In the early phase of its development, semiotics was understood as “semeiotics” and studied symptoms. Today we propose to recover this ancient dimension of semiotics focussed on health, care and the quality of life, and reorganise it in semioethical terms. In fact, as interference increases in communication between the historico-social sphere and the biological, between culture and nature, between the semiosphere and the biosphere, the need for a “semioethical turn” in the study of signs with an understanding of the relation of signs to values has become ever more urgent. Literary writing is particularly interesting from this perspective thanks to its extraordinary capacity to stage values that animate life to the best in terms of the properly human. These values are characterized by high degrees of opening to the other, by responsiveness/answerability toward the other, by a propensity for listening to the other, for giving time to the other. Construed on relations of distancing and at once of affinity among signs, metaphor— or more broadly imagery, figurative language—is emblematic of literary writing, though not limited to it. As amply demonstrated by Victoria Welby, far from serving as a mere decorative supplement, the figurative dimension of expression is structural to signifying processes, to the acquisition itself of knowledge and understanding. Welby’s work may be read as prefiguring recent trends in language studies as represented by cognitive linguistics today. Mikhail Bakhtin has also made an important contribution in this sense. He has developed the study of signs in terms of moral philosophy and, in fact, his approach to semiotics is easily oriented in the sense of semioethics. In such a framework he evidences the close relationship between sign studies and literary writing. For a full understanding of the sense of Bakhtin’s approach to studies on verbal language, it is important to highlight his insistence on the inexorable interconnection—which he describes as direct and dialectical—between literary language and life. Bakhtin deals with questions of literary writing from the perspective of literature itself. His excursions outside the field of literature do not imply recourse to an external viewpoint with claims to offering a description that is totalizing and systemic. On the contrary, Bakhtin remains inside literature and never leaves it; literature is his observation post, the perspective from which he conducts his critique, which is anti-systemic and detotalizing. Bakhtin reveals the internal threads that connect literature to the extra-literary, thematizing the condition of structural intertextuality in the connection between literary texts and extra-literary texts. In Bakhtin’s view, the literary text subsists and develops in its specificity as a literary text thanks to its implication with the external universe. Such implication is also understood in an ethical sense. Charles Peirce’s semiotics as well has a focus on the relation between cognition, the interpersonal relation, communication and moral value. He evidences the development of signifying pathways (the open-ended chain of interpretants) which he describes as potentially infinite, the role of the imagination and musement in abductive inferential processes, of similarity (in particular the agapastic) in metaphor, and of metaphor in abduction with its capacity for invention and innovation. All this makes Peirce’s Collected Papers another precious source for reflection, together with Bakhtin’s texts, on the relation between semioethics and literary writing

Semioethics and literary writing. Between Peirce and Bakhtin

PETRILLI, Susan Angela
2017

Abstract

In the early phase of its development, semiotics was understood as “semeiotics” and studied symptoms. Today we propose to recover this ancient dimension of semiotics focussed on health, care and the quality of life, and reorganise it in semioethical terms. In fact, as interference increases in communication between the historico-social sphere and the biological, between culture and nature, between the semiosphere and the biosphere, the need for a “semioethical turn” in the study of signs with an understanding of the relation of signs to values has become ever more urgent. Literary writing is particularly interesting from this perspective thanks to its extraordinary capacity to stage values that animate life to the best in terms of the properly human. These values are characterized by high degrees of opening to the other, by responsiveness/answerability toward the other, by a propensity for listening to the other, for giving time to the other. Construed on relations of distancing and at once of affinity among signs, metaphor— or more broadly imagery, figurative language—is emblematic of literary writing, though not limited to it. As amply demonstrated by Victoria Welby, far from serving as a mere decorative supplement, the figurative dimension of expression is structural to signifying processes, to the acquisition itself of knowledge and understanding. Welby’s work may be read as prefiguring recent trends in language studies as represented by cognitive linguistics today. Mikhail Bakhtin has also made an important contribution in this sense. He has developed the study of signs in terms of moral philosophy and, in fact, his approach to semiotics is easily oriented in the sense of semioethics. In such a framework he evidences the close relationship between sign studies and literary writing. For a full understanding of the sense of Bakhtin’s approach to studies on verbal language, it is important to highlight his insistence on the inexorable interconnection—which he describes as direct and dialectical—between literary language and life. Bakhtin deals with questions of literary writing from the perspective of literature itself. His excursions outside the field of literature do not imply recourse to an external viewpoint with claims to offering a description that is totalizing and systemic. On the contrary, Bakhtin remains inside literature and never leaves it; literature is his observation post, the perspective from which he conducts his critique, which is anti-systemic and detotalizing. Bakhtin reveals the internal threads that connect literature to the extra-literary, thematizing the condition of structural intertextuality in the connection between literary texts and extra-literary texts. In Bakhtin’s view, the literary text subsists and develops in its specificity as a literary text thanks to its implication with the external universe. Such implication is also understood in an ethical sense. Charles Peirce’s semiotics as well has a focus on the relation between cognition, the interpersonal relation, communication and moral value. He evidences the development of signifying pathways (the open-ended chain of interpretants) which he describes as potentially infinite, the role of the imagination and musement in abductive inferential processes, of similarity (in particular the agapastic) in metaphor, and of metaphor in abduction with its capacity for invention and innovation. All this makes Peirce’s Collected Papers another precious source for reflection, together with Bakhtin’s texts, on the relation between semioethics and literary writing
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11586/182684
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