Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton August 16, 2019

Hi-Fi, Lo-Fi, No-Fi, and Wi-Fi Interpretation

Massimo Leone
From the journal Chinese Semiotic Studies


The article seeks to establish a dialog, from a semiotic point of view, with the grand cartography of methods in literary criticism proposed by Prof. Zhang Jiang in his famous essay “Imposed interpretation.” While acknowledging that Prof. Zhang Jiang identifies the most crucial weak points of the semiotic methodology, the article nevertheless takes these criticisms as occasions to improve the approach of semiotics, as regards especially the following oppositions: diagrammatic over-schematization versus quest for a more judicious application of the method; overenthusiastic adoption of mathematical formulas versus cautious cross-fertilization between humanities and scientific thought; frantic pursuance of theoretical uniformity versus humble acceptance of literary idiosyncrasies; fundamentalist proclamation of the self-reliance of the text versus thoughtful consideration of the evident links between the text and its contexts. This new theoretical approach, wherein traditional semiotics improves itself in dialog with Prof. Zhang Jiang’s criticisms, is exemplified with reference to the concept of interpretive fidelity, which is categorized into different levels and dimensions of adhesion between the textual structure and the discourse of the meta-language interpreting it: hi-fi, low-fi, no-fi, and wi-fi interpretation.

So spake the Seraph Abdiel faithful found, Among the faithless, faithful only hee; Among innumerable false, unmov’d, Unshak’n, unseduc’d, unterrifi’d […] (John Milton 1667, Paradise Lost: 5.896–9)


Barthes, Roland. 1967. The death of the author. English trans. by Richard Howard. In Aspen: The Magazine in a Box 5–6; available at (last accessed 7 December 2016); subsequently published in French as Roland Barthes, 1968, La mort de l’auteur, Mantéia 5. 12–17Search in Google Scholar

Bertrand, Denis. 2000. Précis de sémiotique littéraire Paris: Nathan.Search in Google Scholar

Coquet, Jean-Claude. 2007. Phusis et logos : une phénoménologie du langage Saint-Denis: Presses universitaires de Vincennes.Search in Google Scholar

Eco, Umberto. 1990. The limits of interpretation Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Eco, Umberto, Richard Rorty, Jonathan Culler and Christine Brooke-Rose. 1992. Interpretation and overinterpretation Edited by Stefan Collini. Cambridge, UK/ New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.10.1017/CBO9780511627408Search in Google Scholar

Floch, Jean-Marie. 1995. Identités visuelles Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.Search in Google Scholar

Floch, Jean-Marie. 2000. Visual identities Trans. by Pierre van Osselaer & Alec McHoul. New York: Continuum.Search in Google Scholar

Fontanille, Jacques. 2011. Corps et sens Paris: Presses universitaires de France.10.3917/puf.jacq.2011.01Search in Google Scholar

Fontanille, Jacques. 2015. Formes de vie Liège: Presses universitaires de Liège.10.4000/books.pulg.2207Search in Google Scholar

Ge, Fei. 2016. The Invisibility Cloak English trans. from Chinese by Canaan Morse. New York: New York Review of Books.Search in Google Scholar

Geninasca, Jacques. 1997. La parole littéraire Paris: Presses universitaires de France.Search in Google Scholar

Greimas, Algirdas Julien. 1976. Maupassant: La sémiotique du texte: Exercices pratiques Paris: Éditions du Seuil.Search in Google Scholar

Greimas, Algirdas J. 1987. De l’Imperfection Périgueux: Pierre Fanlac.Search in Google Scholar

Greimas, Algirdas Julien. 1988. Maupassant: The semiotics of text: Practical exercises English translation by Paul Perron. Amsterdam/ Philadelphia: J. Benjamins Pub. Co.10.1075/sc.1Search in Google Scholar

Landowski, Eric. 1989. La société réfléchie Paris: Editions du Seuil.Search in Google Scholar

Leone, Massimo. 2016a. Complotto / Conspiracy special issue of Lexia 23–24. Rome: Aracne.Search in Google Scholar

Leone, Massimo. 2016b. Cultural Semiotics as Fluxorum Scientia. Online. In Kristian Bankov (ed.), New semiotics. Between tradition and innovation Proceedings of the 12th World Congress of Semiotics. IASS Publications & NBU Publishing House (ISSN 2414-6862); available at (last accessed 7 December 2016).Search in Google Scholar

Leone, Massimo. 2017a. Socio-sémiotique des “livres à visages,” online. Nouveaux Actes Sémiotiques 120.Search in Google Scholar

Leone, Massimo. 2017b. The clash of semiotic civilizations. Sign Systems Studies 45 1/2 special issue on Algirdas J. Greimas. 70-87.10.12697/SSS.2017.45.1-2.05Search in Google Scholar

Leone, Massimo. 2018. The jealousy of Rembrandt: Transparency and opacity in the history of visual media. In Massimo Leone, Patrícia Branco, Nadirsyah Hosen, and Richard Mohr (eds.), Technologies of law and religion: Representation, objects and agency [I Saggi di Lexia]. Rome: Aracne. 177-92.Search in Google Scholar

Lévinas, Emmanuel. 1961. Totalité et infini ; essai sur l’extériorité The Hague: M. Nijhoff.Search in Google Scholar

Lévinas, Emmanuel. 1969. Totality and infinity; An essay on exteriority English trans. by Alphonso Lingis. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Thom, René. 1988. Esquisse d’une sémiophysique : Physique aristotélienne et théorie des catastrophes Paris: InterEditions.Search in Google Scholar

Thom René. 1990. Semio physics: A sketch English trans. by Vendla Meyer. Redwood City, CA: Addison-Wesley Pub. Co., Advanced Book Program.Search in Google Scholar

Tu Fu. 2016. A little primer of Tu Fu (1967). Revised edn. English trans. by David Hawkes. Hong Kong: The Chinese University of Hong Kong/New York: New York Review Books.Search in Google Scholar

Zhang, Jiang. 2016. The dogmatic character of imposed interpretation. Social Sciences in China 37(3). 132–147.10.1080/02529203.2016.1194638Search in Google Scholar

Zhang, Jiang. Forthcoming. Can the author be dead? In Massimo Leone (ed.), Intenzionalità / Intentionality Special issue of Lexia 29-30. Rome: Aracne.Search in Google Scholar

Zilberberg, Claude. 2006. Eléments de grammaire tensive Limoges: PULIM.Search in Google Scholar

Published Online: 2019-08-16
Published in Print: 2019-08-27

© 2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

Scroll Up Arrow