• Ostension
    No 11

    Understood as the simplest form of unmediated communication, ostension is a primary way of expressing meaning through co-presence. Ostension functions as a form of indexicality, pointing to the thing about which one wishes to communicate.

    While relatively new to semiotics, philosophers from Augustine to Wittgenstein have developed ostension’s theoretical meanings in several directions. It is typically framed as the most basic form of non- or pre-linguistic communication, relying on the directing of one interlocutor’s attention to a physically present object or action. Through this direction of attention, ostension can be used in the teaching of language. A substantial, but widely divergent, literature on ostension has also grown up over the last forty years within the discipline of folkloristics. Introduced into the field by Linda Dégh and Andrew Vázsonyi, the term was rapidly assimilated to two seemingly unrelated folkloric practices: “acting out” the content of a legend; and legend-tripping, the well-attested process of visiting places associated with legend narratives in order to experience some part of the legend (usually a supernatural phenomenon) for oneself. In folkloristic treatments, ostension emerged as a way of interacting with the truth-claims made by the legend genre.

    Despite these divergences, there remain important points of contact between semiotic/linguistic/philosophical and folkloristic models of ostension. This special issue seeks to set folkloristic and semiotic understandings of ostension in productive dialogue. Potential areas of inquiry include ostension’s relationship to epistemology and notions of “truth”; the possibility of “mediated” ostensive communication; and forms of ostension that do not depend on the co-presence of interlocutors and the things/actions being ostended.

  • Semiotic Review Tree Logo Open Issue
    No 3

    Semiotic Review publishes two kinds of issues: thematic issues (often proposed and edited by guest editors) and a single non-thematic “open†issue (issue 3) which collects those contributions that are not submitted for thematic issues Like the “thematic†issues, the “open†issue is an ongoing issue that accepts new papers and publishes them on an rolling basis so that new material will continue to be added to them indefinitely.

  • Computer icon representing an image Images
    Vol 9

    One persistent ideological ambivalence in Western academic thought is the differentiation and slippage between language and image. As historians of philosophy have pointed out, Western philosophy has often construed language as a species of vision and imaging. In this line of thought, the meaning of linguistic discourse is (or is like) an image, imprinted in the mind. Just as frequently, however, it is asserted that there is a radical caesura between language and image (and between representation and our sensory modalities), the latter being a space of non-representability and thus before or beyond the enclosure of language. Here, images exceed language, which is unable to capture their affect, materiality, or sensoriality. This special issue confronts these two persistent problematics by critically asking, how can we productively (re)think the relationship between language and image, text and the sensorial, representation and presence through a holistic semiotic framework? And how can we do so without reducing one side of these seeming antinomies to the other or instating their radical difference? As with all issues of Semiotic Review, “Images†remains open to new submissions (essays, reviews, interviews, etc.).

  • image of open gate, and muddy tire tracks leading up a green hill Im/materialities
    No 4

    Guest editors: Alexander Bauer and Zoë Crossland

    Over the past decade, scholarly interest in the material characteristics and qualities of human worlds has developed apace. Under the heading of ‘materiality’ scholars have emphasized the effects of the material world on meaning, and the dynamic relationships that exist between people and things. This focus on materiality has been positioned by many writers as a move that goes beyond visions of the material world as a passive constraint on meaning. Rather, materiality has been held out as a means to undercut dualistic divisions into subjects and objects, culture and nature, people and things. It is said to do this through drawing attention to the relationships between humans and nonhumans, and to their mutually entangled and constitutive nature. Related to this is an emphasis on “material agency†and a questioning of the status of objects as non-human actors (here drawing largely on the work of Bruno Latour and Alfred Gell). Most recently this impetus has been associated with a broader questioning of accepted ontological frameworks and a search for alternate ontologies, again often positioned as move that pushes back against questions of representation.

    Here we’d like to question this recurrent rejection of semiosis as a legitimate subject of inquiry, arguing that the very emphasis on materiality (or ontology in its most recent framing) reveals its limitations as a way to work through or undercut dualist divisions. It amounts to little more than a re-centering of a dualist perspective, which slips between a focus on non-humans and a focus on relations between humans and non-humans. This becomes particularly apparent in the way in which questions of representation, subjectivity and semiosis are often ignored or devalued. Instead, indexical relations are privileged as somehow “beyond†or aside from meaning. The papers in this thematic issue aim to reframe this debate, refusing an opposition between materiality and meaning; not only do we advocate expanding the terrain of semiosis to include the material, but we also search for ways to explore and tease out different im/material semiotic modes. This then is about finding ways to maintain the material and the immaterial within the same analytical frame. We suggest that a Peircean semiotic approach is particularly fruitful for this endeavor, given that it partitions the world in ways that cannot be reduced to traditional binary relations. In this issue we explore different dimensions of Peirce’s semiotic, as a route for thinking through questions of materiality, focusing in particular on the material in terms of semiotic process rather than as static sign vehicle.

    Like all thematic issues, this issue remains open to new essays and interventions.

  • Lonely house on a hill. Place. Place
    Vol 8

    This special issue examines how people in an array of cultural contexts interpret the experience of place to furnish the conceptual language that structures collective narratives of the world and the cosmos. The issue encompasses articles that illuminate the forces that hold our realities together and render them intelligible. As editors, we have elected to label this complex of cultural practices and expressions “local cosmology,†but we also acknowledge that the discourses produced therein have ramifications that extend into the regional, the national, the global, and the universal.

