Semiotics as Critical Discourse
This talk intends to explore the early development of European semiotics, by bringing into relief the critical aims from which it originated, and examining the work of some of its protagonists. For example Roland Barthes, whose centenary will be celebrated next year, and who found in Saussure and Hjelmslev’s linguistics a theoretical framework which could serve the purpose of exposing precisely the ideological mechanisms at work in a burgeoning consumer society; or Umberto Eco, himself deeply interested in the dynamics of the society of mass communication, as well as the emergence of new audiences and new ways of artistic expression. On the other hand, very early on Greimas’ main preoccupation is that of the problem of sense, understood as axiological orientation of the subject, while Lotman is searching for a correlation between signs and values in cultural models. Now that half a century has gone by since those founding works, it is time to ask if and whether the discipline of semiotics has kept such a fundamental critical preoccupation alive.