SEMIOSALONG 2021 KEVAD: TRANSMUTATION (and other semiotic mechanisms)

2021. aasta kevade semiosalong koosleb 4 osast:

15. aprill: Tyler J. Bennett ja Ludmila Lacková
29. aprill: Mark Mets ja Andrew Creighton
14. mai: Herman A. Tamminen ja Elli M. Tragel
28. mai: Mariam Nozadze ja Federico Bellentani

Sari on seekord inglise keeles. Kohtumised toimuvad zoomis, lisainfo ja järelvaatamine:

Hooaja tutvustus:

A look into the everyday phenomenon of meaning creation might suffice to make us notice that meaning is often dependent upon more than one sign system. When we look at a movie, there are sounds, voices, music, images; when we speak with someone, there are gestures, there are pronunciations telling us where our interlocutor is from, there are hints telling us about her or his age; when we walk down the street there are signs that give indications to us by means of their shape, their color and their location. Every piece of information that we obtain from all the meaningful things we encounter every day is determined by the fact that each of these pieces of information are in fact signs belonging to different sign systems. It is thus interesting to ask, what kinds of relationships are established between sign systems? How is it that they can work together? Perhaps, one possible answer is that in addition to the possibility of expressing meanings in different ways, there are also meaningful units able to move from one sign system to another. Indeed, it might be so that there is a sort of permanent dialogue or negotiation between sign systems that allow us to make sense of the things we encounter every day. This, in its turn, might be seen as translation processes whereby a meaning gets transmutated as it moves from one sign system to another. It was Roman Jakobson who called transmutation this process of translating between different sign systems, but this is surely not the only way we can think about the relationships between sign systems. Accordingly, the aim of this Semiosalong series is to discuss, not only Jakobson’s concept, but all the other possible mechanisms and processes that lie behind the multifold interactions of the sign systems we use on our daily lives.

1.osa – 15. aprill

Ľudmila Lacková,“Between form and substance: a non-orthodox reading of Hjelmslev”

Our first presenter next week will be Ľudmila Lacková. She is an assistant professor at the Department of General Linguistics at Palacký University, Olomouc, and her main research interests include general semiotics, biosemiotics, structuralism, and general linguistics. Here is the abstract of her talk,”Between form and substance: a non-orthodox reading of Hjelmslev”:

Besides the formalization of Saussure´s model of the linguistic sign, the contributions Louis Hjelmslev made to linguistics seem to have not received all the attention they deserve. This might be due to the accessibility of many of his papers —lots of them available only in Danish or French— or, perhaps, to the excruciating complexity of glossematics. The work that introduced the Danish linguist to a broader audience was, most likely, the Prolegomena to a Theory of Language, translated by Francis J. Whitfield in 1957. However, a thorough exploration of the Hjelmslevian oeuvre might show that, surprisingly enough, some of the concepts presented in the Prolegomena are partially contradicted by the author himself in his less-famous writings. In this talk, I will present a non-orthodox reading of Hjelmslev, basing my argumentation on two central Hjelmslevian concepts: the attenuation of the dichotomy form-substance and the law of participation. We will see that the relation between form and substance is in fact more complex than a simple reduction to a binary opposition, this will ultimately force us to question the directionality of the determination between form and substance. The complicated relation between form and substance will be illustrated by examples of interlingual translation and various modalities of transmutation, with a focus on visual arts.
Hjelmslev, Louis 1928. Principes de grammaire générale. Copenhagen: A.F. Høst. Det.
Hjelmslev, Louis 1942 Langue et parole. Cahiers Ferdinand de Saussure (2), 29-44.
Hjelmslev, Louis 1954. La Stratification Du Langage, WORD, 10(2-3), 163-188.
Hjelmslev, Louis 1957[1943]. Prolegomena to a Theory of Language, trans. F. Whitfield, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
Hjelmslev, Louis 1972[1935-1937]. La catégorie des cas. Étude de grammaire générale. München: W. Fink.
Hjelmslev, Louis 1985. Structure générale des correlations linguistiques. In: Hjelmslev, Louis and Rastier, Francois, Nouveaux essais, L. Presses Universitaires de France.

Tyler James Bennett,“Rosetta stoned: the alphabet, the goddess and schizoanalysis”

Our second presenter next week will be Tyler James Bennett. He holds a PhD in Semiotics from Tartu University, and his main research interests are deconstruction, ideology critique, psychoanalysis and cognitive science. Here is the abstract for his talk,”Rosetta stoned: the alphabet, the goddess and schizoanalysis”:

Leonard Shlain’s The Alphabet versus the Goddess argues that ‘right brain’ feeling and affect have been suppressed by alphabetic language for millennia. Nowhere in Shlain’s book do you find citation of Jacques Derrida, however its main hypothesis is basically just a simplification of Derrida’s famous Of Grammatology. Much is lost in this simplification, but the texts of deconstruction themselves are so byzantine that they can be difficult to decipher. It is easy to demonize second-generation semiology for how preoccupied it remains with verbal language – this disavowal is a mistake, but there are some other features of their approach that should rightly trouble you. Deleuze and Guattari’s schizoanalysis provides an effective program for undoing logocentrism from the inside, but are you prepared for the results of total destratification?

