It is pleasing to be able briefly to introduce this collection of quality papers which comprises the third issue of the journal.
To outline thoroughly the arguments within each paper would require a volume almost as long at this journal. There is certainly a place for the long review essay, which the Semiotic Review of Books used to feature for many years. Some of the papers within are long, and it is always an honour to host well written and carefully researched papers. A good paper can have aesthetic as well as scholarly qualities. Reviewers are to be thanked for their considered responses to papers generally. Detailed review comments can be iterated here. There is no effort to summarise reviews to all papers – and all are deserving – just an effort to coalesce the rich texture of contributions in part and generally.
“Rapunzel, Benjamin Button and Little Red Riding Hood: philosophical, rhetorical and textual semiotic excursions” by George Rossolatos was commended as an “almost monumental, and generally very impressive, essay. In terms of its novel intent, it is reminiscent of Barthes’ S/Z. Indeed, the writer quite skilfully interrogates the semiological significance of particulars in terms of their impact on brand identity. While far from content analysis as such (an embarrassingly thin mode of assessment that the author would do well to eschew altogether), the identification of sememes (and their subsequent coalescence into units of meaning that define, or at least suggest, brand identity) is a bold undertaking. But it comes off, and the writer sets up and develops the argument very well. “
Commentary by another reviewer was just as penetrating and commending. “ Rapunzel, Benjamin Button and Little Red Riding Hood confirms the polyvalent function of the topics of possible worlds, integrated into two types of discourse:
– on the one hand, as a fictional alternative to the “real” world, as in film and literature (in this situation, the “real(ity)” and “fiction(al)” levels are clearly separated, being two distinct but complementary aspects of experience);
– on the other hand, as a pattern of thinking and (re)presenting the world – very closed to NLP marketing and publicity strategies – which consists of viewing the fiction as a possible facet of the real(ity). This subjective reconfiguration of the world is able to determine a significant change in the behaviour of the consumer, to induce her/ him to new expectancies, new desires and new choices in everyday life situations (for instance, to supermarket).
The paper analyzes the counterfactual thinking as a particular case of the theory of possible worlds.
I think that this paper presents two main qualities. Firstly, it highlights the preeminence – or omnipresence – of fiction(ality), as a major dimension of our model(s) of reality. (One can say even the scientifical models are “fictional” ones, because of their essentially hypothetical status.) Secondly, this paper makes a cross-section in a heterogeneous corpus of socio-cultural phenomena (literature, film, marketing and publicity), investigated from the same perspective of the fiction insinuated into the (re)construction of reality. “
The reviewer took notes of the challenge involved with adoption of “a certain methodological eclecticism. But this could be, to a certain extent, a quality: this is the premise of a meta-theoretical approach; i.e., of a dialogue between several theoretical frameworks able to describe, in their specific ways, the same phenomena which characterize the function(ing) of the mind and correlatively, of the language. This ambivalence of the eclectic approach and especially the meta-theoretical and interdisciplinary perspectives mark the paper in its entirety. (For instance, anaphora, which unlike deixis, specifies its semantism within the text, is here analyzed from an intertextual viewpoint.)”
The reviewer offers several perspectives that could be absorbed, at the author’s discretion, before a final print edition of this paper.
“Of Criminals and Queers: Discourses of Class and the Outlaw in The White Tiger and Funny Boy” by Adam A. Ferguson is a shorter piece that caught the eye of its two reviewers. One commended the paper as a “very well organized one, depending on some structural criteria appropriate for a comparative approach to the two novels taken into consideration:
- the concept of the “outlaw”, both in the legal sense, and in “an ethnocultural sense”, as the author him/ herself specifies;
- the shaping of individual identity – particularly, that of the “postcolonial citizen” – as/at the crossroad of several social roles and ideological discourses, otherwise of different cultural codes and their respective collective mentalities;
- the pattern of “criminal narrative” (which the author defines as “a narrative strategy whereby the plot (and associate crimes) is shown through the eyes of the guilty party”).
Methodologically, the analysis of The White Tiger seems to me particularly interesting on account of its author systematically highlighting the polarization of narrative matter and discourse structures, on different levels of the novel: past/ future (and possibly, present), Anglophone world/ India, written/ spoken (as cultural codes of expressing oneself), “India of Light”/ “India of Darkness”, masculine/ feminine (patterns), “underclass”/ “technocratic elite” etc. This analytical dissociation is able to render evident an organizing principle of the novel with its intent to evoke a “bifurcated India”, otherwise a world between.
