The semiotics of space in Dovid Bergelson's Opgang Cover Image
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Die Semiotik des Raumes in Dovid Bergelsons Opgang
The semiotics of space in Dovid Bergelson's Opgang

Author(s): BEÁTA NINK
Subject(s): Semiotics / Semiology, Theoretical Linguistics, Jewish Thought and Philosophy, Ukrainian Literature, Theory of Literature
Published by: Akadémiai Kiadó
Keywords: Dovid Bergelson; Opgang; Yiddish literature; Y. M. Lotman; semiotics of space; opposition “House–Antihouse”; peculiar Jewish Christ; Chagall;

Summary/Abstract: This paper presents a novel analysis of the work entitled Opgang by the Soviet Yiddish writer Dovid Bergelson from the point of view of the semiotics of space. Born as the reflection by a linguistic and cultural minority to the social changes around the 1917 revolution, the novel has a non-linear structure, and hence, the semiotic interpretation of the recurring central motifs might bring closer to a deeper understanding. The paper aims at answering two main questions. First, do the motifs known from mythology—in this case, the semiotic spaces, such as forest, village and house—change their meaning, and if yes, how does this happen? Second, following Lotman’s semiotic analyses, what is the connection between the spaces and the central characters of the work? The semiotic analysis has issued two main results. First, the meanings of the semiotic spaces have been surprisingly reversed compared to their traditional meaning in mythological and later Russian literary sources, thereby creating a unique mythology within the work itself. Second, using Lotman’s methodology shows also for the case of Bergelson’s novel that the interpretation of the spaces and of the characters cannot be separated from each other. The two protagonists form together a peculiar “двойник character”, one of which is shown by the analysis as an unusual Jewish Christ crucified by the old traditions and their alteration in the changing world of the early Soviet era. All these observations allow for associations with parallel phenomena in arts, such as paintings of Marc Chagall.

  • Issue Year: 51/2006
  • Issue No: 3-4
  • Page Range: 287-309
  • Page Count: 23
  • Language: German