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Woe to those who lie upon beds of ivory,
Significs and Semioethics
Places of the Gift in Communication Today
and stretch themselves upon their couches,
and eat lambs from the flock,
and calves from the midst of the stall;
who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp,
and like David invent for
themselves instruments of music;
who drink wine in bowls,
and anoint themselves with the finest oils,
but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!
Therefore they shall now be the first to go into exile,
and the revelry of those who stretch themselves shall pass away.
(Amos 6, 4.7)
Gift Giving and Significs
What is significs? Significs is that discipline, or better, theoretical orientation that
consists in obstinately asking the questions: “What does it signify? What does it
mean? What’s the sense?” It is not surprising that this discipline should have been
invented by a woman, Victoria Lady Welby (1837-1912). Nor is it surprising that
this woman has never entered the Pantheon or genealogical tree of the “Fathers”
(of course!) of the science of signs and language, in spite of the influence she ex-
erted on scholars such as Bertrand Russell, Charles S. Peirce, Charles K. Ogden,
George F. Stout, John M. Baldwin, Ferdinand S. Schiller, Ferdinand Tľnnies,
Frederik van Eeden, and many more.
“What does it signify? What’s the sense?” These are questions that Welby induces
one to ask in the face of any form of expression, verbal and non-verbal, any piece
of human behaviour or social practice, in the face of all languages in ordinary life
and in the professions, in intellectual life, in the face of scientific languages, the
languages of artistic discourse, religion, politics, economy, etc. As a significian,
Welby (see 1983 , 20061, and unpublished mss.) focused on the relation
between the signs and values that go to form languages and behaviour. This led to
her invitation to interrogate the sense of words, human practices, in the ultimate
analysis of the worlds human beings contribute to constructing for themselves.
What does a given discourse, text, behaviour mean? What’s the sense of a given
social program? What does education imply? Why poverty? Why exploitation?
What are the implications involved in the progress of science? What’s the use of
definition? Dogmatism? Why keep the different at a distance? What’s the sense
in isolating that which is different? The disobedient with respect to dominant
ideology? What is the sense of war? How must we respond to all this? These are
examples of the questions that significs teaches us to ask.
With a focus on the dignity of the human person, Welby (1881, 1887, 1910,
1983 , 1985 , 2006, unpublished mss.) promoted and theorized the
development of critical consciousness and interpretive capacity from infancy (see
also, Petrilli 1997, 1998a, 1998b, 2004, 2005, 2006; Petrilli and Ponzio 2005:
chp. 2). Such themes are accompanied throughout her writings by reflection on
the inevitable connection of signs and values with responsibility and freedom
and, therefore, with the capacity for hospitality and listening to the other alien
to self. According to the logic of significs, which is in line with the logic of a
new form of humanism, the humanism of otherness, to take responsibility for
the other is inextricably connected with creative love for the other, care for the
other, and therefore with the capacity for proposing new and better worlds with
and for the other.
Proceeding with Welby, and beyond Welby in the world of globalization, we
propose to work for the construction of worlds which are no longer founded on
difference understood in terms of the logic of identity. Thus understood differ-
ence means to construct worlds on the basis of identity separations—whether
these pertain to gender, ethnic group, religion, ideology, etc. Such logic inevitably
involves the need to defend rights and interests connected with difference as
subtended by the egocentric logic of identity and belonging, even to the point
of accepting the logic of war, which, impossible to deny, characterizes the global
In contrast, from the perspective of significs or what we propose to call “semio-
ethics,” it is possible to work for a world that is founded on difference understood
in terms of otherness and dialogism, rather than of prevarication and dominion of
one difference over another. Such logic involves the capacity to stay together on
the basis of intercorporeal dialogue and co-participation among differences, even
when they clash. Global peace and freedom cannot be separated from the relation
of global involvement with the other—without identities, barriers, or alibis—from
the relation of responsibility for the other, of dialogic responsiveness towards the
other. And according to this logic, to be committed to human rights means to be
committed, always and without reserve, to the rights of the other.
