Brown University Scholar to Lecture on ‘Style as a Cognitive Function’

Michael Shapiro
Michael Shapiro

Michael Shapiro, professor emeritus of Slavic and semiotic studies at Brown University, will speak on “Style as a Cognitive Function” on Wednesday, March 29 at 4 p.m. in 301 Herter Hall.

In his talk, Shapiro will present the case for viewing style, a phenomenon that cuts across disciplinary boundaries, as a fundamentally cognitive category, a trope of meaning. He will argue that such a tropological analysis should be reconceived in terms of the theory of signs (the semeiotic), specifically that of its modern founder, Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914) since Peirce’s concept of the interpretant, with its emphasis on significative effects, provides the conceptual bridge necessary for style to be understood in a global sense encompassing all its manifestations.

Shapiro, who was born in Yokohama, spent World War II in Japan and grew up speaking Russian, Japanese and English. After receiving his Ph.D. in Slavic languages and literatures at Harvard, he joined the UCLA Slavic department, where he taught for 17 years before moving to Princeton and then Brown. He is the author or co-author of 13 books or monographs and has published more than 30 book chapters and nearly 50 articles. His topics have ranged from Russian linguistics and folklore to Russian poetry and poetics, from semiotics to Shakespeare’s sonnets. His most recent book, the second edition of which appeared in 2016, is “The Speaking Self: Language Lore and English Usage.”

His lecture is sponsored by the department of languages, literatures and cultures and its program in comparative literature.