Deleuze, Gilles; Guattari, Félix 2009[1972]. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. (Hurley, Robert; Seem, Mark; Lane, Helen R., trans.) Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. [Capitalisme et schizophrénie 1: L’Anti-OEdipe. Paris, Éditions de Minuit].
Derrida, Jacques 1976[1967]. Of Grammatology. (Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty, trans.) London: The Johns Hopkins University Press [De la grammatologie. Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit].
Shlain, Leonard 1998. The Alphabet versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image. New York: Penguin/Arkana.

2. osa – 29. aprill

Mark Mets, “Cultural Data and Semiotics: Transformations and Systems”

Our first presenter next week will be Mark Mets, Phd student of Cultural Studies at Tallinn University. Here is the abstract of his talk,”Cultural Data and Semiotics: Transformations and Systems”:

Digital culture and digitalization of culture create vast amounts of data; it transforms our cultures and societies as well as our academic meaning-making about them. There is a growing awareness about the limitations and dangers of using such data, but also about the possibilities it provides for academic research. This topic has not been ignored in semiotics. Different scholars have seen the importance of semiotics as a way to critically approach the big data as well as to work towards a systemic understanding of culture with big data and multidisciplinary research. Semiotics can also provide a better understanding of different transformations related to data from various modalities. This presentation gives a short insight into the topic of cultural data analysis by discussing some of the existing semiotic approaches in this direction, relating them to the topic of transformations, and raises questions about possible future research directions.

Andrew Creighton,“Implosion, umwelt and formal rationalization”

Our second presenter next week will be Andrew Creighton. He is a Phd student in semiotics at Tartu University. Here is the abstract for his talk: “Implosion, umwelt and formal rationalization”:

Implosions and formal rationalized systems have been a prevalent area of study for nearly four decades now. Researchers in this field have turned their attention to a variety of subjects including the merging of social spheres, technology, and roles and identity, however, a more physiological and biological perspective on these issues has largely been left unconsidered. In this presentation, I will demonstrate how the implosions of meaning under formal rationalized systems change and regulate biological entities and their abilities to incorporate and interact with the world.

3. osa – 13. mai

Elli Marie Tragel, “Catch a bull at four: transmutation and mindfulness”

Our first presenter next week will be Elli Marie Tragel. She is a PhD student of semiotics at the University of Tartu, her current research interests are Buddhism, deep experiences, autocommunication and semioethics. Here is the abstract for her talk, “Catch a bull at four: transmutation and mindfulness”:

In the contemporary course of turning mindfulness into an efficient quick-fix stress-reduction tool, discussion about cognitive processes involved in meditation practice seems to be isolated from the general rhetoric of spiritual development. When practicing meditation and integrating a mindful attitude into daily life, personal meaning-making processes are gradually (or in some cases, suddenly) altered. There are semiotic mechanisms involved in those autocommunicative practices of generating higher states of mind. Buddhist tradition has extensive experience in describing their dynamics. Chan/zen presents tons of literary texts and allegories (e.g. 10 ox-herding pictures) to illustrate the path of self-transformation from one system to another (and beyond). Although languages have their limitations, in combination with silence, they are the only means for being able to make sense of and articulate lived-through spiritual experiences. Understanding the flexibility and inherent emptiness of ways of knowing cannot be reached without an awareness of sign-systems, as one cannot transcend what one does not know.

Faure, Bernard 1994. The Rhetoric of Immediacy: A Cultural Critique of Chan/Zen Buddhism. Princeton University Press
.Master Sheng-yen; Stevenson, Dan 2002. Hoofprint of the Ox: Principles of the Chan Buddhist Path as Taught by a Modern Chinese Master. Oxford University Press.
Mäll, Linnart 2005. Studies in the Astasāhasrikā Prajñāpārāmitā and other Essays. Delhi: Motilal Bandarsidass.
Rambelli, Fabio 1998. Buddhism. Paul Bouissac (ed.). Encyclopedia of Semiotics. New York: Oxford University Press, 93–99.

