The Textuality of Culture: Jurij Lotman’s semiotic theory in the history of literary criticism

Field: Litteraturvetenskap, slaviska språk
Project leader: Aleksei Semenenko
Starting year: 2008
Project type: Project

The aim of this project is the critical conceptualization of Lotman’s idea of culture in the context of the history of literary criticism and cultural theory.

The Tartu-Moscow Semiotic School was an exceptionally productive academic group, which became a phenomenon of the academic life not only in Estonia and Russia but in the Western world as well. Jurij Lotman’s name is known to every scholar or researcher who has ever been interested in structuralist poetics and/or cultural semiotics.

The project will focus on one of the most crucial constituents of Lotman’s theory: there will be scrutinized such essential concepts as the notions of culture, text as a modeling mechanism, and semiosphere. The project will attempt to formulate how these theoretical concepts work in practice as the effective tools of text analysis. The conclusive goal is to investigate how Lotman’s theory corresponds to the modern theories of textual criticism and interpretation and what advantages it offers to the researcher.

The major importance of this project is that it points to the historical significance of Lotman’s theory for literary studies, at the same time showing how Lotman transcends the traditional boundaries of academic disciplines (e.g., studies of literature, culture, history, philosophy). Nowadays, when structuralism and semiotics are generally perceived as anachronisms, a new look at Lotman’s legacy proves the relevance of his readings of culture in the present epoch of “post-post-structuralism”.

The proposed project thus concentrates on an interdisciplinary research that comprises literary criticism, cultural studies, history of ideas and semiotics in historical and comparative perspective.