Centre for Languages and Literature

The Joint Faculties of Humanities and Theology | Lund University

Research Profile

We take our point of departure in a critical reception of the so-called semiotics of culture, initiated by the Tartu school in the early seventies, mostly with a view of interpreting Russian history, and which was then developed by mostly German and North American semioticians. Our aim, however, is to apply this point of view to the differences between pre-modern and modern forms of communication in the widest sense of the term, and to their modification in recent times. We are particularly interested in the spatial expression of these forms of communication, for instance the shape of the city. Another focus of our interest is the influence of new media, such as television and computers, and the increasing importance of some old sign types, such as pictures.

Another line of reasoning which we are pursuing has to do with the position of the art sphere within culture, as a specific, but ever-changing, part of the wider domain of picture production. We have also taken an ever more acute interest in the difficulties of contact between Swedish culture and other cultures, those outside its domain of spatial extension, naturally, but also those which nowadays occupy the same space, that is the immigrant cultures.

This interest has developed from an earlier preoccupation with the more formal differences between the potentialities of verbal language and pictures for conveying information. This research interest in now pursued, partly in the sense of a revision of visual rhetoric, and also as a study of the different potentialities of pictorial and verbal vehicles for conveying specific types of information such as, most notably, narrativity. The two dominant strains of this research have been, on the one hand, a critique of the critique of iconicity (as conduced by Eco and Goodman, among others), And on the other hand the development of a model for pictorial semiotics, which is based on visual rhetoric, itself founded on concepts of indexicality and opposition.

This work started out long ago as an attempt to study linguistic problems in an integrated semiotic framework, meant as a substitute for the “pragmatic waste-basket”. This attempt was extended, during my Paris years, into a semiotics of gestuality. I have recently taken up this line of study again. An even more recent line of development, within the framework of the project "Language, gesture, and pictures from the point of view of semiotic development", concerns developmental semiotics. This line of study was taken further in the EU-project Stages in the Evolutiona and Development of Sign Use and inte the present Centre for cognitive semiotics. Semiotic research in Lund is based on phenomenological analysis but does also use experiments and other empirical studies.


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