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Synopsis of North American Semiotic Research (2018-2020)
Donna E. West

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1Peirce Society Essay Prize (2018) awarded (January, 2019) to Simon Levesque (Université du Québec à Montréal) for his essay entitled “Abduction as regulation: An Input from epigenetics.”


2March 2019: Annual Deely Memorial Lecture and Symposium at St. Vincent’s Archabbey and College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. This conference was the second occasion on which John Deely’s work was honored. St. Vincent’s Archives house many of Deely’s published and unpublished manuscripts, together with virtually his entire personal library; and the college intends to feature presentations and fund sabbaticals. Invited speakers included: Paul Cobley, Farouk Seif, Donna West, Gary Shank, and Joseph De Chicchis.

3The Tartu Summer School held its biennial meeting in August 2019. “Semiotic dimensions of spaces and literacies” constituted a well-chosen overarching theme, given the emphasis on the work of Lotman and von Uexküll. A symposium featuring the impact of Peirce’s concept of consciousness and double consciousness was particularly valued, given the international composition of the organizers and presenters. The keynote speakers likewise exemplified the international reach of the Summer School, namely: Kay O’Halloran (USA), Olga Lavrenova (Russia), and João Queiroz (Brazil).

4The International Association for Semiotic Studies held its World Congress of Semiotics in September 2019 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Over 700 presenters were in attendance to direct the future of the field, giving credence to the conference theme “Trajectories.” Paul Cobley continues his term as IASS President with Kristian Bankov as Secretary-General.

5The Semiotic Society of America held its Annual Conference in Portland, Oregon (October, 2019). “The Semiotics of Borders and the Borders of Semiotics” was the featured theme. Highlighting the first day of the conference was Leonard Lawlor’s (Pennsylvania State University) engaging plenary address, followed by a superb second plenary by Daniela Vallega-Neu (University of Oregon). An additional focal point was what has become an annual Sebeok Fellow Award. This award could not have been extended to a more deserving Peircean scholar, namely, Nathan Houser (Professor Emeritus, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis). His fellowship lecture (“Thinking at the Edges”) inspired and challenged his colleagues in attendance to ever ripen the road to inquiry, and to remain committed and sensitized to moral principles in this effort. At the business meeting (concluding the conference), Frank Macke (Mercer University) assumed the presidency of the society for the next two years, given the cancelation of the 2020 annual conference consequent to COVID-19.

6The American Journal of Semiotics published a special double-issue following the Biennial Conference of the International Association of Cognitive Semiotics in 2018. It incorporated several topics, including: action templates and performatives, corporeal semiotics, and musical anthroposemiotics.


7In preparation- Marcel Danesi (Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto, Canada) has secured a contract for an anthology with Springer addressing the issue of cognitive mathematics. The anthology consists in several broad theoretical and applied disciplines, including “Ethno-Mathematics,” neuroscience, linguistics, and philosophy.

8In preparation- Jamin Pelkey (Ryerson University, Canada) has secured a contract with Bloomsbury to produce an Encyclopedia of Semiotics; the editing process is in progress. The publication consists in four volumes: History and Semiosis (ed. Jamin Pelkey), Semiotics in the Natural and Technical Sciences (ed. Stéphanie Walsh-Matthews), Semiotics in the Arts and Social Sciences (ed. Susan Petrilli), and Semiotic Movements (ed. Paul Cobley) and features nearly 60 articles on the state of the art.

9In preparation- Special issue on Peirce and Consciousness for Semiotica – Donna West has organized and will be editing a special issue on Peirce’s concept of consciousness. The issue is an international affair: Ivo Ibri (Brazil), Lucia Santaella (Brazil), Winfried Nöth (Germany), Michael Raposa (U.S.A.), and Donna West (U.S.A.).

Notable Books and Dissertations

10R. Kenneth Atkins, Charles S. Peirce’s Phenomenology: Analysis and Consciousness. Oxford University Press, 2018.

11Nathan Haydon (University of Waterloo, Canada) defended his dissertation “The Continuity of Explanation: Peircean Pragmatism, Reason, and Developing Reasonable Behavior” in 2018, supervised by Shannon Dea.

12Jelena (Issajeva) Družinina (Tallinn Technical University, Estonia) defended her dissertation in the department of Innovation and Governance in 2019. Her title “A Sign-Theoretic Study of Mental Imagery,” supervised by Ahti-Veikko Pietarinen, constitutes a significant interdisciplinary contribution, focusing on issues of memory (cognition) and semiotics (Peirce’s sign-object-interpretant relations).

13Ian MacDonald (University of Waterloo, Canada) defended his dissertation “Communal Inferentialism: Charles S. Peirce’s Critique of Epistemic Individualism” in 2019, supervised by Shannon Dea. Likewise, in January 2020, he won the Peirce Society Essay Prize (2019) for his essay “Did Peirce Misrepresent Descartes? Reinvestigating and Defending Peirce’s Case.”

14Isaac Ruiz (Illinois State University) defended his dissertation “‘You Want to be Fooled’: Exploring Semiotics, Polysemy, and Strategic Ambiguity in Christopher Nolan Films” in 2019, supervised by John McHale.

15Todd Michael Madigan (Yale University) defended his dissertation “The Rules of Meaning Making: Toward a Theory of Cultural Syntax” in 2019, supervised by Jeffrey Alexander.

16Tristan McKay (New York University) defended his dissertation “A Semiotic Analysis of Open Notations in Works by Earle Brown, Will Redman, and Leah Asher” in 2019, supervised by Marilyn Nonken.

17Michael Fragomeni (UC Berkeley) defended his dissertation “Optimality Theory and the Semiotic Triad: A New Approach for Songwriting, Sound Recording, and Artistic Analysis” in 2019, supervised by Irmengard Rauch.

18Rory H. Misiewicz (Princeton Theological Seminary) defended his dissertation “Analogia Signorum: A Peircean Alternative to Debates on Theological Analogy” in 2019, supervised by Mark L. Taylor.

In Memoriam

19Joseph L. Brent III (1928-2020), Semiotician and Peirce biographer.

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Donna E. West, « États-Unis »Signata [En ligne], Chroniques, mis en ligne le 21 septembre 2021, consulté le 19 juillet 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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Donna E. West

State University of New York at Cortland

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