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Scoditti, Giancarlo Massimo Giuseppe (1982) The woodcarvers of Kitawa and their canoes: A linguistic and aesthetic analysis of visual art in Melanesia. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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The present thesis is concerned with problems of aesthetic and symbolic interpretation presented by the analysis of the graphic signs carved on the prows of the ceremonial canoes of Kitawa, one of the so-called kula ring islands (Milne Bay, Melanesia). These canoes are specially made for periodic ritual voyages to other islands in search of valuable objects.;The analysis is based on two periods of field-work in Kitawa (undertaken in 1973-74 and 1976) in the course of which the author learnt the principal language of the island and recorded his discussions with the local carvers about their art. The most important of these sound recordings have been transcribed, analysed and translated, and the texts are submitted as an appendix to the thesis.;In his analysis of the prows the author has adapted the Danish linguist L. Hjelmslev's theory on the structure of a sign to make it appropriate for aesthetic and symbolic interpretation. He is also indebted to the work of J. Mukarovsk.;of the Linguistic Circle of Prague. In particular he has adoptedHjelmslev's articulation of a sign into a content plane and an expression plane. The latter is considered to be the privileged one, at which a non-verbal sign (e.g. a graphic sign carved on a prow) expresses its aesthetic values. Granted that, it is possible to comprehend the aesthetic meanings of a graphic sign, either taken by itself, or in relation to the whole surface of the prow. These meanings are self- contained, i.e. they are independent of elements which are extra-contextual to the prow.;The latter (e.g. myths, tales, semantic values, etc.) have been considered only when the author has interpreted a graphic sign symbolically. To do this he has worked on the content plane of a word which designates a graphic sign. That is, a meaning, or set of meanings, expressed by such a word has been interpreted as a metaphor for something else and this metaphorical value has been linked with that graphic sign. That the distinction between the aesthetic and the symbolic interpretation of a graphic sign which has been made by the author - on the basis of both Hjelmslev's theory and Mukatovsk's methodology - receives independent support from the Kitawa wood carvers themselves, is shown in the 'Aesthetic Conversations' given in the Appendix (Volume II), even if this is sometimes stated metaphorically.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:26

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