Keynote Speakers – Peeter Torop

Professor of Semiotics of Culture (University of Tartu, Institute of Philosophy and Semiotics, Department of Semiotics). Co-editor of Sign Systems Studies and the Tartu Semiotics Library. Co-editor (with I.Ibrus) of special issue: The Uses of Juri Lotman. International Journal of Cultural Studies (2015, 18:1) and co-editor (with M.Tamm) of The Companion to Juri Lotman: A Semiotic Theory of Culture (2022). His research concerns semiotics of culture and translation, transmedia studies, literary studies and history of Tartu-Moscow school of semiotics. Selected publications in English: Cultural Semiotics. In: F. Sharifian (ed). The Routledge Handbook of Language and Culture (2015); Semiotics of cultural history. Sign Systems Studies 2017, 45 (3/4); Cultural languages and value of chronotopical analysis. In: J. Haidar, I. Ramos Beltrán (eds). Fronteras semióticas de la emoción. Los procesos del sentido en las culturas, 2018; Russian Theory and the Semiotics of Culture: History and Perspectives. Bakhtiniana. Revista de Estudos do Discurso, 2019, 14: 2; The chronotopical aspect of translatability in intersemiotic space. Punctum. International Journal of Semiotics, 2020, 6: 1;  Semiosphere. In: M.Tamm, P.Torop (eds).  The Companion to Juri Lotman: A Semiotic Theory of Culture (2022); Transmediality and the Translation of Emotions. In: S.Petrilli, M. Ji (eds). Exploring the Translatability of Emotions: Cross-Cultural and Transdisciplinary Encounters (2022).an, Russian and Bulgarian.

Lifeworld, artistic world and semiotics of culture


A semiotic understanding of culture is impossible without the understanding of cultural creativity. In his late article Text and cultural polyglotism (1992), Juri Lotman described two primary languages of culture: “Genetically speaking, culture is built upon two primary languages. One of these is the natural language used by humans in everyday communication. […] The nature of the second primary language is not so obvious. What is under discussion is the structural model of space” (Lotman 1992: 142). The conceptualisation of the structural model of space is based on the earlier works of Lotman where the keyword was artistic space as language or collection of languages: “Thus, artistic space represents a model of a given author’s world, expressed in the language of his spatial conceptions. […] It stands to reason that the ‛language of spatial relations’ is a kind of abstract model which includes, in the capacity of sub-systems, both the spatial languages of various genres and forms of art, and models of space of varying degrees of abstraction, created by the consciousnesses of different periods.” Later, Lotman uses also the notion of the artistic world: “The artistic world created by an author is always in some way a model of the real world beyond the text. This extra textual reality is also a complex structural unit—the fact that it is beyond the text does not mean that it is beyond semiotics” (Lotman 1985: 151).

These primary languages of culture are describable at two levels. The first is communicative creativity: “The work and the world represented in it enter the real world and enrich it, and the real world enters the work and its world as part of the process of its creation, as well as part of its subsequent life, in a continual renewing of the work through the creative perception of listeners and readers. Of course this process of exchange is itself chronotopic […]. We might even speak of a special creative chronotope inside which this exchange between work and life occurs, and which constitutes the distinctive life of the work” (Bakhtin 1981: 254). The second level is autocommunicative creativity and is based on the notion of lifeworld. In a context of lifeworld “we are nothing other than our life history, always already situated ‛lifeworldly’ in its sense of relation as well as that of fulfillment. The historical lifeworld therefore shows itself to be that horizon from which we encounter ourselves“ (Gander 2017: 7).

The conception of primary languages of culture gives possibility for the description of cultural creativity as dialogue between lifeworld and artistic world. This dialogue has chronotopical nature and can be defined at the level of cultural environment, cultural self-description and cultural models. The analysability of this dialogue will be demonstrated by examples from literary and scientific creativity – on the basis of drawings by F. Dostoevsky and J. Lotman.

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