfect adhesion to the norm. This notion is apparently applicable only to hagiographies seen as part of a mechanism of stabilization by which the dominating religious culture tames the explosive potential of the saintly figure. In the latter case, reflection on the theoretical and autobiographical production of several authors related to the field of semiotics shows that a third model can be added to the two identified by Lotman. This third model consists in acquiring the right to biography and carrying out autobiography not in contrast with the norm, as the modern writers studied by Lotman did, nor by dissolving oneself into the norm, but rather by dissolving oneself into the Other, that is, by opening one’s mind so as to allow the Other to become an integral part of oneself. This model is exemplified by the work by Julia Kristeva, in particular Teresa, My Love (2008), in that it overcomes the distinction between biography and autobiography and describes an intellectual and a saint who become “roommates”.

meaning generation

7. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 51 > Issue: 2
Małgorzata Jankowska

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Both ancient and modern apocrypha have already been widely discussed in various fields of academic research, for example in religious, biblical or literary studies. Although such analyses say much about the historical and religious background of apocryphal writings and enable us to discover the depth of the symbolic resources used in such texts, they do not fully reveal the cultural impact of the canon. That is why a broader cultural analysis of both the canon and the apocrypha should be based on different methods of research, such as those that are offered by cultural semiotics. From the standpoint of Lotmanian semiotics modern apocrypha may be viewed as examples of the working of culture. They can be regarded as e.g. creative translation of the canon, tools of cultural autocommunication, memory devices, and meaning-generating mechanisms which dynamize the semiosphere. Semiotic analysis underlines the cultural impact of the canon not only as a set of sacred writings but also as a kind of a “cultural code”. The canon as a paradigmatic cultural text (in Aleida Assmann’s sense) is a powerful meaning-generating mechanism in which a huge number of texts intertextually relate to one another. In such relations hypertexts point out the symbolic (often archaic) nucleus of culture (thus they illustrate the statics of the semiosphere), at the same time describing and/or provoking some cultural changes (due to which they correspond with the dynamic nature of the semiosphere).
8. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 51 > Issue: 2
Ivo Iv. Velinov

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In this contribution I apply the semiotic method of Juri Lotman to a specific physical location – a significant Bulgarian religious monastery, in order to elucidate the Bulgarian metahistorical tradition. Any process of communication with a religious text involves a complex relationship with the reader. A readership image hidden in the Bulgarian religious text has played a central role for many generations; therefore, in addition to analysing a physical location, the method of communication in the area of “cultural centrality” has also been examined. The discussion focuses on a specific metahistorical text, the Testament of John of Rila, and the ways in which it interacts with important geographical and cultural areas and their hidden dimensions of “semiotic spheres”. The Testament is a part of Bulgarian cultural legacy and its role in the area of the “extra-cultural” and “cultural periphery” is remarkable.
9. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 51 > Issue: 2
Francesco Galofaro

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Starting from the third century, many songs, prayers, and icons testify to the way the Virgin Mary – Mother of God – has been attributed the role of protecting the community. Examples include the Akhathist hymn traditionally dated to the siege of Constantinople (626), the Polish anthem “Bogurodzica”, associated with the battle of Grunwald (1410), the icon of Częstochowa that protected Poland from the Swedish invasion (1655), and numerous others. The role of menace is embodied by different enemies: infidels, heretics, or atheists. The Virgin watches over the frontier between two cultural spaces: the inside and the outside of the semiosphere. A case study will provide insight into the function played by the Madonna at the border: the Madonna of the Rocciamelone, the highest sanctuary in Europe, founded by the crusader knight Rotharius (1358). A bronze statue of the Virgin was placed in the sanctuary in 1899. A small corpus of pastoral letters written by blessed Edoardo Rosaz, bishop of Susa (Piedmont), expresses the hope that the Virgin will protect Catholics from liberal heresy. Plastic oppositions such as top/bottom, resulting from the relationship between the Virgin and the landscape, are used to manifest abstract oppositions such as reason/passion, order/disorder, and Church/revolution. This homologation helps us understand how the Virgin, placed in upper space, embodies knowledge and cognition: she becomes a lookout, allowing a transfer of values from the semantic field of war to the religious one. The Virgin guards the border of the semiosphere, the border dividing the self from the other. Her function is the semiotization of incoming materials, transforming external non-communication into information and meaning. This article thus considers the Virgin as a semantic operator inverting the values of liberal discourse into information stored in Catholic cultural space. A mathematical model of the function played by the Virgin will be presented in the terms of quantum computing.
10. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 51 > Issue: 2
Matthew L. Kalkman

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Can the divide between science and religion be bridged? The current article will present the case for semiotics – and specifically the process of theosemiosis – as that platform of connection. In order to present this argument a key issue that must be tackled is whether there is one underlying function within the category of religion that can be extracted and held accountable in its knowledge claims: what has generally been termed the perennial philosophy. This extracted principle must then be capable of conforming to a broader model of consilience that can contain the knowledge captured in both science and religion. A model that can equally explain the work of Aristotle, Bacon, Galilee, and Einstein as it does Moses, Buddha, Jesus and Krishna, both in an ontological and epistemological sense; and thus a modification and extension of Enlightenment principles in such a way that they can capture the western and eastern notions of that light. In this regard, seeing truly is ‘knowing’.