Introductory Editorial: Semiotics and Political Discourse

Applied Semiotics/Semiotique appliqué, September 2010 | Go to article overview

Introductory Editorial: Semiotics and Political Discourse


Welcome to the twenty-fifth installment of the first online literary journal in the world, Applied Semiotics / Semiotique appliquee. We are particularly pleased to bring you an issue devoted to political discourse, as we have long felt that within this domain one can find answers to a number of the key difficulties our discipline faces. One could briefly summarize a few of these in the following terms: Does it really matter how a sign came to denote its referent? Is it not more important how the sign is used, which social or pragmatic states of affairs bring about its use, how is it received, and what intensional (ideological) associations does a listener make with the sign in such contexts?

Indeed, Peircean semiotics is useful if one wishes to know whether a sign represents its referent(s) because a) it looks like it; b) it points at it; or c) it used to look like it or point at it. This sub-discipline is replete with confrontations between binaries (thesis and antithesis) and, of course, clever thirds, the syntheses. Hegel would be delighted if he was still around. Yet it goes into so much arcane logical and meta-logical axiomatization that one wonders if it is good for anything beyond theorizing about the ontogenesis of signs in principle.

What of their use in life experience? We hope that the progress we are seeing in recent years towards methodologies capable of peircing the anthropomorphic veil and exploring the mythological significance of signs is indeed real. In Redefining Literary Semiotics, Johansen (2010: 23) suggests we need not search for the Holy Grail of a unified semiotics theory, that several methodologies may be used side by side like so many tools in a carpenter's box: "Indeed, it may be asked whether complex phenomena, such as [...] literary texts, can be adequately by means of only one single approach, or whether eclecticism, in one guise or another, is called for?" We remain unconvinced of the applicability of Peircean methodologies outside of the study of Peirce's corpus. …

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