semiootika osakond

Conference "Culture in Mediation: Total Translation, Complementary Perspectives"
26-27 November 2010.

To mark Peeter Torop's 60th birthday, an international conference "Culture in Mediation: Total Translation, Complementary Perspectives" will be held at the University of Tartu on 26-27 November 2010.

Peeter Torop, Professor of Semiotics of Culture at the University of Tartu, is one of the most notable representatives of modern translation studies and semiotics of culture in Estonia and his theory of total translation as well as publications on cultural semiotics have attracted attention and recognition also in the international academic community.

As a general development of recent decades in the theories of culture, static descriptions have more and more given way to dynamical and processual approaches. In this context, the present conference picks up the concept of mediation, understood as an overarching term to cover all kinds of information processing and exchange taking place in culture. Culture mediates and is being mediated, shaping the complex autocommunicative regulation and dynamics between different levels and languages of description.

Inasmuch as mediation in culture depends on languages or other sign systems, it can be productively analysed as translational processes. The title of the conference includes a reference to the concept of "total translation", which points to the ubiquity of translational processes in culture. Regarding the concept of translation as including various kinds of mediating processes in culture brings about the need for an interpretive methodology to account for their diversity both on the object- and meta-levels.

The keywords for the conference point to the areas of research that are in one way or another related to cultural mediation: semiotics and theory of culture, semiotics of translation and intersemiotic processes in culture, literature and history of literature, different types of autocommunication, history of science, including history of cultural semiotics and translation history.

The conference will be organised by the Department of Semiotics at the University of Tartu and the Estonian Semiotics Association.

Registration of presentations for the conference is finished.

Additional information:

Elin Sütiste
Researcher at the Department of Semiotics, University of Tartu

Katre Väli
Member of the Board of the Estonian Semiotics Association

Appeared Hortus Semioticus 5: semiotics of crisis
may 2010

In the beginning of the longed for spring of the year 2010, we are still talking about the crisis and economic recession of the years 2008 and 2009. The aftershocks of the crisis are pretty frightening, the number of unemployed is growing, the economic and political backbones of the country are shattered, and people are yearning for changes. These changes can be either realistic or illusional, but either are tempting, in the hope of returning to the previous well-being. The current, fifth issue of Hortus Semioticus is dealing with different kinds of crises around us, expanding upon the shifts and changes in the socio-political landscape.

In addition to the articles the issue contains an interview (in English) with a Canadian cultural semiotician Roger Parent from the University of Alberta. He is known for his theory of semiotics of conflict and conflict management tools, and has stood our as a strong supporter of the semiotic ideas of the Tartu-Moscow School.

View the number:

Research Seminar in Zoosemiotics and Animal Representations
2.04.2010, 10.00-16.00
Tartu, Tiigi 78-324


10.15 Coffee and introductory words
10.30 Morten Tønnessen. Territory vs. confinement - the Umwelten of free-range vs. captive wolves
11.00 Nelly Mäekivi. Zoological garden as a semiotic environment
11.30 Teevi Subert. Sümboliline kommunikatsioon
12.00 Silver Rattasepp. The changeable and the unchangeable, or how practice becomes

12.30 – 14.00 Lunch break

14.00 Timo Maran. Analyzing Th. A. Sebeok’s bibliography: initial results, problems and
14.30 Elena Grigorjeva. XX XY indication of the chromosome
15.00 Lona Päll. Vabaduse ökosemiootiline käsitlus J. Kaplinski “Lahkujate” põhjal
15.30 Kadri Tüür. Birds and herrings: the Estonian tradition of maritime travel literature


Seminar SEMIOTICS OF ORGANIC FORM next Thursday, 18. february, 16:30, Tiigi 78-119

Kalevi Kull - Structuralism and semiotic of organic form
Jesper Hoffmeyer - Form, substance and semiosis
Scott Gilbert - Semiotics of animal form

Jesper Hoffmeyer is world's leading biosemiotician (University of Copenhagen), Scott Gilbert American leading developmental biologist. Homepages:

After seminar free discussion at Tammekuru 5

Roger Parent: Semiotics of cultural conflict
october 2009, Tartu

This semiotic-based course in intercultural training provides theoretical and methodological foundation principles and practices for resolving cultural conflicts through exchange. The proposed model twins Tartu cultural text semiotics with peircean phenomenological sign theory in designing strategies for cultural analysis, intercultural communication and problem solving.

