Meet Your Publisher: Gurdeep Mattu, Bloomsbury Academic

Gurdeep Mattu

I have always been interested in semiotics, if we are to take ‘an interest in semiotics’ to mean an ‘interest in how things mean’.  That’s perhaps a difficult and rather tortuous phrase to begin with, but sentences like that have always interested me, and those books that refuse easy definition, but hint at great things within them, both in academia and fiction, prosper through their many re-readings.  Throughout school and university, the idea of meaning and meanings was central to me – a pluralism of identity seemed very appropriate at the turn of the millennium – and I spent my time there extrapolating meaning, and meanings, from texts, to discuss and use in essays.  It was only when I arrived in academic publishing, and even then only when I begin in earnest to try to develop the semiotics list at Continuum, that it became clear to me what a huge and diverse field semiotics is and that ‘how things mean’ was only the start.

Some words on Continuum and Bloomsbury Academic.

It might be easier to start this recap at the end, that is to say, that in summer 2011, Continuum Books were taken over by Bloomsbury to form a part of the Bloomsbury Academic division.  It is a logical next step for a company formed in 1999, with a London and New York office, international in size, outlook and scope.  We now have an even better platform to build on.  Our linguistics list has had a dedicated editor since at least 2004, possessing a backlist assembled from the well-respected output of Pinter Publishers, Athlone Press (the university press of the University of London) and Cassell Academic.  Through the early part of the 2000s, the list grew in size and ambition, and one of the most impressive milestones in that growth was the publication of the Collected Works of M. A. K. Halliday.  Systemic Functional Linguistics, which formed a theoretical backdrop to much of the list during the mid 2000s, has always concerned itself with meaning and function.  I felt it only natural to expand our publishing in a proactive (and, I hope, provocative) way into a discipline that could well understand this: semiotics. And in doing so, it is evident that the boundaries between linguistics as a science and as a humanities discipline, and those of semiotics, are grey areas, and are porous, and the two disciplines stand very well side by side, talking with each other.

Some words on our new series.

Advances in Semiotics, edited by Professor Paul Bouissac, forms the spearhead of our efforts to publish vibrant new voices in the field.  We began our publishing relationship talking over a proposal that would eventually become the book Saussure: A Guide for The Perplexed (Continuum, 2010).  Our discussions eventually led to the founding of a new series which would publish cutting-edge work in semiotics – something that the list at Continuum lacked, and something that indeed the field of semiotics lacked, to some extent.  Our remit has always been to give series editors freedom and to be supportive in their efforts to attract quality scholarship, and Professor Bouissac came to me with an excellent range of topics that we could think about commissioning in.  We’re rapidly moving it forward, with books on the way on The Semiotics of Religion (Robert Yelle) and The Semiotics of Drink and Drinking (Paul Manning).  Our design team has come up with an excellent series cover that is clear, striking and bold.  I would actively encourage readers to get in touch with me or Paul about possible proposals.

Our series aim.

In the next year or so we hope to bring out the first wave of publications on the Advances in Semiotics series, and I hope to deepen my awareness of the discipline of semiotics and how it functions.  Most importantly, I feel, is try to and understand how semiotics and linguistics sit together, and I think that some valuable publishing lies in that direction. As a list, I continue to function as editor and advocate, and we are increasing in size and scope.  We now publish nearly 60 books a year in linguistics, and each one I think helps us get closer to where we want to be.  Every once in a while there is a book that everyone wants to read, and feels they have to read, in order to participate in the great debate.  It is that book that we are searching for, and what we want is to be the natural port of call for the someone who is out there, somewhere, writing it.