In this course students will learn about different conceptualisations of the sign and what purposes these conceptualisations fulfill. They will develop an understanding of how a particular view of the sign can determine our view on human relations and human activities, including human communication. They will also come to appreciate the importance of the presuppositions on which a theory relies (the 'metatheory'), including what conceptions of ‘communication’, ‘language’ and ‘culture’ are being assumed, and how these conceptions are applied to the non-human context. Finally, it will introduce students to the issue of theory and explanation and what is commonly expected from a ‘theory of’ within the humanities and the social sciences. 



Learning Outcomes

At the end of the course, students will be able to

  1. demonstrate how any theory has to have a semiological basis of some sort;
  2. articulate an understanding of how semiotic/semiological theories shape our way of looking at society, culture and other (group-related) abstract terms;
  3. explain why some theories in cultural semiotics possess a strong appeal in academia, while others are rejected by scholars in the field;
  4. critically assess the notions of the ‘sign’, ‘language’ and ‘communication’ in their various conceptions in relation to particular theorists and schools/traditions of thought. 




The primary requirements are a final in-class written assignment (30%) and a research term paper (70%). The written assignment will consist in writing two short essays concerning the contents of the course. The research paper (2,500 words) can be written on any topic of the student's choice (in consultation with the instructor)



Last updated: 3 July 2019