Post-modernism, post-structuralism, post-semiotics? Sign theory at the fin de siècle

Semiotica 2011 (183):9-30 (2011)
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The contribution describes the differences between modernism and postmodernism as historical periods of the twentieth century and establishes comparable differences between structuralism and post-structuralism as semiotic approaches. Like modernism, structuralism rejects traditional modes of thought, attempts to reconstruct academic disciplines on the basis of a few fundamental principles and strives to work with reconstructed terminologies and axioms. Like post-modernism, post-structuralism is characterized by the necessity of finding ways to continue research based on the fragmentary results left by structuralist projects. In the beginning of the twentieth century, structuralism itself had responded to materialism, atomism, historicism, and naturalism by introducing its own methodology built around the dichotomies of signified and signifier, paradigm and syntagm, synchrony and diachrony, langue and parole. Rather than rejecting this apparatus, post-structuralism explicated the paradoxes behind these dichotomies and tried to overcome them by under-mining the first concept of each pair. This change of perspective foregrounded the material, processual, and intertextual character of signs as well as the sense-producing function of interpretation. Rejecting rigidly fixed methods as well as general theories, and waiving the distinction between object-signs and meta-signs in favor of their joint reflection, post-structuralist semiotics became an alternative to conventional practices of academic sign analysis and now approaches the status of an art



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