Using semiotics as a bridge between the humanities and the social sciences, this course offers an interdisciplinary synthesis of emerging approaches to intercultural training. This training is both cognitive and experiential in nature, combining an overview of relevant semiotic theory as well as practical fieldwork activities. Participants work from a learner-centered, hermeneutic basis in developing increased awareness to their own cultural backgrounds and to the manner in which these perceptions impact on the interpretation of other cultures. Emphasis is placed on strengthening the individual participant’s intercultural skills in a problem-solving situation.

Audio-visual support material assist in developing the capacity for identification to a target environment. Learning kits then guide participants through transfer and transformation activities by which they design projects for intercultural exchange with respect to clearly determined collective needs.

course structure:

A five module structure over four weeks.

Week #1, October 5, 7, & 9
Mlodule one. Culture as identity.
• Semiotics and models of organizational culture (social psychology).
Module two. Culture as system.
• Tartu Cultural semiotics and cultural evolution.

Week # 2, October 12, 14, & 16
Module two. Culture as system.
• Cultural functions and cognitive mapping.
Module three. Culture as communication.
• Peirce and phenomenological semiotics.
• The cultural interpreter and the data-gathering process
• Developing skills in social communication.

Week # 3, October 19, 21 & 23
Module three. Culture as communication.
• Discursive analysis and life story.
Module four. Culture as creativity.
• a cultural and communicative process.

Week # 4. October 26, 27 & 29
Module four. Culture as creativity
• Identifying personal and collective resources for intercultural exchange.
Module five. Culture as exchange.
• Greimas and the theory of modalities in the exchange process.
• Designing the intercultural exchange.

Course scedule and more details [PDF]

International seminar "Signs of Love"
May 14, 2009, Tartu, /Domus Dorpatensises/ (Ülikooli 7)


10.00–10.15 Margit Sutrop Opening words
10.15–10.45 Peeter Torop Love and cultural analysis
10.45–11.25 Philippe Combessie, Lara Mahi (Pariis University) Signs of love in French cultural space

11.2511.40 Coffee

11.40–12.05 Ilja Utehhin (Peterburg European University) Signs of love in Russian cultural space
12.05–12.45 Ülo Mäeots Signs of love in Estonian cultural space

12.45–13.15 Coffee

13.15–13.40 Ülo Vooglaid (University of Tallinn) System of dispositions as object of study
13.40–14.00 Lembit Kaarna. Jealousy - crimes of passion and suicides
14.00–14.20 Toivo Aavik Signs of love through the eyes of a psychologist
14.20–15.20 Best works from an essay contest ”The story of my love”.
15.20–16.00 Mihhail Lotman (University of Tartu/ University of Tallinn). Semiotics of love

Umberto Eco in Tartu
Mat 6-7, 2009, Tartu

World-famous semiotician, philosopher and novelist Umberto Eco will be visiting Estonia at the invitation of the Estonian Center of Excellence for Research in Cultural Theory.

On May 6 Eco’s honorary doctorate inauguration ceremony will take place in the UT Assembly Hall, followed by a public lecture, titled "On the ontology of fictional characters: A semiotic study" and meeting with researchers and students from the UT Department of Semiotics.

On May 7 Umberto Eco will participate in the literary festival Prima Vista as an honorary guest. At the festival, he will deliver a public lecture entitled "Going backwards?" and meet with publishers and translators.

Eco’s Estonian visit will continue on 8 May in Tallinn, where he will visit the personal archive and library of Juri Lotman and Zara Mints and participate in a seminar organized by the Center for Research in Cultural Theory.

Umberto Eco is a professor at the University of Bologna. His book "A Theory of Semiotics" (1976) belongs to the classics in the field, and the same holds true for his novel "The Name of the Rose". Nine of Eco’s books have been published in Estonian.

Intensive course by Roger Parent
March 16-25, 2009, Tartu

Canadian semiotician Roger Parent (PhD, University of Alberta) gives an intensive course on crisis management, based on semiotics of Tartu school.

SEMIOTICS OF CULTURAL CONFLICTS: applied cultural semiotics and intercultural training (emerging models and methods)

This course comprises 8 lectures and exam. Instruction will provide for both cognitive and experiential learning on interdisiplinary and multi-levelled approaches to intercultural training. Semiotics will be used as a bridge between the humanities and the social sciences. Emphasis will be placed on cultural creativity as well as on points of convergence between Tartu cultural semiotics, anthropology, social and cognitive psychology.

