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2018 Vol. 9 № 4

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‘The Word, an Ulcer…’: Aleksey Chicherin’s semiotic utopia

DOI
10.5922/2225-5346-2018-4-7
Pages
78-92

Abstract

In this article, we analyse the semiotic concept of art created by the constructivist poet Aleksey Chicherin, as presented in his treatise Kan-Fun. We establish the connection between Chicherin’s concept of the ‘sign of Poetry’, on the one hand, and the theoretical research of the early Russian avant-garde and the basic tenets of the semiotic description of the language, on the other. An analysis of Chicherin's theory shows that it rests on an attempt to overcome the linearity of linguistic signs and to build an iconic ‘sign of Poetry’, capable of almost a complete reflection of a constructivist poet’s artistic intentions. Against the background of the total logocentrism of the early 20th-century historical and cultural paradigm, Chicherin’s semiotic position looks like the proclamation of radical ‘anti-logocentrism’ that polemicises against any literary traditions and experiments, either synchronic or diachronic in relation to the author. At the same time, a textual analysis of Kan-Fun and a comparison of the key theses of Chicherin’s semiotic theory with the examples of his poetry (‘construemas’) show that his aesthetic project was of a utopian nature. Despite the outright rejection of the natural language as ‘non-constructive’ and the espousal of non-verbal semiotic means, Chicherin’s theory has internal inconsistency. Its artistic representations are incapable of overcoming the basic conventions of text generation and reception. The use of non-verbal (visual and auditory) signs entails both the semantic enrichment of the sign and an uncontrolled increase in its entropy. This way, the sign is deprived of the predictable interpretive frameworks and conventions.

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