Issue n. 132 of Versus, edited by Ivan Darrault‐Harris (University of Limoges) and Patrizia Violi (university of Bologna), will be devoted to Psychosemiotics.
Versus (or VS, as is often known) is one of the first and best‐known international journals of Semiotics, Philosophy and Theory of Language. It was founded in 1971 by Umberto Eco, who was director of the journal until his death in February 2016. Versus is currently directed by Patrizia
State of the Art
In 1979, some four decades ago, Greimas and Courtés began the entry in their notorious
Dictionary warning that Psychosemiotics existed only as “wishful thinking”. They sought to provide an entry for it nonetheless, sketching out plausible avenues for its development in future research, and taking care to differentiate Psychosemiotics from Psycholinguistics – which was already an autonomous discipline (but presented as a failure of interdisciplinarity). The authors go on to note that Generative Grammar, focusing on competence, had left the study of performance to the field of psycholinguists, where it was subjected to heterogeneous interpretations. They subsequently consider the inevitable points of contact between semiotics and psychoanalysis, including the issue of “deep values” of individual and collective universe, or the discovery of an inner life of the “persona” – which, from a semiotic point of view, can be framed as an Actor in which multiple syntactic subjects coexist (a vision that is very close to a Freudian topography. Greimas and Courtes conclude,
Finally, a still unexplored semiotic area – one suggested only by Hjelmslev – is that of individual connotations, that is, a system of connotations (giving rise, probably, to connotative processes) which, in parallel to social connotations, underlies our discourses. The characterologies of the past, this constitutes an immanent typology of personalities, of ways of being, registers, voices, and tones. This is where psychosemiotics, by adopting such semiotic systems and their syncretic mode of manifestation, could find an open field for experimentation.
This challenge from 1979 has only now begun to be developed, albeit in a paradoxical way. Human psychism (which is inaccessible in a direct way) is addressed through behavioral analysis, both normal and pathological: the observable behavior in mother‐child or patient‐therapist relationships, for example, or in other pathologies ranging from borderline autism to Alzheimer’s disease. The semiotic methodology has been enriched by new contributions, both in recent developments in post‐Greimasian semiotics, and in the Peircean interpretative tradition.
Both theoretical reflections and empirical analyses are welcome as contributions to this issue. Possible themes may include (but need not be limited to):
1. Theoretical Issues
Greimas constructed his actanctial model according to Freud’s topography, considering Freud himself as a pre‐semiotician. Psychosemiotics could only further the analysis of the possibilities created by an interplay with psychanalysis, a fundamental theory of the nature and functioning of human psychism. In today’s context, where psychoanalysis is again being subjected to severe, polemical attacks, the search for a way to integrate psychoanalytical concepts into Psychosemiotic models may help to demonstrate its relevance and high heuristic value.
2. Corporality and Psychism
While a semiotics of the body has been established for more than a decade now, a Semiotics of Psychism is yet to be constructed, and the nature of the relationship between the body and the psyche needs to be addressed. If Freud’s construction of psychism – shaped by a constellation of phantasmatic scenarios – can be related to a semiotic vision, then it is necessary to demonstrate the semiotic nature of the connection between body and psychism: how, for example, can a physical injury become a signifier that activates a latent meaning, waiting to be manifested? 3. Ontogenesis of the Subject
An important element of Psychosemiotics is the ontogenesis of the subject, in the situations observed and analyzed in human, and then clinical, ethology – as in the seminal works by Daniel Stern (later expanded by Bernard Golse). The first interactions between mothers and new‐borns represent a particularly rich field for semiotic analysis: they have revealed the importance of the narrative structures that sustain and regulate behavior when the mother introduces the child into a universe characterized by narrativity, for example sanctioning the performances that are yet to occur (as in smiling, which is sanctioned in a paradoxical way). On the other hand, the fundamental passage between primary and secondary subjectivity, around the ninth month of development, can clearly indicate the semiotic relevance of a triangulation with a third element outside of the mother‐child couple.
4. A Psychosemiotics of Pathological States
Studies may develop a semiotic critique of traditional nosography in different fields: in children, there is the potential to distinguish profiles of inhibition/aggressiveness, character, pre‐psychotic and psychotic behaviors, or disturbances related to the different layers of Greimas’s Generative Path, as well as conversions among layers. For instance, there is potential for a critical, semiotic interpretation of the controversial notion of Limit State or Borderline Condition, where the subject of the Limit State is actually revealed to be a subject who experiments, often briefly, many varied subjective states, which are difficult to identify. Finally, there is the concept of extreme deviant development of the autistic spectrum, a pathology that has enabled meetings and dialogues with the specialists working alongside Bernard Golse at "Paris‐Necker‐Enfants Malades". Bernard Golse has also developed, together with Sylvain Missionier, a clinic of narrativity, an ideal space for collaboration with Psycho‐Semioticians.
5. Narrativity and the Clinic of Narrativity
Today, we can observe the widespread diffusion of so‐called narrative medical science, that nevertheless does not employ the notions of narrative grammar. There is, however, a clinic of narrativity inspired by Ricoeur that is open to psychosemiotics too, which aims to pursue a new avenue of research, with particular attention on the analysis of the subjective states of new‐borns, on the first relationships between perception and symbolization, and on the first forms of nonverbal narrative production.
Proposals will be selected by the editors of the issue and the journal’s editorial board. The articles written on the basis of accepted proposals will undergo a double‐blind peer‐review process.
‐ 30/03/20: deadline for 500‐word abstracts (accompanied by references and short bio); POSTPONED TO 20/04/2020
‐ 30/04/20: communication of the acceptation or refusal of the proposal;
‐ 30/10/20: deadline for complete articles (max. 40,000 characters);
‐ 30/11/20: notification of the results of the peer‐review process;
‐ 30/01/21: deadline to submit the final version of the article; ‐ June 2021: printed and digital publication.
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