MARCH 16 (14:00 –16:00 Ülikooli 16-214)
Seminar 1. Applied Cultural Semiotics and Intercultural Training
Seminar 2. Cultural Identity and Intercultural Conflict

MARCH 17 (10:00 – 12:00 Tiigi 78 -311)
Seminar 3. Cultural Analysis : a Functionalist / Systemic Approach
Seminar 4. Cultural Analysis and Tartu Cultural Semiotics

MARCH 18 (16:00 – 18:00 Tiigi 78-311)
Seminar 5. Intercultural Training and Cognitive Mapping
Seminar 6. Intercultural Communication and Peircean Phenomenological Semiotics

MARCH 20 (16:00 – 18:00 Tiigi 78 -311)
Seminar 7. Tartu Cultural Semiotics and E. T. Hall’s Great Triad
Seminar 8. Narrative and Data-gathering in Cultural Analysis

MARCH 21 (11:00 – 15:00 Tiigi 78-311)
Seminar 9. Discursive Analysis and Oral Narratives
Seminar 10. Cultural Creativity and the Concept of Text

MARCH 22 (11:00 – 15:00 Tiigi 78-311)
Seminar 11. Tartu Cultural Semiotics and Creativity Training
Seminar 12. Cultural Evolution and Identification of Cultural Needs

MARCH 23 (18:00 – 20:00 Tiigi 78-311)
Seminar 13. The Meta-Narrative of Exchange : Greimas and the Theory of Modalities
Seminar 14. Spatio-temporal Localisation of Scenarios for Cultural Development

MARCH 24 (10:00 – 12:00 Tiigi 78-311)
Seminar15. Intercultual Exchange as Process
Seminar 16 . Synthesis

MARCH 25 (16:00 –19:00 Tiigi 78-311)
Final exam

Dr Roger Parent is professor at Campus Saint-Jean, University of Alberta, in Western Canada. His interdisciplinary research on culture, art and performance has received national awards for the integration of research and teaching (including the Government of Alberta Award of Distinction‚ McCalla Fellowship and Killam Cornerstone Research Grant)
This interdisciplinary course provides theoretical instruction and applied training on culture and performance, focusing on analysis of cultural need, intercultural communication, development of creative process and project management. The course has a three-fold purpose to: 1) provide learners with effective concepts and methods for working with culture and for intervening successfully in the cultural environment of their choice; 2) heighten awareness to culture as the single most important influence affecting individual and group performance; and, 3) provide a practical approach to cultural change or innovation.
A series of five broadcast-quality documentaries, Cultures in Conflict, illustrates major contributions of Twentieth Century research to our current understanding of culture, communication and creativity. These videos feature interviews with cultural spokespeople from different communities around the world; images of recent and historic events involving various cultural groups as well as commentary on these events by scholars from around the globe and across a broad range of disciplines. The documentaries and accompanying learning kits set up a socio-constructivist learning environment that aims at sustaining a high degree of motivation and at fostering autonomous and individualized learning through discovery and interaction between the participants.
Through its performance objectives, the course develops five basic intercultural skills for meeting the challenges of cultural diversity and a global economy: • Increased awareness to culture and identity in professional and personal relationships.
• Demonstrated ability for effective cultural analysis and identification of collective need with a target community.
• Proven intercultural communication skills for fieldwork and data-gathering activities in the chosen environment.
• Enhanced creativity for problem-solving through performance and communicative action involving community partners.
• Improved capacity for meeting collective need through project design and intercultural exchange.

Lectures by Paul Cobley
February 11 and 12, 2009, Tartu

British semiotician, narratologist and film theoretician Paul Cobley gives three lectures in Tartu:

(1) "Narrative: time, modeling systems and abduction" - on wednesday, february 11, 16.00 Ülikooli 18-232 (Additional information Nordic Network of Narrative Studies)

(2) "Cultural implications of biosemiotics" - thursday, February 12, 12.15 Lossi 3 - 329.

(3) "Cobley-Deely trialogue" - thursday, February 12, 16:00 Emajõe Suursoo kaitseala Kantsi center - with prof. John Deely'ga. More information about transportation:

Course by John Deely
Spring 2009 Course at Tartu University, Department of Semiotics under John Deely, Visiting Professor

Thematic Description. As we come to understand the dependency of our experience upon the action of signs, we also come to understand that our very identity as persons, along with our survival as a biological life-form, is involved with this same activity. Moreover, if the action of signs is to be called “semiosis”, then the human being proves to be unique among animals in being the only one that, besides depending upon the use of signs, comes to the awareness that there are signs in the first place, though it turns out that what makes the things we can see or hear or point to be signs actually and functionally are relations invisible to sense, which apprehends only related things. This course will have as its objective to think through the implications of this dependency we have upon the action of signs, and to consider how far that action extends in the world itself (the physical universe) within which semiotic animals — humans — live and move and have their being.