The gift is a constant theme throughout Welby’s writings both as the object
of discourse when she predicates such values as love and care for the other, and
compassion, justice, and patience as the guiding values for social practice. But
even more significantly, she identifies gift logic as a constitutive component in
the relation among signs, in the generation of signifying processes and practices.
Otherness and excess, overflow with respect to identity logic, are recognized as
determining factors in the dynamics of interpretive processes and therefore in the
development of expressive systems, including verbal language. This is all one with
the dynamics of the constitution of subjectivity, the development of interpersonal
relations and experience of the world.
The Problem: The Logic of Identity and Global Communication-Production
The expression “global communication” refers to the capitalist, or postcapitalist,
system in its current phase of development. It may be understood in at least two
different senses. In fact, the term “global” in the expression “global communica-
tion” indicates: 1) the extension of communication over the entire planet; and 2) the
realistic tendency of communication to accommodate the world as it is (see Petrilli
and Ponzio 2000).
Globalization implies that communication pervades the entire productive
cycle. That is to say, communication not only enters exchange relations, as in
earlier phases of socio-economic development, but also relations of production
Globalization involves interference of communication, understood as com-
munication-production, not only in human life, but in all life over the planet.
Therefore, the expression “global communication-production” indicates the fact
that the communication network with the market based on equal exchange logic
has extended worldwide. But even more radically, it also refers to the fact that
life in its globality, including human life, has been englobed by the communica-
The capitalist system today in its global communication-production phase
is characterized by the industrial revolution in automation, globalization of
communication, and universalization of the market. That the market has been
universalized implies not only a quantitative fact of expansion, but also a fact
of quality. This is represented by the translatability of anything into goods and
by the production of new goods-things. Communication today does not just
concern the intermediate phase in the production cycle (production, exchange,
consumption). Far more extensively, it has also become a constitutive modality
in production and consumption processes. In other words, not only is exchange
communication, but production and consumption are also communication. This
means that the whole productive cycle is communication. For this very reason,
it follows that the current phase in capitalist production may be characterized as
the “communication-production” phase.
Communication understood as communication-production is global com-
munication in the sense that it has expanded over the entire planet (of course,
the planet of the privileged!), but also in the sense that it is communication
of the world as it is, of this world. Communication-production relates to the
world, it accommodates the world as it is, it is appropriate to this world. In this
socio-economic context, the capitalist or post-capitalist production system, com-
munication and reality, communication and being coincide. Communication is
reality. Realism in politics must keep faith to ontology, to being, and even goes as
far as to accept the extrema ratio of war, the crudest and most brutally realistic face
of being, dictated by the inexorable law of the force of things. Realistic politics (and
if it is not realistic, it is not politics) is politics that fits global communication, the
being of communication-production. Today, the relationship between politics and
ontology is the relation of politics with the ontology of being-communication,
which is global communication, that is, global communication-production.
Perseverance in communication-reproduction is perseverance in one and the same
social system, the capitalist. Capitalist society, with its continual adjustments and
transformations functional to its own maintenance, has not yet ceased to set, has
not yet finished ending, in spite of the signs of its ending, in spite of its having
emerged only at sunset (Hegel’s “noctule” [see Hegel 1819-20]). Ideology that
is functional to maintaining capitalism identifies being, the being of communica-
tion-production, with the being-communication of social reproduction in general.
The being of communication-production identifies so closely with the being of
social reproduction in general that it seems natural, indeed the only possibility
for human beings, an inherent part, as it were, of human nature. In other words,
once high levels have been reached in the economic, cultural, and scientific-
technological spheres (according to the logic of linear development), being-com-
munication-production is passed off as structural to human beings, as a necessary
and unchangeable modality of existence for the human species.
World planning for the ongoing development of communication and for control
over communication itself goes together with the reinforcement and reaffirmation
of the being of communication-production. This approach to world planning is
based on awareness of the productive character of communication and of the fact
that communication and being identify in capitalist communication-production
society. This socio-economic plan also knows that control over capital can only
be achieved by controlling communication.
