The seminar discusses the most relevant concepts and categories elaborated by semiotics in order to provide analytical tools for “close readings” of verbal or visual texts, cultural objects, artifacts, events, and social situations. Semiotics’s foundational goal consisted in retracing how meaning emerges and circulates in connection with a variety of objects, from literary works to social rituals, from natural phenomena to artificial languages. To revamp semiotics’s main tasks, the seminar discusses three issues: the structure of semiotic objects, in particular their internal organization and their ideological connotations; the narrative strategies that semiotic objects display, with their capacity to establish a subtle parallel with a theory of human action; and the process of semiosis, and the ways in which a semiotic object becomes “meaningful” in the framework of a culture. Analytical tools are tested in class through close readings of a great variety of objects and situations, spanning from celebrities’ depictions to Genesis, from social encounters to urban design. Further examples are proposed by students. These close readings will imply the collective work of the whole class. Limited enrollment.

All Semesters

Fall 2020
Francesco Casetti