Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …


Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies / Revue de l'Association Internationale de Sémiotique

Editor-in-Chief: Danesi, Marcel

6 Issues per year

IMPACT FACTOR 2017: 0.183
5-year IMPACT FACTOR: 0.283

CiteScore 2017: 0.23

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2017: 0.228
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2017: 0.634

Agenzia Nazionale di Valutazione del Sistema Universitario e della Ricerca: Classe A

See all formats and pricing
More options …
Volume 2007, Issue 165


A semiotic definition of literary discourse

Jørgen Dines Johansen
Published Online: 2007-07-31 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/SEM.2007.035


In this article, an anthropological definition of literature is attempted. Since all communities seem to have some kind of literature (including its simple forms: myth, folktale, fable, proverb, and song), literature is claimed to be a human universal. Hence, literary discourse should be added to the four basic discourses that Habermas has pointed out and discussed; namely, theoretical, practical, historical, and technical discourses. Five characteristics of literary discourse are pointed out here: fictionality, poeticity, inquisitoriality, poetic licence, and contemplation. It is not claimed that every text that is classified as literary necessarily contains all five features, but a vast majority of them do. Finally, it is argued that literary discourse is special because it redefines Habermas' four so-called ‘universal-pragmatic validity’ claims: understandability, truth, normative rightness, and sincerity. These claims are not altogether suspended, but they are given new meanings and attenuated in literary discourse.

About the article

Jørgen Dines Johansen

His research interests include semiotics, theory of literature, psychology and psychoanalysis applied to literature, and nineteenth century European literature. His recent publications include Literary Discourse. A Semiotic-Pragmatic Approach to Literature (2002); Litteratur og begær. Ti studier i dansk og norsk 1800-tals litteratur [Literature and desire. Studies of Danish and Norwegian literature of the nineteenth century] (2003); Ind i natten. Seks kapitler om Ibsens sidste skuespil [Into the night. Six chapters on Ibsen's last plays] (2004).

Published Online: 2007-07-31

Published in Print: 2007-06-19

Citation Information: Semiotica, Volume 2007, Issue 165, Pages 107–131, ISSN (Online) 1613-3692, ISSN (Print) 0037-1998, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/SEM.2007.035.

Export Citation

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in