    A semiotics of place implies the use of perceived local realities as representative modes. A place is not just a place, but a metaphor for the group, the family, the nation, and by extension all the other places against which it is defined. Our hope in grounding the focus of this special issue in the local is to operate from a particular vantage that showcases the grand scale of diverse strategies and techniques for making worlds knowable. Neighborhoods, institutions, roads, sacred spaces—all become linked in an experiential logic predicated on individual perception.

    Like all thematic issues, this issue will remain open to new essays and interventions, and there is thus no deadline for submission.

  • Image of cut stem Vegetal Ontologies: A Stroll Through the World of Plants and People
    No 6

    Editor Kane Faucher and Guest Editor Joshua Reno

    With the recent animal and multispecies turns in critical theory and philosophy, everything from cats and dogs to microbes and mycorrhizal fungi have become vital allies against anthropocentrism, yet plants have been largely ignored. This volume invites you to consider the importance of plants as contributing thinkers and actors within multispecies interactions, landscapes, and worlds.

    Like all thematic issues, this issue remains open to new essays and interventions.


  • Image credit: Justin Barker Blank Faces
    Vol 7

    You gaze at a face. Something is missing – the eyes are closed, the mouth is covered, the nose has ended up in the barber’s bread. This issue of Semiotic Review works to uncover semiotic ideologies of the face by analyzing what happens when people obscure, strip away, omit or overlook features. Reckoning the significance of faces, real and represented, requires a range of approaches, including those from scholars of art, media, anthropology, and face-to-face interaction. In this issue, contributors will interrogate what happens when a face – or part of it – goes absent, whether through masks or screens, erasure or enclosure. We examine faces as ideas and as technologies, as sites of sociality and of self-fashioning.  

    Like all thematic issues, this issue will remain open to new essays and interventions, and there is thus no deadline for submission.

    [Image credit to Justin Barker]

  • painting of a feast The Semiotics of Food-and-language
    No 5

    Guest Editors: Jillian R. Cavanaugh and Kathleen C. Riley

    This special issue of the Semiotic Review looks at food as a signifying medium through which humans negotiate their material and spiritual existence. We seek to complicate the well-established tradition of using language as a semiotic analog of food—from Levi-Strauss and Douglas to beyond—by presenting works that look at how food and language are semiotically interconnected in new ways. While such interconnections may appear to develop naturally out of the shared orality of food and language or their spatial-temporal contiguity, it is clear that these interpolations take various forms across diverse social and cultural contexts.

    Like all thematic issues, this issue will remain open to new essays and interventions, and there is thus no deadline for submission.


  • Image: Pages from Slenderman: The Arrival Monsters
    No 2

    This issue of Semiotic Review explores the intersections of the monstrous/grotesque and the semiotic.

    In a manner similar to the fetish, the monster, a figure of radical alterity or difference, can be viewed as a semiotic figure which collects and foregrounds a series of sign relations at the boundaries of semiosis.  The Latin etymology of the term which connects the term to indexicality (monstrare ‘to point’) already underlines the semioticity of the monster.  Monstrosity and the grotesque occupies an aporia in historical, cultural, and semiotic contexts, and the monster therefore serves as a figure of the variousness and heterogeneity of semiosis:  As a sign of portent or omen in the ancient world, as an impossible chimerical sign vehicle standing at the limits of licit representation, for the ineffability of God or the impossibility of the Idol, in the form of ‘monstrous races’, forming a set of inversions of the normal that define the exotic lands of the East as spaces of radical alterity, as a wondrous sign of the absolutely singular, novel or exotic exhibited in curiosities from far-flung voyages and on woodcut images on pages of early newspapers, as a sign of a playful animate Nature which creates preternatural exceptions to its own orderly categories in the Early Modern period, to the scientific and epistemic practices that sought to rationalize monstrosity in its myriad forms into clinical schema in the modern period, to the playful proliferation of monsters in contemporary media mixes.

    Like all thematic issues, this issue remains open to new essays and interventions.

  • Image: Semiotic Review Issue 1 2013 - Parasites Parasites
    No 1

    This issue of Semiotic Review (Guest editors Matthew Wolf-Meyer and Samuel Collins) looks to multiple sites of parasitic action, considered here both as the study of the parasitic as well as a reflections on parasitic encounters, methods and theories.

    For example, the recent turn to animal studies has highlighted the interdependence of humans and nonhumans, from dogs to mushrooms, bees to yeast, cheese cultures to intestinal bacteria. But it has also revealed the relationship of humans to their nonhuman world to be one of oscillating internalizations and externalizations. In both cases, the relations of the parasite to its host unsettles our ontological assumptions about whose world is inhabited by whom, of who is the parasite of whom. Focusing upon the parasite helps us to move beyond the anthropocentrism often inherent in our theoretical conceptions of the world: parasitism is vital to life across distinctions of domain – animal, plant, bacteria, alien, machine, and onward.

    The figure of the parasite provokes ruminations on the external that turn out to be internal after all, or that, at any rate, call into question the identity or the ontology of the host. So: let us ask after the parasite that inserts material into the host, that colonizes the host, that transforms the host, and think thereby about scholarship as a parasitic practice that makes and remakes its worlds through its imbrications in the very capacities of life. This issue of Semiotic Review is unified in its interests in a process, not an object. Parasitism over the parasite.

    Like all thematic issues, this issue remains open to new essays and interventions.

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