Discussion Themes for Seminar:
13: the semiotic animal
20: signs and causality
6: relation and substance
13: the indirectness of relation and its import for semiosis
20: semiotic entanglement
27: “final causality”
3: language and relations
10: semiosphere: rethinking culture
17: semiosis and responsibility (or “responsibility within semiosis”)
24: so how do signs work?
15: general discussion

The course will take place:
On Fridays on above indicated dates in Tiigi 78 room 311 at 14.15 - 16.00

John Deely (born April 26, in 1942) is a Professor of Philosophy at the Center for Thomistic Studies of the University of St. Thomas (Houston). For all those interested in semiotics, John Deely needs no further introduction, his writings are known very well and his statements have provoked a lot of discussions. He is the leader of current American semiotics, and a reknown specialist in the history of philosophy.
His main research concerns the role of semiosis (the action of signs) in mediating objects and things. He specifically investigates the manner in which experience itself is a dynamic structure (or web) woven of triadic relations (signs in the strict sense) whose elements or terms (representaments, significates and interpretants) interchange positions and roles over time in the spiral of semiosis.
He was 2006-2007 Executive Director of the Semiotic Society of America.
A selection of his writings.
Four Ages of Understanding (Univ Toronto: 2001)
What Distinguishes Human Understanding (St. Augustine's: 2002)
The Impact on Philosophy of Semiotics (St. Augustine's: 2003)
• A third edition of his classic Basics of Semiotics (Indiana Univ: 1990) was published in Bulgarian, Esperanto, Estonian, and Italian.
Intentionality and Semiotics (Scranton: 2007)

Series of events: Phenomenology meets semiotics
February 2009, Tartu

The events that will take place in Tartu, February 2009, represent a meeting between the traditions of phenomenology and semiotics in general, and a phenomenology of the sensuous and semiotics of nature in particular. Though many other scholars are now getting involved, the occasion of the events is philosopher David Abram´s visit to Estonia.

The topic of the first workshop, 'The Ecology of Perception: Landscapes in Culture and Nature' (Feb. 6-7), is the land that sustains the living and constitutes their life worlds. A second workshop, 'Animal Minds' (Feb. 9-10), will focus on the existential condition of animality - including the animal factor in human nature.

More information ..

Public Lecture by Dr. Karel Kleisner
Monday, November 10 / 2008, 12.00 Department of Semiotics, University of Tartu (Tiigi St. 78-311)

Dr. Karel Kleisner from Department of Philosophy and History of Sciences Charles University in Prague gives a public lecture:

On the Theoretical Biology of Adolf Portmann: Interdependence of the Outermost and the Innermost

Nobody in the twentieth century appreciated the appearance of organic beings as much as the Swiss zoologist Adolf Portmann. Similarly to Jakob von Uexküll, Portmann emphasizes the role of self-experience of every living being, which defines its position in the world. While the majority of biologists turned their research activities to the hidden realm of organic matter, Portmann never stopped asserting that the most important is shown on the surface. In this brief exposition, we will focus on some of Portmann’s influential ideas with the attempt to develop them further in the light of current knowledge.

Resemblances in Nature and Culture:
Theoretical and Semiotic Perspectives
8.-9. November 2008. Tartu, Estonia

Organised by
Department of Semiotics, University of Tartu
Jakob von Uexküll Centre (at Estonian Naturalists’ Society)

Resemblances and similarities are often overlooked in research as they are considered to be semiotic primitives. They stand behind various important phenomena in nature and culture, such as species recognition, mimicry and camouflage, convergent evolution, figurative art, imitative magic and theatre performances. All these examples are at the same time instances of communication, and that raises the general question about the place of resemblance in communication and representation. In semiotics, communicative resemblance is expressed in Charles S. Peirce’s concepts of iconic signs and iconicity. In cultural theory, mimesis is used in explanation of the various occasions of resemblances. In biology, homology and analogy, and their relations describe similar phenomena.
It seems that communication by resemblance has important role in the peripheries of semiotic systems, where symbol-based semiotic processes are not so dominant. As examples of this, mimetic strategies in post-colonial cultures (H. K. Bhabha), language plays of children (W. Benjamin) and onomatopoeias in nature writing and folklore can be brought out. In representation, mimetism can also be combined in different ways with symbolic meanings. Communication by resemblance seems to be more effective in crossing semiotic borders between different cultures, discourses and species, as it is apparent for instance in interspecific mimicry and many forms of communication in symbiotic relations. As theoretical concepts, resemblance and its relatives seem to be profitable to the development of zoo- and biosemiotics. Likeness in the form of empathy can also have crucial ethical implications accentuating the relevance of the concept to ecosemiotics and nature philosophy.
To discuss these and many other forms and faces of the resemblance, we call together an international working seminar. Our hope is to create an open academic atmosphere with presentations, discussions and roundtables.
Additional information ..

