The English Seminar & Work in Progress in the Social Studies (WIPSS)
Umberto Eco’s Semiotics: Interpretation, Encyclopaedia, Translation
Prof. Clare Vassallo
Monday 25 April 2016
Gateway Hall E, University of Malta
On Monday 25 April, WIPSS is very happy to combine with the English Seminar convened by Prof. James Corby to co-convene a joint seminar entitled Umberto Eco’s Semiotics: Interpretation, Encyclopaedia, Translation, given by Prof. Clare Vassallo. Prof. Vassallo writes:
"The talk will commemorate the work of one of the most influential contemporary thinkers, the semiotician and philosopher, Umberto Eco. The focus of his semiotics is on the study of meaning – the means by which linguistic meaning is generated, the context in which meaning is communicated and understood, manipulated and shaped. His interpretative method in semiotics was strongly influenced by American Pragmatism, particularly the work of Charles Sanders Pierce. Pierce, and Eco, argued that systems of cultural meaning are constructed along culture specific classifications which determine the perceptions and modes of thinking of different cultures and linguistic communities. Eco’s notion of ‘encyclopaedia’ provides an explanation of the manner in which the interpretative habits of individuals, as well as societies, are guided and formed. In addition, Eco developed a theory of translation as interpretation based on both Jakobson and Pierce which is explored in three of his works published between 1998 and 2003.
The paper will also argue that Umberto Eco’s writing in fiction develops directly from his theoretical and historical research into the role of the reader and whatever was left over from his factual work. Much of his writing was in fact driven by self-indulgence and pure enjoyment, rather than on pleasing his readers. His work as a novelist provided the platform for practical incursions into the fascinating act of translation which changes the surface of the text and which, even in the most felicitious of circumstances, can only provide the target reader with quasi la stessa cosa."
The talk will also serve as a platform for the open-access launch of the Special Issue of the Journal Semiotica, published in 2015, (vol. 206, issue 1-4), edited by Clare Vassallo and Cinzia Bianchi, entirely dedicated to Umberto Eco. This volume, published before his death, presents papers on all streams of Eco’s thought, from the debate on iconism, the notion of the encyclopedia, the role of the model reader, translation, interpretation and ideology, among other topics. The authors are all ex-doctorate students of Eco’s who studied Semiotics at the University of Bologna in the 1990s. Some of the papers were previously only available in Italian, and all of them take Eco’s work in different fields and bring it up to date.
Marcel Danesi, General Editor of Semiotica and Professor at the University of Toronto, wrote of the volume in his Introduction:
In sum, Umberto Eco’s legacy to semiotics has been enormous. This special issue of Semiotica provides various angles from which to view his legacy and, thus, to bring his overall influence in the world of ideas back to where it started in the first place – in the pages of this journal (2015: 3).’
Clare Vassallo is Associate Professor in the Department of Translation, Terminology and Interpreting Studies in the Faculty of Arts, University of Malta. She is a graduate of the University of Malta, where she read Philosophy, English Literature and Linguistics for her first degree in 1991. She is also a graduate of the University of Bologna, Alma Mater Studiorum, where she worked on her Ph.D in Interpretative Semiotics under the supervision of Prof. Umberto Eco, which she completed in 1996. She currently teaches courses Translation Theory and History, and Pragmatics, Semantics and Semiotics on the postgraduate course in Translation Studies, as well as courses on Translation and Variation on the Interdepartmental MA in Literary Tradition and Popular Culture, and undergraduate courses on Genre and The Bestseller in the English Department.
Monday 25 April, 18:00-19:00, followed by discussion. In Gateway Hall E. The public is cordially welcome.
Convenors: Paul Clough, Peter Mayo and Michael Briguglio
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