Semiotics and Performance Arts


The curricular unit has a triple approach: i) the semiotic field, its limits and the debates about its relations with the performing arts; ii) starting from the most relevant corpus of theatre semiotic theory, the goal is to establish the guidelines for a specific semiotic (categories, concepts, theoretical issues) pointing towards the performing arts; iii) practical application and theoretical research within the contemporary performing arts.
By the end of the curricular unit, students should be able to deal with historical, methodological and theoretical questions, by operating concepts, and setting relations (between concepts, authors, theories).
They should also be able to discuss specific issues about semiotics when applying it to the performing arts.
Finally, they should have theoretical and analytical tools and the capacity of applying them to a variety of objects in the performing arts.

General characterization





Responsible teacher

Available soon


Weekly - 3 letivas + 1 tutorial

Total - Available soon

Teaching language





Alter, Jean 1990, A sociosemiotic theory of theatre. Filadélfia, University of Pennsylvania Press.
Aston, Elaine & Savona, George, 1991, Theatre as sign-system. A semiotics of text and performance. Londres/Nova Iorque, Routledge.
Baron, Cynthia & Carnicke, Sharon Marie ,2008, Reframing screen performance. Ann Arbor, The University of Michigan Press.
Eco, Umberto ,1979, Lector in fabula. Milão, Bompiani [ed. ut.: Leitura do texto literário. Lector in fabula., Lisboa, Presença, 1983. Trad. de Mário Brito].
Fischer-Lichte, Erika ,1992, The semiotics of the theatre. Bloomington e Indianapolis, Indiana U. P..
Howell, Anthony , 2000, The analysis of performance art. Londres e Nova Iorque, Routledge.
Lotman, Jurij M. ,1985, La semiosfera. Veneza, Marsilio. Trad., introd. e org. de Simonetta Salvestroni.
Pavis, Patrice, 1996, L’analyse des spectacles: théâtre, mime, danse, danse-théâtre, cinéma. Paris, Nathan
Rodrigues, Adriano Duarte, 1991, Introdução à semiótica. Lisboa, Presença.

Teaching method

The course demands a strong investment in preparatory readings, supporting theoretical and critical debates. Besides explanatory classes, students are expected to participate in debates, deliver presentations and critical papers and actively participate in classes.

Evaluation method

A research paper, mandatory, due by the end of the semester, enlarges perspectives and enriches the learning goals of the course.
Attendance is essential.

Subject matter

1. Semiotics and theatre semiotics. The ‘state of the art’: an ongoing debate.
1.1. Towards a semiotic of culture
1.2. Founders: Saussure, Peirce. Lotman, Eco, Sebeok.
1.3. Representation and representation crisis.
1.4. The receptor at work
1.5. General semiotics issues: sign, code, encyclopaedia.
2.1. Problems of theatre semiotics
2.2. Dance, mime, circus
2.3. Performance analysis
2.4. Semiotics and mediation: documents, recordings, traces.
3. Case studies.