Dr. Timo Maran
Phone: +372 5097266

Ester Võsu
Phone: +372 56632766

Postal address:
Department of Semiotics, University of Tartu.
Tiigi 78
Tartu 50410

Seminar is supported by:
Estonian Science Foundation
University of Tartu
Cultural Endowment of Tartu

International conference
Frontiers in Comparative Metrics
November 21-23, 2008, Estonia

The Frontiers in Comparative Metrics conference (in memoriam Mikhail Gasparov) will be held on November 21–22, 2008 in Tallinn and on November 23 in Tartu, Estonia. The organizers of the conference are the Department of the Cultural Theory at the Tallinn University and the Departments of Semiotics and Classical Philology at the University of Tartu. The language of the conference will be English.

Main topics of the conference:

· Theory of versification and comparative studies in metrics and rhythmics
· Frontiers in Indo-European metrics
· Fenno-Ugric metrics
· Classical heritage and contemporary poetic culture
· Semantics of verse

Expected plenary speakers will be:

David Chisholm, University of Arizona
Paul Kiparsky, Stanford University
Mihhail Lotman, Tallinn University, University of Tartu
Gregory Nagy, Harvard University
“Current research on the performance of archaic Greek hexameter”
Seiichi Suzuki, Kansai Gaidai University
“Catalexis and Suspension of Resolution in Eddic Meters”
Marina Tarlinskaja, University of Washington
“Kyd's Canon: Verse Attribution”
Reuven Tsur, Tel Aviv University
“Metricalness and Rhythmicalness. What Our Ear Tells Our Mind”

Preliminary list of speakers:

Maria Akimova, Moscow State University
“Rhythmical forms in Dante's The Divine Comedy”
Andrew S. Becker, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
“Lesbium servate pedem: Ictus and Accent in the Sapphics of Horace and Ausonius”
Anastasia Belousova, Lomonosov Moscow State University
“Horace in Russian: Iambic and Logaoedic Translations, and Thematic and Metric Derivations”
Lev Blumenfeld, Carleton University
“On some abstract similarities between Latin and Greek dialogue meters”
Sergej Bolotov, Russian State University for the Humanities
“Three Sides of One Medal: Re-accentuation and Comparative Syllabo-Tonics”
Ulf Cronquist, Gothenburg University
“Versification, Semiotics and Cognition: Perverse and Natural Meaning Production in Leonard Cohen’s ”Hallelujah”
Richard D. Cureton, University of Michigan
“Time and Form”
Albert Davletshin, Russian State University for the Humanities
“The <e> Poetic Vowel in the Polynesian Languages and Polynesian Poetic Traditions”
Stephen Evans, University of Turku
“Metrical Movement in Archaic Greek Poetry”
Kiril Golovastikov, Lomonosov Moscow State University
“The Russian Syllabic Translation of The Divine Comedy: Problems in Metrics”
Peter Groves, Monash University
“A comparative study of the perception of metrical complexity in English”
Satu Grünthal, University of Helsinki
“Between free and bound verse: Ilpo Tiihonen’s poetic language”
Piers Hugill, University of Southampton
“A comparative metrical reading of Browning’s Sordello and ‘Bishop Bloughram’s Apology’ using the method of rhythmical analysis adopted by Henri Meschonnic”
Robert Ibrahim, Charles University
“A Dialogue with Teachers – Miroslav ?ervenka's Contribution to the Formalist-Structuralist Theory of Verse”
Siru Kainulainen, University of Turku
“Rhythm and meaning in Eila Kivikk’aho’s poem
”Minussa vaikenevat taas” (”Silent within me again”)”
Igor Karlovsky, Tallinn
“Evolution of Maksimilian Voloshin's dactylo-trochaic hexameter”
Artem Kozmin, Russian State University for the Humanities
“Syllabic Verse and Vowel Length in Tonga, Hawaiian and Rapanui”
Marina Krasnoperova, Evgeny Kazartsev, St. Petersburg State University
“Reconstructive simulation of versification in the comparative studies of texts in different languages (theoretical aspects and practice of application)
Jörgen Larsson, University College of Borås
“Rhythm and semiotics”
George Levinton, European University at St. Petersburg
“Proto-Slavic epic verse and reconstruction of epic formulas”
Eva Lilja, Gothenburg University
“Some Aspects of Poetic Rhythm”
Maria-Kristiina Lotman, University of Tartu
“The typology of the Estonian hexameter”
Karoliina Lummaa, University of Turku
“Reading non-human life. Rhytm and tone in three Finnish nature poems”
Sergei Lyapin, St. Petersburg
“Poetic language: «uncertainty» as a principle (Faulkner, Musil, Dostoevsky, Pushkin)”
Alexandra Nikolskaya, St. Petersburg State University
“Albanian verse: between syllabics and tonics”
Triinu Ojamaa, Estonian Literary Museum; Jaan Ross, Estonian Academy of Music,University of Tartu
“Some Problems of the Structure and Metre in Nenets Folk songs”
Igor Pilshchikov, Moscow
“Problems in Automatization of Basic Procedures Involved in Rhythmic and Syntactic Analysis of Syllabo-Tonic Texts”
Rein Raud, Tallinn University
“Nushi aru kotoba (“words with owners”) and other modes of authorial presence in waka poetry”
Geoffrey Russom, Brown University
"A comparative study of alliteration in early Irish and English meters."
Mari Sarv, Estonian Literary Museum
“The possible foreign influences of the metrics of the Estonian regisong: language or culture”
Vadim Semenov, University of Tartu
(Title will be specified)
Nicola Scaldaferri, University of Milano
“Rhythmical Analysis of the Arbëresh Oral Poems: Some Consequences on the Study of Arbëresh and Albanian Versification”
Tatyana Skulacheva
"Verse and prose from the linguistic aspect”
Yasuko Suzuki, Kansai Gaidai University
“Metrical structure as a reflection of linguistic structure: A comparative study of Germanic alliterative poetry and Japanese tanka”
Aile Tooming, Tallinn University
“Between hope and desperation: semantics of verse in Uku Masing’s poetry”
Grigori Utgof, Tallinn University
“Skol’ko Stoiat v Londone Galoshi”: Quasi-trochees in Nabokov’s Prose”
Stefano Versace, University of Milan, Strathclyde University
“Eugenio Montale’s Italian “Sprung Rhythm”?”

Estimated time for the speech is 30 minutes (20 minutes for presentation and 10 minutes for discussion).

Participation fee: 75 EUR. The participation fee should be transferred to the account of the Estonian Semiotics Association (account number: 334409040007 at the Sampo bank, the reference info: FCM 2008, conference fee) by October 1, 2008.

Organizing committee:

Mihhail Lotman
Maria-Kristiina Lotman
Katre Kaju
Annika Kuuse
Aile Tooming

Department of Cultural Theory, Tallinn University
Department of Semiotics, University of Tartu
Estonian Semiotics Association
Department of Classical Philology, University of Tartu

For any further questions, please contact us at

Looking forward to seeing you in Tallinn and Tartu in November 2008!

Quest lecturer Prof. Ivan Mladenov
April 17-25, 2008

Prof. Ivan Mladenov from Bulgarian Academy of Sciences gives a short course in Department of Semiotics, entitled "American Pragmatism and Semiotics"
     Introductory lecture: April 17, 16.15.-17.45, room 311
     Seminar: April 18, 14.15-15.45, room 311
     Seminar: April 25, 14.15.-15.45, room 311
Shortly, American pragmatism is semiotics or, rather American pragmatism is mostly about semiotics. Its founder, the American polymath and prolific scientist, considered as the greatest American philosopher, Charles S. Peirce, invented it as a doctrine in 1870. He is also the founder of the American semiotics, which is simply a terminological wrap of its philosophy.
A central theme of pragmatism is that philosophical research is a profoundly social enterprise. In sum, pragmatism is for Peirce a method for determining or fixing, the meaning of concepts, ideas, beliefs, claims, propositions, etc., of anything that can act as a sign. Pragmatism as a method of deriving meaning permeates every art- or, thinking act, adjust it and gives it sense. In other words, it is a meaning theory for self-correcting and better orienting in the world of ideas.