For Bakhtin, the novel is rather a representation of the language than of the world; while the author of the paper analyzes Aravind Adiga’s novel as a (re)presentation of Self, through the agency of relationships between language, (lack of) power, and identity.
I think that this paper could be very interesting and useful for the readers of the journal, therefore I can warmly recommend it for publication. The main arguments are the pertinent, nuanced and coherent judgement on the literary corpus, the appropriate use of an interdisciplinary bibliography, and the rigorous organisation of the analytical discourse able to critically interpret the correlation between some literary structures and contents, on the one hand, and specific socio-cultural contexts, on the other hand. “
In a briefer but no less fulsome reply, another commentator said “it is very good … The writer is accomplished, and exhibits full command of the relevant conventions – including the limited / unreliable narrator. The argument is well made.”
‘Transfer operations and intersemiotic translation in Alex Robinson’s “London” by Remo Gramigna’ was “very much enjoyed” by its reviewer. “While there were dimensions not covered – for example the Manichaeism that infuses Blake’s work and that finds correlative expression in the chiaroscuro of Robinson’s text – the essay is otherwise nuanced and indubitably thoughtful. The author sets up the theoretical and methodological framework very well, and the piece follows with an irresistible sense of logic.“
“The View Finder: The Camera as Significal Pedagogue” by Jude Chua Soo Men was welcomed by one commentator for its excursion into religion and semiotics, who “enjoyed Jude’s article. I love the transition between formal and experiential writing and the topic is very interesting. People often assume that semiotics is concerned only with ‘second order’ phenomena and as such has little to offer in terms of ethical relations or normative judgements, so I found this cogent.” Some queries about “ the necessary relationship between photography, ethics and practical reasoning” and “the way we read photos and the role that culture/religion/world-views”, were made, that allowed an aesthetics “ as evacuated of meaning and thus of the thought-provoking ‘punctum’ than Jude suggests.” The author was advised to consider such feedback before print publication. However another reviewer recommended the paper for publication in its existing form, and on the balance of feedback and the paper’s existing merits we include it in this issue.
The argument of “How vision Collaborates with Thought to bring Information into the Mind” by Inesa Sahakyan was seen as “quite compelling. Set up, as it is, in the context of Peirce’s phenomenological account and Zeki’s neurological account, the essay indirectly offers an insightful defence of Peirce’s phenomenological categories. In so doing it successfully addresses the flawed logic of Arnheim’s proposition that there is no difference between percept and concept.”
The review process is invaluable in qualifying editorial thoughts about papers. While some material such as book and arts reviews can be accepted with editorial moderation, we will continue the blind review process for formal papers.
We won’t make a practice of annotating papers with review comments. Enough to say the broad latter McLuhanesque sweep of concept, history and types of media, including digital forms, was commended in “Comparative Literature in the Digital Age: Semiotic and Cultural Implications by Asun López-Varela” . Nicoleta Popa Blanariu, in “À partir de Greimas. Semiotic and Communication Patterns in Dance” demonstrates a continuing attention to dance as a semiotic field, through a writing style that is as precise, rhythmic and nuanced in its conceptual style as performance itself. “The Emergence of ‘Atomodoxy’ in Cold-War Rhetoric and Science Fiction Narratives” by James Eric Black was a refined study in the history of ideas and literature, given conceptual backbone and rigour through its semiotic methodology.
A general issue of a journal is a joyful assemblage and meeting place of divergent subject matters and methods, united in a shared sense of the potential aid semiotic theory can give to education and research. The issue is also a clearing house – some papers here will be anthologised into online and/or print special theme editions.
Some authors here have had a previous paper in the journal. On the other hand some submissions have not been accepted – with rewrite usually being suggested. We welcome repeat submissions – especially from promising or established authors. Hopefully in future we can feature individual authors in a book, or collected essays. It is not so much a matter of the journal being in development – in a sense it has established its own identity and place. It is more a sense of a journal offering a platform for as much quality contributions as possible – regardless (within reason) of authorship.
Finally one can feel that a general issue or anthology of papers such as these could well suffice as an introductory education or textbook for undergraduate – even some postgraduate – classes. The range of references, topic, concepts and argument would provide an excellent basis to humanities. In that regard we invite contributions for the next general issue.