Ruthrof reviews and analyses various 'orthodox' theories of meaning, from the views of Gottlob Frege at the beginning of the twentieth century to the postmodern period, and then offers an alternative approach of his own. His theory features 'corporeal semantics, ' and holds that meaning has ultimately to do with the body and that linguistic expressions can mean anything at all unless they are activated by visual, tactile, olfactory, and other bodily signs. This approach remedies what Ruthrof sees also as a loss of interpretive will in the postmodern era.
Pedagogy in many fields could be enormously enriched by a systemic integration of non-verbal semiosis into a linguistically-dominated syllabus. The body should figure more prominently in language interpretation and meaning construction. Ruthrof develops a semantics built on these principles, and those involved in discourse analysis, literature, art criticism, film theory, pedagogy, and philosophy will find the implications of his study considerable.
Horst Ruthrof is a professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Murdoch University, Western Australia.