Possible worlds and the concept of 'reference' in the semiotics of theater

Irit Degani-Raz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


This article conducts a retrospective analysis of theoretical developments in the semiotics of the theater, indicating that pre-theoretical intuition regarding the existence of fictional worlds and their inhabitants largely shaped the theoretical developmental course of the field. This meta-theoretical analysis serves to promote the claim that despite their key significance, the fictional worlds themselves have not received sufficient explication in semiotic terms, the consequence of which is a theoretical lacuna in theater studies. The last part of the article examines the explanatory power of the semantics of possible worlds as addressing the lacuna posed. The focus of discussion in the article is the concept of 'reference', due to its assumed significance in understanding the key function of fictional worlds in transmitting information in the theater. The discussion emphasizes the modal status of theatrical fictional discourse (the idea that it is a discourse about possible alternatives to the actual world and as such it goes beyond the ontology required for standard extensional discourse) and the need entailed by this understanding for a model system containing many worlds as referential range.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307-329
Number of pages23
StatePublished - 2003


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