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Juri Lotman and the Semiotics of Culture: Contemporary Applications

University of Tartu

The aim of the course is to give an introduction to Lotman’s semiotic theory of culture, its theoretical background and context as well as new developments and applications of his theory in current semiotics and cultural sciences. More specific aim is to offer deeper understanding of cultural mechanisms and a set of tools for practical analysis of culture – cultural texts as well as cultural processes – that would afford new insights into contemporary cultural dynamics.

Participants of the course learn to:

  • Appreciate the historical and contemporary developments in the field of semiotics of culture in general and in the context of Lotman’s theory more specifically;
  • Understand key concepts and ideas in Lotman’s theory and are able to associate them with the current cultural context;
  • Understand culture as a semiotic system, its organisation, central features, mechanisms and processes;
  • Identify and critically analyse cultural, historical and artistic phenomena from the perspective of Lotman’s theories;
  • Apply Lotman’s theories to the analysis of diverse cultural phenomena;
  • Compare different sign systems and analyse the processes of translation between them.

About Juri Lotman

Juri Lotman has been considered one of the most innovative cultural theorists in the 20th century. He established the Tartu-Moscow School of Semiotics – an international group of scholars with diverse background from literary studies, linguistics, mathematics to orientalistics, unified by common interest in semiotics. Their collectively written Theses on the Semiotic Study of Cultures (1973) was the programmatic work initiating semiotics of culture as a field of studies.

Educated under renowned Russian literary scholars like Vladimir Propp, Boris Tomashevsky, Grigory Gukovsky and others, Lotman combined in his works the rich tradition of Russian literary and art theory with the then emergent fields of semiotics and structuralism. Yet his approach never remained limited to either literature and arts or structuralism. His extensive knowledge on cultural history, influence of cybernetics and information theory led to his intellectual movement towards the more holistic, organic and dynamic modelling of culture as a complex, self-organising system. All these rich influences allowed him to create highly original theory of culture.

Location Tartu, Estonia
29 Jun 2020 - 10 Jul 2020
Levels Bachelor / Undergraduate
Master / Graduate
Credits 4.0 ECTS
Program fee 700 EUR
Accommodation fee 300 EUR
Extra information about the fee:
Accommodation is in double rooms in a student dormitory.
Application deadline 1 May 2020
Entry requirements:
1. Online application form
2. Motivation letter (up to 1.5 page)
3. Transcript of academic records
4. Copy of the passport
Contact information:
Mari Mäesaar
Programme Director
+372 737 5561