Text dynamics: Renewing challenges for semiotics of literature

Katalin Kroó, Peeter Torop


The paper examines the problem of textual/cultural dynamics linked to the issue of semiotic literariness, to be further investigated by the authors in later papers on literary semiotics. This scientific project aims to get closer to reaching an adequate disciplinary identification for semiotics of literature and a relatively precise definition of the status of this field in relation to semiotics of culture. The first step for the project is to reveal the interrelationhip between text and culture using the notion of dynamics that can be reconstructed from a historical perspective through some essential components of Formalist and Structuralist theory (Tynyanov’s ‘function’, Jakobson’s ‘dominant’) and also works by Lotman (the ‘text–culture’ relationship) and Bakhtin (‘dialogue’). The notions of inclusiveness/integration, distancing and hierarchization, leading to transformation, are interpreted in some detail in the context of these theories. On these grounds, three basic categories of the analysability of textual/cultural dynamics are set up with the indication of further aspects of the dynamic function: (1) mediation; (2) transposition; (3) temporality–spatiality. The suggested classification and the implied conceptual segmentation are expected to contribute to a synthesis between “Structuralist” and Peircean theoretical and methodological orientations in semiotic literary studies. This also reveals the need for a coexistence of approaches (a) moving from particular cultural fields (literary culture tradition) towards general semiotics of culture, and (b) returning from universal transfield concepts to literary culture, including the historical traditions both in art (object-level) and its scientific interpretation (meta-level).


cultural dynamics; semiotic literariness; Yurij Tynyanov; Roman Jakobson; Juri Lotman; Mikhail Bakhtin; mediation; transposition

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.12697/SSS.2018.46.1.07

SIGN SYSTEMS STUDIES. ISSN 1406-4243 (print), 1736-7409 (online). E-mail: sss@ut.ee. Postal address: Sign Systems Studies, Dept. of Semiotics, University of Tartu, Jakobi St. 2, 51014 Tartu, Estonia