Is the semiosphere post-modernist?

George Rossolatos

University of Kassell




This paper provides arguments for and against M.Lotman’s (2002) contention that Y.Lotman’s seminal concept of semiosphere is of post-modernist (post-structuralist; Posner 2011) orientation. A comparative reading of the definitional components of the semiosphere, their hierarchical relationship and their interactions is undertaken against the two principal axes of space and subjectivity in the light of Kantian transcendental idealism, as inaugural and authoritative figure of modernity, the Foucauldian discursive turn and the Deleuzian (post) radical empiricism (sic), as representative authors of the highly versatile post-modern vernacular. This comparative reading aims at highlighting not only similarities and differences between the Lotmanian conceptualization of the semiosphere and the concerned modernist and post-modernist authors, but the construct’s operational relevance in a post-metanarratives cultural predicament that has been coupled with the so-called spatial turn in cultural studies (Hess-Luttich 2012).

Keywords: semiosphere, space, cultural subjectivity, modernity, post-modernity.  



In order to start hinting at the prospect of providing definite answers to such a complex and multifaceted question that merely affords to intensify the complexity and the multifaceted nature of the very conceptual construct of semiosphere let us begin by clarifying how post-modernity has been defined. Post-modernity has been defined in two dominant ways. First, as a historical period that is characterized by a highly critical outlook towards the intellectual heritage of the Enlightenment (with any and many issues that emerge in such historical demarcations; see Lagopoulos 2010). Nevertheless, Lyotard (1991: 34) himself asserted that “postmodernity is not a new age, but the rewriting of some of the features claimed by modernity”. Second, as an ethos (scientific or otherwise) which, regardless of the feasibility of situating its emergence spatiotemporally (and ample arguments have been voiced as to why situating it within a tradition contradicts the very ‘post’ nature of post-modernity), still it reflects common argumentative patterns and stylistic aspects that recur (not at all invariably) throughout various writers, from Nietzsche to Breton to Deleuze.  Post-modernist perspectives also differ based on whether they are of Marxist or non-Marxist affiliation, in which case Marxist perspectives (e.g., Jameson) view post-modernity as the cultural logic of post-industrial capitalism. “Postmodern culture is the result of the extension of the market over cultural production as a whole, whence the need for a political economy of cultural production” (Lagopoulos 2010: 178).