Communication-production ideology is the ideology of total control over com-
munication. Communication-production ideology is so realistic, coherent, and
consistent with the being of things as they are, that it would seem to be the logic
of communication-production more than its ideology. Nor does communication-
production ideology hesitate to flaunt the good news of the end of ideology. In
relation to global communication-production, we propose the expression “ideo-logic”
rather than logic or ideology. Ideology functional to maintaining this particular
social system passes itself off, in good or bad faith, as the ideology that subtends
social reproduction in general.
On the contrary, social reproduction must escape the established order, that of
being-communication, in order to reinvent and re-organize social relations. Indeed,
social reproduction must get free of social systems such as that represented by
global communication-production given that the latter obstacles and endangers
social reproduction itself.
To preserve the being of communication-production is destructive. Reproduc-
tion of the productive cycle itself is destructive. The reproductive cycle destroys:
(a) machines that are continuously replaced with new machines—not because
they are worn out but because they are no longer competitive; (b) jobs, thereby
making way for automation which contributes to increasing unemployment; (c)
products on the market, where new forms of consumerism are ruled by the logic of
reproducing the reproductive cycle itself; (d) products that once purchased would
otherwise exhaust the demand (which means that products must be designed so
as to become immediately outdated and obsolete; in this way similar but new
products may be continuously proposed and introduced onto the market; (e)
commodities and markets unable to stand up to competition in the global com-
The European Commission has devoted special attention to the problem of
inventiveness and innovation functional to profit, to “immaterial investment”
and “competitivity,” as dictated by equal exchange market logic. In the context
of this logic, the “ideo-logic” of capitalism, it is not surprising that the European
Commission (1995) has identified “innovation” with “destruction.” The innovative
character of a product coincides with its capacity for destruction: new products
must be able to destroy products that are similar and already present on the market,
which would otherwise prevent the circulation of these new products. In today’s
world the capacity for innovation coincides with the capacity for destruction,
therefore the criteria for evaluating innovation are adjusted to equal exchange
The conatus essendi of today’s communication-production system destroys the
natural environment, the life-forms that inhabit our planet. It also destroys dif-
ference among economic systems and among cultures. Equal exchange market
logic activates processes of homogenization, which eliminate difference. Global
communication-production renders habits of behaviour and needs identical
(although the possibility of satisfying them is never identical). Even worse, com-
munication-production society levels desires and the imaginary at a worldwide
level. The conatus essendi of communication-production destroys traditions and
cultural patrimonies considered a threat to the capitalist logic of development,
productivity and competition, or that in the light of capitalist logic are simply
useless or nonfunctional. The communication-production system destroys any
forces or expressions of humanity that tend to escape the logic of capitalist pro-
duction. Intelligence, inventiveness, and creativity are subject to “market reason”
and as such are penalized (especially when production forces invest in “human
resources”). Today’s communication-production system is also destructive because
it produces underdevelopment as the condition for development, pushing human
exploitation and misery to the point of non-survival. This is the logic behind the
expanding phenomenon of migration, which “developed” countries are no longer
able to contain because of objective space limitations. No doubt this problem has
reached greater proportions today than ever before.
To globalize the market is destructive. The global market means to globalize the
status of merchandise which is applied indiscriminately to anything, including
relationships; this too is destructive. In today’s world, the more merchandise is
illegal, the more its economic value increases and the more it is expensive—think
of the traffic in drugs, human organs, children, uteruses, etc. To exploit the work
of other people is destructive. The more work produces profit the less it costs:
with the aid of a powerful support system as is global communication-production,
developed countries are ever more turning to low-cost work in underdeveloped
countries (“stay where you are, we will bring work to you”). The disgrace of the
communication-production world is manifest in the spreading exploitation of
child labour, which is mostly heavy labour and dangerous. Much needs to be
said and done about children as today’s privileged victims of underdevelopment,
children living in misery, sickness, and war, on the streets, in the work-force, on
The destructive character of worldwide communication-production is made
obvious by war, which is always a scandal. Global communication-production
is also the communication-production of war. War calls for new markets for
the communication-production of weapons, conventional and unconventional.
