Update from Tartu: the MA program in semiotics after one year

MA Students at the University of Tartu

The fall 2009 semester marked the start of the International Master’s program  in Semiotics which reunited students from all over the world (Chile, Colombia, Egypt, Italy, Mexico, Romania, Russia, Turkey, UK, Ukraine, USA) with diverse background. The program is fully taught in English, requires two years of study (three semesters of lectures and the writing of the Master’s thesis in the final semester)  and has a very interdisciplinary bent. Its unique blend of international vocation coupled with excellent teaching staff  makes the Semiotics MA in Tartu an ideal place for prospective students of ‘the doctrine of signs’. The University of Tartu is one of the few academic institutions in the world offering BA, MA and PhD programs in Semiotics since 1993. The Department of Semiotics (Faculty of Philosophy) was established in 1992 and is one of the leading centre of semiotics in Europe.

Undoubtedly, Estonia is a unique country for studying semiotics. First and foremost, Tartu represents the locus of the encounter of two semiotic traditions – the semiotics of nature and the semiotics of culture.  Both Juri Lotman, key figure for the semiotic of culture and  founder of the Tartu-Moscow semiotic school, and the Baltic German Estonian-born Jakob Von Uexküll whose Umwelt theory led to the development of Biosemiotics, have their roots in  Tartu.

The curriculum offered by the MA in Semiotics reflects the aforementioned theoretical legacies. The core of the program involves four main areas of study: a general module and three specialty modules, namely, culture, nature and society.  The ‘General Module’ aims to broaden students’ semiotics knowledge by studying classical works, revising basic concepts, reading Jakob Von Uexküll and Juri Lotman’s works as well as focusing on the main figures of the history of semiotics. In addition to lectures,  MA Semiotics students follow specific seminars in which excerpts from milestone publications are read, commented and discussed in group. Methodological issues as well as MA thesis projects are discussed and addressed in proper seminars (Methodology for Semiotic Analysis and Master’s Seminar) in which active participation, group discussions and feedback from professional teaching staff are the dominant features. The ‘Culture Module’ includes: Cultural Semiotics and Theories of Cultures, Semiotics of Art, Semiotics of Translation, Semiotic Analysis of Performance and Multimediality. The ‘Nature Module’ offers: Biosemiotics, Ecosemiotics, Zoosemiotics and Landscape Semiotics whereas the ‘Society module’ encompasses Sociosemiotics and Societal Theories, Ideology and the Concept of Identity, Models of Communication and Mass Media and the Semiotic Analysis of Subcultures. The strength of the MA in Semiotics at the University of Tartu is that it offers the international students to study semiotics from very heterogeneous perspectives by means of different schools of though and teaching traditions. Furthermore, the relatively small number of students facilitates the creation of a fruitful learning environment based on dialogue and active participation.

Remo Gramigna, Alina Ruxandra Mircea, and Svitlana Biedarieva

Besides compulsory subjects, students can opt for elective courses offered by the University of Tartu. For instance, during the fall 2009 semester, visiting professor Roger Parent from the University of Alberta delivered an elective course entitled “Semiotics of Cultural Conflicts”. In February 2010 professor Kalevi Kull (head of the Department of Semiotics, University of Tartu) together with professor Jesper Hoffmeyer (University of Copenhagen) and professor Scott F. Gilbert (Swarthmore College) organized a seminar entitled “Semiotics of Organic forms” and in May 2010 Dr. Paul Cobley from London Metropolitan University held a one day seminar on Peircean semiotics.

All teaching staff at the University of Tartu welcome international students and semioticians from all over the world showing a strong commitment towards the MA program in Semiotics. In Tartu there is an ongoing process of amelioration. All students are encouraged to do their best, are tutored and supported in their academic endeavours.  At one and the same time, students themselves contribute to the development of this brand new program which next fall 2010 will be celebrating its second year of activity.

An high degree of openness, excellent career prospects and a suggestive and inspiring location  make the MA in Semiotics at the University of Tartu an high valuable program in the current educational panorama.

Remo Gramigna

Some international students – three from the International Master Program in Semiotics – have been interviewed about what is like to be a student in Estonia. Videos of those interviews can be found on youtube: 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.

Researching the Success of the Masters Program

The Department of Semiotics of Tartu University is conducting a research on the subject of success of the masters program (for foreign students) when a tuition fee is introduced. Participating in the research will take only about 5 minutes of your time and would be very valued by the Department of Semiotics of Tartu University.

University of Tartu, which was founded in 1632, is Estonia’s leading center of research and training. As Estonia’s national university, UT stresses the importance of international co-operation and partnerships with reputable research universities all over the world. International MA programme in Semiotics was launched in 2009/2010 and won the title of “cool curricula”. Students come from all around the world (Mexico, Turkey, USA, Italy, Ukraine etc), creating a truly interesting studying environment. The main research subjects are semiotics of culture, theoretical semiotics, semiotics of translation, ecosemiotics and biosemiotics.

Link to the research can be found here: http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/310267/Tartu-University-s-Department-of-Semiotics-masters-program-research

Further information on the Department of Semiotics and University of Tartu can be found on the links below!
http://www.ut.ee/SOSE/eng.html
http://www.ut.ee

All of your answers are strictly anonymous and would be used for research only.
Thank you for your cooperation!

The Department of Semiotics, Tartu

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