Elis Eriksson : ting och tecken

Translated title of the contribution: Elis Eriksson : objects and signs

Research output: Types of ThesisDoctoral ThesisMonograph


The title of this thesis translates as "Elis Eriksson: Objects and Signs" and concerns the life and work of the Swedish artist Elis Eriksson (1906-2006) as analysed from a semiotic point of view. The semiotic theory applied in the thesis is to be regarded as a theory of cultural semiotics or socio-semiotics, explicitly critical towards the rigid application of linguistic models so often associated with semiotic studies in the human sciences. In this spirit it draws upon the semiotics of Charles Sanders Peirce, as well as the works of several Continental and Swedish scholars who combine rhetorics and semiotics in the analysis of cultural phenomena. Reference is also made to social theories associated with Pierre Bourdieu and with Marxist studies. The social element warrants a thorough description and narrative of Elis Eriksson's life and career. This narrative is to be found in sections II and VI. These sections provide an evaluation and analysis of Eriksson's paradoxical status within the Swedish art world, being regarded as both a major figure and an outsider. In sections III-V, Eriksson's production from the late Fifties and the first half of the Sixties is subjected to semiotic analyses. The analyses are made with a specific concern for the rhetorical aspect; i.e. expressive devices regarded as deviations from certain norms. Out of his position as established in an urban, high-culture, middle class Swedish milieu, Eriksson could introduce expressive elements that were deviating from that milieu by means of being associated with the low culture of the economically and/or symbolically subordinate. An evident example of this is the fondness of dialect and sociolect that is considered in section IV. Three basic questions are posed and answered in the thesis: 1) What was Eriksson's role and status in the Swedish artworld from the 1940s onwards? 2) What are the relations between verbal and visual information in Eriksson's production? 3) How could we understand Eriksson's production in relation to existing theories of deviations from cultural norms? Semiotically, the questions are related to three levels of analysis: that of images (section III), that of words (section IV) and that of the reference of words and images to things and actions, imagined or real (section V).
Translated title of the contributionElis Eriksson : objects and signs
Original languageSwedish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Lund University
  • Sjölin, Jan-Gunnar, Supervisor, External person
Thesis sponsors
Award date29 Sept 2007
Place of PublicationLund
Print ISBNs978-91-85767-06-9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2007
Externally publishedYes
MoE publication typeG4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)


  • Elis Eriksson
  • Charles Sanders Peirce
  • Semiotics
  • rhetorics
  • social theory
  • Swedish artworld
  • low culture
  • dialects
  • verbal information
  • visual information
  • Avant-Garde


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