War must also be acknowledged as just and necessary, as an inevitable means of
defense against the growing danger of the menacing “other”: from this point of
view war is used as a means of imposing respect for the rights of “identity” and
“difference.” However, identities and differences can neither be threatened nor
destroyed by the “other.” The real menace today is a social system that encour-
ages and promotes identity and difference while undermining them, rendering
them fictitious and phantasmagorical. This is why we tend to cling to such values
so passionately, so unreasonably, according to a logic that fits the logic of the
communication-production of war to perfection.
The spread of “biopower” (Foucault 1988) with the controlled insertion of
bodies into the global production-communication system is supported by the idea
of the individual as a separate and self-sufficient entity. The body is conceived
as an isolated biological entity that belongs to the individual. Such a conception
has led to the quasi-total extinction of cultural practices and worldviews based
on intercorporeity, interdependency among bodies, the exposition of bodies, and
opening to each other. What we are left with are mummified residues studied by
folklore analysts, archeological remains preserved in ethnological museums or in
the history of national literatures—the expression of a generalized situation of
Think of how the body is perceived by popular culture as discussed by Mikhail
M. Bakhtin (1963, 1968), of the various forms of “grotesque realism.” According
to the logic of grotesque realism, the body or corporeal life in general are not
conceived individualistically, that is, separately from the rest of life on Earth,
indeed, from the rest of the world. However, only weak traces of the grotesque
body have survived in the present age. Examples include: rites, ritual masks, masks
used during popular festivities, masks used for carnival. Before individualism was
asserted with the rise of the bourgeosie, the body was presented by “grotesque
realism” ideology in popular culture during the Middle Ages as undefined and
unbounded, as flourishing in symbiotic relations with other bodies. In the Middle
Ages, the body was related to other bodies in relations of transformation and
renewal that transcended the limits of individual life. On the contrary, present
day global communication-production reinforces the individualistic, private and
static conception of the body.
As evidenced by Michel Foucault (1988, see also Foucault et al. 1996), divi-
sion or separatism among the sciences is also functional to the ideological-social
necessities of the new cannon of the individualized body (Bakhtin 1968). (On this
point we must also remember the work of the Italian philosopher and semiotician
Ferruccio Rossi-Landi (1975) and his sharp analyses of the 1970s.) Separatism
among the sciences associated with ideological and social individualism favour
control over bodies and their insertion into the reproductive cycle of the com-
A Way Out as Indicated by Global Semiotics and Semioethics: The Logic
We propose an approach to the signs of life and to the life of signs that is global
and at once detotalizing. This approach is connected with the logic of otherness.
It implies a high degree of availability for the other, readiness to listen to the
other, a capacity for hospitality, and for opening to the other both in qualitative
and quantitative terms (global semiotics is omni-comprehensive). Semiotic in-
terpretation must not prescind from the dialogic relation to the other. Dialogism
and the condition of intercorporeity are fundamental conditions for an approach
to semiotics that is oriented globally and at once open to the local, which is not
simply to be englobed. The approach we are theorizing privileges the tendency
toward detotalization and otherness rather than totalization and englobement
according to the logic of identity.
As Emmanuel Levinas (1961) demonstrated, otherness obliges the totality to
reorganize itself ever anew in a process related to what he calls “infinity.” This
process may also be related to the concept of “infinite semiosis” (or sign activity),
as understood by Charles S. Peirce (1931-1966). The relation to infinity is more
than a cognitive issue. It involves co-implication with the other, responsibility
beyond the established order, beyond convention and habit, and beyond the
alibis these provide to keep a clean conscience. The relation to infinity is the
relation to absolute otherness, that is, a relation to that which is most refractory to
the totality. The relation to infinity implies a relation to the otherness of others,
to the otherness of the other person. We are alluding to the other understood
as the other that is alien, the extraneous other, and not the other understood
as another self like one’s own self, another alter ego, another “I” belonging to
the same community. The other we are theorizing is understood in the sense of
strangeness, diversity, difference toward which we must not be indifferent, toward
which we must tend in spite of all the efforts made by self to the contrary, in
spite of guarantees offered by the identity of I, of self.