Herman Tamminen. “Will the Sun shine on thy soul gods’ lustre of gold, or, Notes from between the above and below”

Our second presenter next week will be Herman Tamminen. He is a PhD student in semiotics at Tartu University. His interests include, but are not restricted to, the analogy of individual and collective intellect, symbolology, consciousness, dreaming, and modal semiotics. Here is the abstract for his talk,”Will the Sun shine on thy soul gods’ lustre of gold or, notes from between the above and below”:

It is well-known, that globally throughout the times there have existed several systems of belief that have deified the Sun. It is also well-known that gold (Au) is one of the most malleable of metals, oftentimes used as material for fetishes and decorations – for ritualistic and other, more down to earth purposes. The role of the Sun in systems of belief is quite intuitive, and the vague resemblance of gold to the Sun along with its physical characteristics in part explains its use. The Sun gifts the world the whole spectrum of light and fuels life itself, remaining inexplicable (in the past), crossing the skies as the earth revolves around it (in the past, and in language – from sunrise to sunset). Gold does nothing beyond being an object of lust for thehuman being since time immemorial; being the first metal ever employed by our species, it is still coveted for. The Sun – and by that, “the ineffable” – remains out of reach, whereas gold is relatively easily obtained and warped to our liking. Many systems of belief recommend that wenot beseech earthly riches but rather rid ourselves of lust and material greed. The economic situation of the world, however, shows otherwise. Hence, to an extent, the accumulation of wealth may be seen as symptomatic of the dissipated state of “the ineffable” in times. The aim of this presentation is to glare at some possible connections between the Sun and gold by resorting to analytic psychology and semiotics of culture. The semiotic position of the Sun will be charted according to the fragmentation of universal space, only to find its opposite within Earth, and their mutual relation will be studied. The material charateristics of gold, making it suitable to be connected with the Sun will be laid out, and the odd iconic relation between Sun :: god :: gold will be explored. Finally, some esoteric speculation over eras will be committed.

4. osa – 27. mai:

Mariam Nozadze, “Semiotic features of recognizing the Homeric hero. A study of adaptation poems”

Our first presenter next week will be Mariam Nozadze. She is a PhD student at Tbilisi State University, Classical Studies, and also holds a MA degree in Semiotics from the University of Tartu. Here is the abstract for her talk:”Semiotic features of recognizing the Homeric hero. A study of adaptation poems”:

This presentation investigates the representation of two Homeric characters Helen of Troy and Achilles in XX-XXI century English language adaptation poems; describing the semiotic transformations of these epithets. The study aims to explain the usage the Homeric epithets like “swift-foot Achilles”, “Achilles brave-heart”, “Helen white-armed” in contemporary texts showing the author’s choice of Homeric epithet as a ground layer of building their own character in his/her poem. Knowing the context of these poems as well as the rules and mechanisms of literary adaptations, are the primary interest in this research. To investigate the semiotic processes of Homeric epithets for the authors and for the readers of those poems, we apply the theoretical approaches and notions as followed: the Epic Reduction (Mary Hartley Platt, Epic reduction: receptions of Homer and Virgil in modern American poetry), notion of Fluctuation (Umberto Eco, On Literature, 2005), Myth and Repetition (Laurie Maguire, Helen of Troy: From Homer to Hollywood, 2009) Knowledge Activation (Edward J. O’Brien, Knowledge Activation, Integration, and Validation During Narrative Text Comprehension, 2014).

Federico Bellentani, “Transmuting the politics of memory and identity in the city: the case of Estonia”

Our second presenter next week will be Federico Bellentani. He earned his PhD from Cardiff University. His research analyses the effects of monuments on social memory and urban identity, using Estonia as a case study. In 2021, he published in his first book on Estonian monuments. Today, he is a vice president of the International Association of Semiotics of Space and Head of Marketing and Communication at Injenia, Google Cloud partner in Bologna, Italy. Here is the abstract for his talk “Transmuting the politics of memory and identity in the city: the case of Estonia”:

This presentation analyses how national politics of memory and identity transmuted into the city and its built environment, with a focus on monuments and memorials in Estonia. National elites can manipulate memory and identity for political purposes, helping to promote a uniform national memory and reinforce sentiments of national belonging. Often elites use the built environment as a text where to inscribe a specific image of the nation or the city. In doing so, they erect built forms aiming to legitimate their political primacy and to promote the kinds of ideals they want users to strive towards. This is especially the case of monuments and memorials: elites deliberatively design them to convey dominant historical narratives and to encourage specific future expectations on the basis of which to set their cultural and political agendas. As such, monuments can shape and spread dominant worldviews, reinforce political power and set off social dynamics of inclusion and exclusion. While elites design monuments to convey dominant meanings, their interpretations are never enclosed once and for all. The interpretations of monuments may change over time following change in culture, social relations, concepts of nation and views on past events, as the recent controversies during the Black Lives Matter protests demonstrated. Both the top-down and bottom-up interventions on controversial monuments can be seen as translation strategies to transform them as to be in tune with the given cultural context. These ideas are explored through an analysis of the trajectory of cultural reinvention through monuments in Estonia.