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Utopian Visions and Revisions

Or the Uses of Ideal Worlds

Artur Blaim

The book focuses on different uses of the concepts of utopia, dystopia, and anti-utopia. The author analyses literature, cinema, and rock music, as well as scientific and legal motifs in utopian fiction. He also considers the functions of Jewish characters in early modern utopias and looks at the utopian aspects of scientific claims of literary and cultural theories. Utopian models are also applied to the practice of literature (socialist realism) and current socio-political affairs. Among the texts and films discussed are "Utopia", "New Atlantis", "Gulliver’s Travels", "Memoirs of Signor Gaudentio di Lucca", "Nineteen Eighty-Four", "A Minor Apocalypse", "Lord of the Flies", and "Even Dwarfs Started Small".

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19. Science against “Science.” The Critical and Utopian Functions of Soviet Semiotics


19. Science against “Science.” The Critical and Utopian Functions of Soviet Semiotics84

Cybernetics – a reactionary pseudo-science created in the USA after World War II […]. Cybernetics is not only an ideological weapon of imperialist reactionaries, but also a means of realizing their aggressive preparations for war. (A Brief Philosophical Dictionary)

Soviet semiotics was a unique phenomenon among contemporary intellectual movements. The adjective Soviet is used here simply as a designation of the spatial location rather than the ideological position. It was unique in a number of ways. First of all it seems to be one of the very few schools of thought in the humanities to have consistently worked with essentially the same theoretical framework, though constantly elaborated, modified and refined; the effects of changing intellectual fashions have also been insignificant. Thus, Soviet semiotics has been a largely isolated phenomenon, both from foreign influences and the mainstream of Soviet literary critical discourse. It is in relation to the latter that the critical and utopian functions of semiotic studies come to the fore.

Unlike the official discourse in which the persuasive function predominates cultural semiotics is mainly concerned with analysis, description and explanation of cultural phenomena. In the initial stages of its development the Tartu-Moscow school focused mainly on literature and so its immediate native tradition was Russian Formalism, an anathema to the official doctrine of the humanities. The revival of the Formalist tradition was the first major departure from the established Soviet norms. Another departure...

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