This approach to semiotics is not ideological. On the contrary, our focus is on
the human being understood as a “semiotic animal,” therefore on human behaviour
in the light of a unique capacity specific to human beings for responsibility. The
expression “semiotic animal” indicates a responsible agent capable of producing
signs of signs, of suspending action and of meditating and reflecting: the semiotic
animal is capable of responsible awareness with respect to signs over the entire
planet. From this perspective, “global semiotics” does not imply a cognitive approach
alone to semiosic processes. Global semiotics is sensitive to another dimension
beyond the theoretical, that is, the ethical. Given that this dimension concerns
the ends toward which we must strive, we have also designated it with the terms
“teleosemiotics” or “telosemiotics.” Now we propose the term “semioethics.”
Semiotics and, therefore, the semiotician, must inevitably make a commitment
to the “health of semiosis.” The capacity for responsive understanding toward the
entire semiosic universe must be cultivated. To do this, semiotics must be ready
to improve and refine its auditory and critical functions, its capacity for listening
and critique. Semioethics can provide semiotics with adequate instruments for
a critique of signs and sign systems. We believe that semioethics can provide an
interpretation of sign processes in transition, that is, an interpretation in terms of
the dynamics of shift, rupture, and flux that regulate sign processes, in contrast to
signs and sign systems fixed and crystallized into objective entities and conceived
in terms of being instead of becoming.
Places of the Gift from a Semiotic Perspective
As I have stated elsewhere (2004), semioethics may contribute with gift theory
(see Vaughan 1997) to a better understanding of today’s world and of the subjects
who inhabit it. Ultimately, they may contribute to radical social change according
to the logic of “social agapism” (from “agape” = love). This is a happy expression
proposed by Genevieve Vaughan in a letter to me commenting on my 1997 paper,
“Subject, Body and Agape.”
As Vaughan says in the book For-Giving (1997), gift giving exists “in many
places” but is made invisible by patriarchal capitalism. In reality, gift giving is ef-
fectively the basis of communication, including communication-production in the
present day phase in capitalist production. Traces of gift-giving are in fact visible
on a large-scale in the capitalist system: for example, in economies of Indigenous
cultures, in such phenomena as women’s free housework, or the remittances
sent by immigrants to their families in their home countries. As Vaughan also
demonstrates, even linguistic work, or “immaterial work” (as we now call it), is
inseparable from gift giving and, in effect, is itself gift giving, linguistic gift giving.
What we also need to underline is that in the global communication-production
system, linguistic work or immaterial work is now acknowledged as a funda-
mental “resource,” a basic “investment” (that is, an “immaterial investment”),
indispensible to that system.
As a contribution in a semiotical key to the gift giving paradigm conceived by
Vaughan (1997, see also Vaughan 2004), the following may be indicated as further
places of the gift and may also be considered as susceptible to development in the
direction of semioethics (and significs).
A place of the gift is creative inference, which the American semiotician Charles
S. Peirce (1931-1966) has contributed to emphasizing with his concept of abduc-
tion. In the language of inference and inferential processes abduction indicates
innovative argument, creative reasoning. Abduction is the name of a special type
of argumentation, the development or transition in reasoning from one interpre-
tant to another, which is foreseen by logic but supercedes the logic of identity.
Abduction develops through argumentative procedures that may be described
as eccentric, innovative, and inventive, especially in its more risky or creative
expressions. In abduction, in contrast to induction and deduction, the relation-
ship between the interpreted sign, i.e., the premise, and the interpretant sign, i.e.,
the conclusion, is regulated by similarity, attraction, and reciprocal autonomy.
