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Séminaire FAAAM : Séverine Letalleur Sommer

Publié le 4 novembre 2023 Mis à jour le 9 novembre 2023
Wendy Wheeler
Wendy Wheeler

Séverine Letalleur Sommer (Université Paris Nanterre) proposera l'intervention suivante : "The 'Art, science and passionate knowing' of Wendy Wheeler (1949-2020). Introducing Pr. Wheeler’s ecocritical writings on the links between biosemiotics, language and modern literature in The Whole Creature. Complexity, Biosemiotics and the Evolution of Culture (2006)".[1]


le 10 novembre 2023


Bâtiment Max Weber (W)

Salle de séminaire 1
[Il est possible d'assister à la séance à distance en cliquant sur le lient suivant]
Wendy Wheeler, who passed away in 2020, was emeritus Professor of English Literature and Cultural Inquiry at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, London Metropolitan University. She researched and wrote extensively on the connections between biosemiotics and culture (based on Sebeok’s famous claim that what “distinguishes life forms from inanimate objects is semiosis […] the instinctive capacity of all living organisms to produce and understand signs”[2]). She demonstrated a remarkable capacity to summarize and link fundamental concepts in diverse fields of research. What typifies her scientific endeavour is the audacious connection she established between biology and the humanities, more particularly between the living, evolution, creativity and literature - to quote one of her close colleagues, Em. Pr. Louise Westling: “an ever-widening examination of how biosemiotics illuminates the profound origins and constant reliance of language and literary aesthetics upon the co-evolved semiotic activities humans share with every other organism.”[3] Wheeler’s eclectic inquisitiveness has proved pioneering:  her study of the evolution of complex systems unveiled the continuities that exist between nature and culture, thus sketching the outlines of a more holistic approach to knowledge; one that is  not only linguistic, propositional and conceptual, but also embodied, “tacit” and perhaps best exemplified in literature, “particularly in the form of the modern novel, […] where experiential knowledge continues to investigate itself as inseparable from the intellect” (The Whole Creature, 49).  Some of her thought-provoking ideas, notably that of “impassioned tacit knowledge”, of “indwelling” or of creativity as “semiosymbiogenetic freedom” and its importance in human sociality, may prove momentous in the field of literary aesthetics by underscoring the scientific significance of linguistic creativity.

[1] Wheeler, Wendy. The Whole Creature. Complexity, Biosemiotics and the Evolution of Culture. London: Lawrence & Wishart, 2006.
[2] Sebeok, Thomas. Signs: An Introduction to Semiotics. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994, 3.
[3] Westling, Louise. “Wendy Wheeler (1949-2020).” Biosemiotics (2020) 13, 453–455, 454.

Mis à jour le 09 novembre 2023