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Lotman's World

Blending archival footage and imaginative animation (and periodic mash-ups of both), LOTMAN'S WORLD introduces us to the life and work of Yuri Lotman (1922-1993), a pioneer semiotician and cultural critic whose many writings in semiotics and structuralism dealt with a wide range of artistic, theoretical and historical issues.

Lotman studied philology and literature at Leningrad State University and served as a radio operator during WWII, but after the war Lotman was unable to continue his studies or find employment in Moscow because of anti-Semitism. In 1950 he began teaching at Tartu University in Estonia, which he found an oasis of free thought, where he could lecture and write and conduct research with likeminded educators.



Lotman's Tartu colleagues-including Boris Uspensky, Alexander Piatigorsky, Vladimir Toporov and Vyacheslav Ivanov-plus semioticians such as Umberto Eco and Peter Torop, discuss the cultural study of signs, signifiers and meanings, languages as both textual and visual structures, and reminisce about Lotman's talents as a lecturer and his brilliance as a thinker and writer.

In archival interviews, Lotman himself discusses the broader context of semiotics, which involves the relationship between culture and nature, the importance of moral qualities such as tolerance, intelligence, and self-respect, the true nature of freedom, and the overall meaning of life. Interviews with family members, including his older sister and his son, round out this portrait of Lotman as both human being and influential teacher and author.

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