Introductory lecture, scanning the schedule of the course, general overview of the objectives. American philosophy: Charles Sanders Peirce, his magnificent life and failures, his scientific achievements.

Seminars' topics
* Some historical backgrounds of the American philosophy. Introducing the ideas of knowledge in general vs. semiotics. Monadic, dyadic and/or triadic thinking.
* Charles Peirce's philosophy - from early writings to his mature theories.
* American pragmatism and its development from a theoretical maxim to a doctrine of meaning.
* The American version of semiotics as a theory of searching for truth. Meaning, according to the pragmatic maxim and as an art conception.

Course Readings
Available in the library of the department of semiotics.

Introductory texts:
* Houser, Nathan 1992. Introduction. - Houser, Nathan; Christian Kloesel (eds.). The Essential Peirce vol.1, Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.
* De Waal, Cornelis 2001. On Peirce. Wadsworth Philosophical Topics.
Main texts:
* Peirce, Charles Sanders. On a New List of Categories. - The Essential Peirce vol.1, p. 3-9
* Peirce, Charles Sanders. Question Concerning Certain Faculties Claimed for Man. - The Essential Peirce vol.1, p. 10-27

Quest lecture by Dr. Nils Lindahl Elliot
January 28, 2008, 14:00, Tartu, Tiigi 78-127

Dr. Nils Lindahl Elliot will speak about represention and mediation of nature in media society. The title of the lecture is: "The problem of re/presentation in the "New Zoos": some reflections on the
nature of hypernaturalism".

What's wrong with nature?
January 25-26, 2008, Tartu

What's wrong with nature ? is an interdisciplinary seminar investigating human perceptions of nature and environmental change.

From the contemporary perspective of global warming and rapid environmental change, it seems obvious that there is something wrong with nature, for which human activity is to blame. Tracing the origin of the ecological crisis, it appears that this very idea is at the root of the problem - since, all through the ages, we have been „improving“ and taming nature as if there was something wrong with it from the very beginning. One way or another, humans have always had a sense of an urgent need to do something about nature. Does this, perhaps, entitle us to ask whether this attitude to nature is inevitable - a part of what it means to be human?

Perception matters - as does conceptualization. The aim of the seminar is to discuss how our perception of nature is shaped by our cultural traditions, science and the media and how this very perception, in its turn, by way of our actions is shaping nature itself. What is natural in a world of global, human-induced environmental change? What qualifies as an „environmental problem”, and solution? For whom is it a problem? To what extent is it fruitful to understand the ecological crisis in analogy with a natural catastrophe? As wilderness has been cultivated - has civilization gone wild?

Naming in Text, Naming in Culture
December 14-15, 2007

Nomination through proper names connects – as compared with the general name – with individual, unique kind of naming and separation of an object from its background. Proper name is not attached to a conception, instead it identifies and points to an object. Thus, proper name ought to be a less important, if not a-semiotic, matter for semiotics. Yet diverse connotations hook up with the proper name, and make it extremely meaningful. Proper names form a kind of intersemiotic layer in language that is relatively independent, though semiotically active in social situations. Theoreticians of the Tartu-Moscow school ascribe importance to such questions as (i) proper name as bearer of mythological consciousness, as a social sign that casts light to covert social processes; (ii) naming and not naming, or spheres named and spheres not named in culture, shifts of their boundaries in time and across cultures (including taboo); naming in social identity construction estrangement techniques bound to naming that are connected with the creation of the semiotic reality; (iii) the semiotic essence of proper and general names, their relations and transfer, i.e. – particularisation and generalisation, identification and categorisation as cultural mechanisms. A related field of study concerns proper name strategies in artistic texts that suggest the following topics of special interest for our conference:
  • the question of text of art as having the nature of a proper name;
  • the question of meaning and referent of the proper name in order to search the meanings of a text of art;
  • the question if the proper names in a text of art function as traditional proper names or the text of art shifts the ontological meaning of onomastic names;
  • the question if the circle of proper names is increased by the allusions in and out of the text, quoting and the identification processes connected with it.