Grounded in the logic of otherness, abduction is dialogic in a substantial sense.
Therefore, abduction belongs to the sphere of otherness, of substantial dialogism,
creativity; it proceeds through a relationship of fortuitous attraction among
signs and is dominated by similarity. As anticipated, abductive argumentative
procedure is risky, which is to say that it advances mainly through arguments
that are tentative and hypothetical, leaving a minimal margin to convention
and mechanical necessity. Insofar as it overcomes the logic of identity and equal
exchange between parts, abduction belongs to the sphere of excess, overflow,
exile, d╚pense, of giving without profit, of the gift beyond exchange, of desire. It
proceeds, more or less always, at the level of the “interesting” and is articulated
in the dialogic and disinterested relationship among signs. This relationship is
regulated by the law of creative love. Therefore, abduction is an argumentative
procedure of the agapastic type.
Another place of gift giving that is strictly connected with creative inference,
is what Victoria Welby (2006, unpublished mss.; see also Petrilli 1998b, 2006;
Petrilli and Ponzio 2003, 2005: chp. 2) calls “primary sense.” Welby proposed the
term “mother-sense,” or “primary sense,” for a capacity that is common to men
and women as much as it may be sexually differentiated in our patriarchal-capi-
talist society. Mother-sense is commonly referred to with a series of stereotyped
terms including “intuition,” “judgement,” “wisdom.” In any case, mother-sense is
common to men and women even though it may be particularly alive in women
owing to the daily practices they are called to carry out in their role, for example,
of mother or wife. The allusion is to practices oriented by the logic of otherness
and responsibility, practices based on giving, and responsibility for the other,
care for the other. Welby also underlined women’s responsibility, as the main
custodians of mother-sense in the development of verbal and nonverbal language
and, therefore, in the construction of the symbolic order. With the concept of
“mother-sense” or “primary sense,” Welby also signals the need to recover the
human capacity for criticism, for gift logic subtending inferential procedure (in
particular abduction), otherness, and dialogism, for unprejudiced thinking, for
shifts in the orientation of sense production, for prevision and anticipation, for
translation (understood in the broadest sense possible of this term, that is, for
translation across space and time, across the order of signs and the axiological
universe with which the latter are interconnected).
Finally, individual identity itself may be indicated as a place of the gift. The
individual may be described, as does Welby (2006; see also Petrilli 1998b;
Petrilli and Ponzio 2005: chp. 2) as a dialectical, indeed dialogical, relation-
ship between the “Ident” and the “Self.” The Ident is a generative center of
multiple selves and at once a multiplicity inhabiting each one of our selves. The
Ident is a dialectical and open unit with respect to the sum total of its parts,
its multiple selves. With respect to the self, the Ident represents an overflow,
an excess value, a gift:
In order to Be—and really to Be is to be Given—what is impotent for fertile
being is not; there must be overflow, there must be in some sense gift. True
that in the arithmetical sense the bare unit may be added to and may multiply.
But that is just because it has no content and no identity, as it has no fertility.
Full identity is generative, is a Giver of its very self. (Welby 2006 ).
The Ident is an orientation toward the other, toward the self insofar as it is other;
a continuous transcending and transferral of the limits of the subject as it is, of
the hic et nunc of subjectivity. The self represents that which to a certain extent
can be identified, measured, calculated; instead the Ident can only be approached
by approximation, tentatively and hypothetically—but never captured—and only
by working through the means at our disposal, that is, our selves.
In Welby’s description and similarly to Peirce, the human being is a community
of parts that are distinct but not separate. Far from excluding each other, these
parts, or selves, are interconnected by a dialogic relation of reciprocal dependence.
