Massimo Leone

FOURTH International Conference on Semiotics and Visual Communication 2020


Massimo Leone

Massimo Leone
Universities of Turin, Italy and Shanghai, China.

Massimo Leone is Tenured Full Professor (“Professore Ordinario”) of Philosophy of Communication, Cultural Semiotics, and Visual Semiotics at the Department of Philosophy and Educational Sciences, University of Turin, Italy, Vice-Director for research at the same University, and part-time Professor of Semiotics in the Department of Chinese Language and Literature, University of Shanghai, China. He has been visiting professor at several universities in the five continents. He has single-authored twelve books, edited more than thirty collective volumes, and published more than five hundred articles in semiotics, religious studies, and visual studies. He is the chief editor of Lexia, the Semiotic Journal of the Center for Interdisciplinary Research on Communication, University of Torino, Italy (SCOPUS). He is the winner of a 2018 ERC Consolidator Grant, the most prestigious research grant in Europe.

Faces and Myths: The Visual Semiotics of Prosopopoeia

Prosopopoeia is a rhetorical expedient through which the voice of a narration is attributed to a character that cannot be identified with the empirical author of the narration itself. The presence and semiotic efficacy of this technique is particularly remarkable when such voice is attributed to non-human subjects, such as deities, but also animals, objects, and even cities or abstract entities like ‘evidence’ (in courts, for instance). The face is central both in the etymology of this narrative device (“prosopon” meaning “face” in Greek, so that “prosopopoeia” is, etymologically, the act of bestowing a face upon something, to attribute and ‘make’ a visage for the actant narrator of a story) and in its functioning: storytelling, indeed, acquires a different connotation when it takes place through “a face”.

The keynote conference will propose several examples of prosopopoeia from different historical epochs, cultural contexts, formats, genres, and styles, concentrating on instances of ‘visual prosopopoeia’ and pointing out, in particular, how this rhetorical expedient is crucial in redefining the status of mythical voices. As Quintilian, the great master of Latin rhetoric, would write about prosopopoeia, this figure of speech is able to “bring down the gods from heaven, evoke the dead, and give voices to cities and states” (Institutes of Oratory, IX, ii).