Oblique semiotics: the semiotics of the mirror and specular reflections in Lotman and Eco

Semiotica 2023 (255):55-75 (2023)
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Abstract

Novelty, the creation of new information, has been the hallmark of Juri M. Lotman’s thought. This issue resurfaces in the discussion of his now famous article “On the semiosphere,” in which Lotman, drawing on Vernadsky, identifies the principles of symmetry, asymmetry, and enantiomorphism as pivotal aspects of the semiotic mechanism of the semiosphere. Specular phenomena and mirror reflections have not only found a prominent place in contemporary semiotic theories of different scholarly traditions – from general semiotics (Eco, Volli) to cognitive semiotics (Sonesson) and to the semiotics of culture (Lotman, Levin) – but they also nail down a key element of the inner mechanism of Lotman’s concept of the semiosphere. By using the analogy of thefacereflecting in amirror, Lotman remarks: “It is also like a face, which, wholly reflected in a mirror, is also reflected in any of its fragments, which, in this form, represents the part and yet remains similar to the whole mirror.” By capitalizing on this excerpt, this study unpacks the significance of Lotman’s idea of specular mechanisms as generators of meaning within the semiosphere.

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