In other words, they are founded in the logic of otherness and of non-indifference
among differences, which excludes the possibility of non differentiated confu-
sion among the parts, of levelling the other on to self. As says Welby (2006), to
confound is to sacrifice distinction. Therefore, to the extent that it represents an
excess or an overflow with respect to the sum of its parts, the I or Ident is not the
“individual” but the “unique” (Welby 2006 ). What Welby understood
by “unique”—which has no relation to the monadic separatism of Max Stirner’s
(1844) conception of the unique, of singularity—may be translated with the
concept of “non relative otherness,” as understood by Levinas (1961), or with
his concept of “significance,” which is also theorized by Welby (1983 ; see
also Petrilli 1998a, 1998b, 2004; Petrilli and Ponzio 2005) in the context of her
own theory of meaning. In fact, she proposed a meaning triad that distinguishes
between “sense,” “meaning,” and “significance”:
...for we may represent the Unique. That is the word which might well
supersede the intolerably untrue “individual.” It is in fact just our dividual-
ity which constitutes the richness of our gifts. We can, but must not be,
divided; we must include the divisible in the greatest of Wholes, the organic
Whole, which as risen to the level of the human, may crown each one of us
as unique. (Welby 2006 ).
From Welby’s (1910) theoretical perspective, the self is also described as a way
and not as an end; and in this sense it may be considered as “individual,” that is,
a way without interruptions to life and knowledge.
The ether, as science is revealing, is the unfailing way, the medium, whereon
and whereby the light itself reaches us. Now “Self,” again, is properly a
Way, a Medium through which we energize and act, though alas, with our
unconscious selfishness, we turn it into an End and identify Man with that.
Yet, even as it is, we do not praise a man when we call him selfish. One
who knows his self not as end but as means alone understands the highest
form of identity. For the true Man is first and last the way through truth to
life in a mentally Copernican sense, and through consciousness and tested
observation, to knowledge. In such a way there must be no flaw, no slit, no
gap or chasm. In this sense Man as a way is individual, that is, not divided
or broken. (431)
According to Welby (1887), the secret of life is the concept of life as the gift,
which means also the gift for truth, knowledge and interpretation. In her own
words from her early papers: “The power of the Gift ... was vitalizing all truth,
interpreting all problems, unifying all nature” (1). The gift is described as the
human capacity to perceive life in all its expressions, to experience nature, the
world at large, the universe in their dialogic relations of interconnection and vital
interdependency; the capacity to experience, to know and be conscious of the
existent in a Copernican or heliocentric perspective, indeed, even more broadly,
in a cosmic perspective. And to live and experience the relation among signs and
senses in their dialogic and intercorporeal dynamism and interdependency, in
their capacity for change, transformation, and continuous development, in their
capacity for creative interpretation, also means not only to recognize but also to
enhance the human capacity for critique and radical change.
Susan Petrilli is Associate Professor of Semiotics at the University of Bari, department of
Linguistic Practices and Text Analysis. Her principal areas of study include sign theory,
subject theory, theory of meaning and language, communication theory, problems of
ideology, translation theory. She has edited three collective volumes of the series Athanor
(1999, 2000, 2001) on theory and semiotics of translation, another dedicated to the
theme Nero (2003), and the most recent dedicated to Ferruccio Rossi-Landi entitled
Lavoro immateriale (2004). Her major publications include: Su Victoria Welby.
Significs e filosofia del linguaggio (1998); Teoria dei segni e del linguaggio (1999);
and with Augusto Ponzio, I segni e la vita. La semiotica globale di Thomas A. Sebeok
(2002); Semioetica (2003); and Views in Literary Semiotics (2003).
Includes writings by Welby and writings on Welby by Susan Petrilli. The volume also
includes her correspondence with important figures of the time, and a small reader
in significs with papers by significians influenced by Welby.
Bakhtin, Mikhail. 1963. Problemy poetiki dostoevskogo. Moscow: Sovetskij pisatel. Published
in English as: Problems of dostoevsky’s Poetics. Trans. and Ed. C. Emerson. Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota Press, 1984.
Bakhtin, Mikhail. 1968. Rabelais and His World. Trans. and Ed. Krystina Pomorska.
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European Commission. 1995. Green Book on Innovation. Typescript.