The study of nomination is heuristically novel and valuable, since it has, lately, been shadowed by the approach that brings to front narrative or predication in a more general sense.
Naming connects to the issue of understanding what the world consists of after all, and with the topic of spatial signification on the metalevel. Name and naming are not merely about the matter of how signification links to language and the functioning of language in the semiological gist: the topic of naming binds names with space and, through space and changes in space, also with the category of time. Therefore, naming is the very spot between the physical and the conceptual where semiotisation, or modelling, takes place with a high probability of being executed with communicative purposes. If names are elementary units of language, then the creation of language and world are dynamically and elementarily bound. The creation of language and the semiotisation of space go hand in hand: ‘cultural space’ and units contained in it are essentially ideological - the use of language and the naming, or the semiotic usage of what exists in space, ought to be conceptually congenial. Naming binds the two spheres of concrete and abstract reference as the origin of abstract referents is present in the concrete ones. On the other hand, our discourse would touch upon the semiotisation of environment via culture-genetic names. Through naming, we can draw conclusions back to the structures of cultural areas as spaces of more or less homogeneous culture traits and the conceptual background of the latter. Some of the suggested highlight topics are:

  • existent items and their names in a cultural space;
  • epochs, proper names, historical chronotopes;
  • compression of descriptions into signifiers of the type of proper name, helping to organise a cultural space;
  • language, literature, and spatial signification in physical environment;
  • naming and intercultural relations.

Extended dates: Registration and abstracts – 25.11.2007

Registration fee: EUR 40, paid at spot
Contact: Tiigi 78-307, Tartu, Estonia. Phone/fax: +372 7375933. E-mail:

Finnish-Estonian Semiotics Seminar
„Currents in European semiotics“
November 7-10, 2007, Tartu


November 7, Wednesday

(Evening) Finnish delegation arrival to Tartu Housing in Tampere House and Uppsala House

November 8, Thursday

FIRST SESSION (Chair – Katre Väli, Ville Vaara) - aud. 125, Tiigi 78

9.15 Opening – Kalevi Kull, Harri Veivo
9.30-10.30 Prof. Peeter Torop (University of Tartu) – Methodology of cultural semiotics
10.30 Samuli Pöyhönen (University of Helsinki) – A dialectic of sign and referent: The looping effect of representations in the human sciences
11.00 Katrin Alekand (University of Tartu) – Decorated bodies

11.30 Coffee-break

aud. 118, Tiigi 78
12.15-13.15 Prof. Harri Veivo (University of Helsinki / The Finnish Network University of Semiotics) – Author research in contemporary semiotics of literature

13.15 Lunch (Shakespeare Café, etc.)

SECOND SESSION (Chair – Priit Põhjala, Maiju Lehto)
aud. 118, Tiigi 78

15.15 Riste Keskpaik (University of Tartu) – An ecosemiotic analysis of environmental discourses
15.45 Marko Laaksonen (National Defence University / The Finnish Network University of Semiotics) – Strategy as a sign: Preliminary interpretations about the strategy of Ministery of Defence of Finland
16.15 Ano Sirppiniemi (University of Helsinki) – Timbre as genre marker in electronic dance music production: case of Propellerhead Reason users

16.45 Coffee-break

17.15-18.15 Round table discussion – What should be taught to a professional semiotician. Chair: Silver Ratassepp, Sven Vabar.

19.00 Dinner (University Café, etc.)

November 9, Friday

THIRD SESSION (Chair – Ester Võsu, Siboné Roroza)
aud. 118, Tiigi 78

9.30-10.30 Prof. Erkki Vainikkala (University of Jyväskylä / The Finnish Network University of Semiotics) – Boundaries of narrative
10.30 Morten Tønnessen (University of Tartu) – Umwelt transition: Uexküllian phenomenology
11.00 Katre Pärn (University of Tartu) –  Why language of cinema?

11.30 Coffee-break

12.15-13.45 Prof. Mihhail Lotman (University of Tartu / University of Tallinn) – Conversations with God

13.45 Lunch (Shakespeare Café, etc.)

FOURTH SESSION (Chair – Andreas Ventsel, Heidi Pajari)
aud. 118, Tiigi 78

16.15 Vesa Matteo Piludu (University of Helsinki) – The bear as a Russian and Finnish national symbol
16.45 Sandra Grötsch (University of Oulu / The Finnish Network University of Semiotics) – "Send us an owl": magical mail services and pet relations in Harry Potter
17.15 Kaie Kotov (University of Tartu) – Final interpretant: A stumble on a semiotic threshold

19.00-24.00 General discussion and closing party (Deutsches Kulturinstitut Tartu, Kastani St. 1). The program includes a film with George Lakoff, “Why democrats can’t win” (27 min).

November 10, Saturday

(Morning) Finnish delegation departure from Tartu

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