Semiotics and dialectics: Notes on the paper “Literary criticism must be scientific” by Juri Lotman
The present paper is an introduction to and analysis of the article “Literary criticism must be scientific”, presented here for the first time in English translation. The original was published by Lotman in 1967 in the journal Voprosy Literatury. The article by Lotman is a part of a wider debate, started in 1963, that saw structuralists and their opponents dispute the validity and heuristic value of structuralist methodology in literary criticism. The aim of the introduction is to explore Lotman’s engagements with his intellectual context as they emerge in his 1967 article. The first part of the paper discusses the wider context of the debate, and explores the positions of the opponents of structuralism and the ways in which Lotman relates to them. The second part of the paper analyses how Lotman and his structuralist colleagues related to the official Soviet ideology, the diamat. In both cases, it will be seen how Lotman engaged certain aspects of his opponents’ ideas, as well as the official ideology, in order to further his goal of reconciling structuralism and historicism.