Foucault, Michel. 1988. Technologies of the Self. A Seminar. Amherst: The University of
Foucault, Michel et al. 1996. Biopolitica e territorio. Millepiani 9. Milan: Mimesis.
Hegel, Georg Wilhem Friedrich. 1932 [1819-20]. Grundlinien der filosofie des Rech. Ed.
G. Lasson. Leipzig: Meiner.
Levinas, Emmanuel. 1961. Totalit╚ et Infini. The Hague: Nijhoff. Published in English:
Totality and Infinity. Trans. A. Lingis. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1991.
Peirce, Charles Sanders. 1931-1966. Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce. Eds.Charles
Hartshorne, Paul Weiss, and Arthur W. Burks. 8 Vols. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press
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Petrilli, Susan. 1997. “Subject, Body and Agape. Toward Teleosemiotics with Peirce and
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Centro Internazionale di Semiotica e di Linguistica, Universitř di Urbino.
Petrilli, Susan. 1998a. Teoria dei segni e del linguaggio. Bari: Graphis.
Petrilli, Susan. 1998b. Su Victoria Welby: Significs e filosofia del linguaggio. Naples: Edizioni
Petrilli, Susan. 2004. “Gift-Giving, Mother-Sense and Subjectivity in Victoria Welby. A
Study in Semioethics.” The Gift/Il dono: A Feminist Analysis. Athanor: Semiotica, Filosofia,
Arte, Letteratura 15 (8): 179-198.
Petrilli, Susan. 2005. Percorsi della semiotica. Bari: Graphis.
Petrilli, Susan, ed. 2006. Introduction to Victoria Welby’s Significs Through a Selection of her
Writings Presented and Commented by Susan Petrilli. Toronto: University of Toronto
Petrilli, Susan and Augusto Ponzio. 2000. Il sentire nella comunicazione globale. Rome:
Petrilli, Susan and Augusto Ponzio. 2002. I segni e la vita: La semiotica globale di Thomas
A. Sebeok. Milan: Spirali.
Petrilli, Susan and Augusto Ponzio. 2003. Semiotica. Rome: Meltemi.
Petrilli, Susan and Augusto Ponzio. 2005. Semiotics Unbounded: Interpretive Routes through
the Open Network of Signs. Toronto: Toronto University Press.
Rossi-Landi, Ferruccio. 1975. Linguistics and Economics. The Hague: Mouton.
Stirner, Max. 1972 . Der Einzige und sein Eigentum. Ed. Ahlrich Meyer. Stuttgart:
Vaughan, Genevieve. 1997. For-Giving: A Feminist Criticism of Exchange. Austin, TX:
Vaughan, Genevieve, ed. 2004. Il dono/The Gift: A Feminist Analysis. 15 (8) Athanor:
Semiotica, Filosofia, Arte, Letteratura. Roma, Meltemi Editore.
Welby, Victoria. 1883. Links and Clues. London: Macmillan and Co.
Welby, Victoria. 1887. The Secret of Life. Grantham: W. Clarke.
Welby, Victoria. 2006 [1907, June]. “I and Self.” Introduction to Victoria Welby’s Significs
Through a Selection of her Writings Presented and Commented by Susan Petrilli. Ed. Susan
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Welby, Victoria. 1983 . What is Meaning? Studies in the development of Significance.
Amsterdam: J. Benjamins.
Welby, Victoria. 1985 . Significs and Language: The Articulate Form of Our Expressive
and Interpretative Resources. In Foundations of Semiotic. Vol. 5. Ed. H. Walter Schmitz.
Amsterdam: J. Benjamins.
Welby, Victoria. 2006. Introduction to Victoria Welby’s Significs Through a Selection of her
Writings Presented and Commented by Susan Petrilli. Ed. Susan Petrilli. Toronto:
University of Toronto Press.
Welby, Victoria. Unpublished Manuscripts. Welby Collection, York University Archives
and Special Collections, York University, Toronto, Canada.