Three dissertations about Signalism

The Serbian experimental movement Signalism had the luck that three doctoral dissertations were defended on it.

The first dissertation with the theme SYGNALIZM - PROPOZYCJA SERBSKIEJ POEZJI EKSPERIMENTALNEJ (SIGNALISM - THE PROGRAM OF THE SERBIAN EXPERIMENTAL POETRY) was defended, at the famous Jagiellónski University of Krakow, by Julian, Kornhauser (born 1946), in 1980. The University published the Kornhauser’s thesis as a book in 1981.

Julian Kornhauser, a noted Polish poet, critic and prose writer, is now a professor at the department of Yugoslav studies of Krakow University. In his dissertation he interprets the manifests of Signalism very cleverly, and gives an outstanding. stylistic analysis of all genres (both verbal and visual ones) of signalist poetry.

The Second doctoral dissertation about Signalism was defended by Živan Živković at the Philological Faculty of Belgrade in 1991. His thesis SIGNALISM: GENESIS, POETICS AND ARTISTIC PRACTICE was published in 1994. Živković (1952-1996) is was docent at the department for modern Serbian literature of the Philological Faculty of Belgrade. In his voluminous dissertation (340 pages of great format), this theorist analyzes carefully the genres in Signalism, as well as numerous works by signalist authors (artists). Besides the dissertation he also published two books devoted to this Serbian creative movement: ORBITS OF SIGNALISM (1985) and TESTIMONIES ON AVANT-GARDE (1992), and at soon his book FROM THE WORD TO THE SIGN devoted to a new investigating of Signalism, Visual Poetry and Mail Art will be published by Signal.

In this thematic block of our journal, several prominent Serbian theorists and critics of older and middle generation elucidate the versatile creative person of dr. Živan Živković with a special regard to his dissertation (study) SIGNALISM: GENESIS, POETICS AND ARTISTIC PRACTICE.

The third doctorial dissertation AVANT-GARDE, NEO-AVNT-GARDE AND SIGNALISM was defended by Milivoje Pavlović (born 1947) at the Faculty of Philosophy, Kosovska Mitrovica  in 2002. Before this dissertation this author published two books on Signalism: “The World in Signals” (1966) and “The Keys of Signalist Poetics” (1999).

Biserka Rajčić


The study by Julian Kornhauser, a poet, critic and professor of Yugoslav literature of XX century at Jagiellónski University in Krakow, ‘'Signalism. Program of Serbian experimental poetry’’, is a result of several years of study of Serbian avant-garde poetry, especially of its direction Signalism. It has been published as a 47th volume of the edition of Jagiellónski Universuty Habilitation discussions. Kornhauser's study on Signalism consists of three chapters: Convention of Artistic Experiment, Signalism of Miroljub Todorović - Programs and Manifestos and Stylistic Approaches to Signalist Poetry. In the first chapter the author deals with the notion of artistic experiment, kinds of experiments, notion of avant-garde and neo-avant-garde, treating Signalism as an avant-garde, i.e. as a direction originated after the World War II, with the problem of convergence in experimental verse. This chapter is, therefore, a theoretical ascertaining of the problem he deals with in the next chapters. The second and main chapter, dedicated to Miroljub Todorović, follows the development of European avant-garde poetry after the World War II and connections, i.e. similarities and differences of Todorović's signalist poetry with avant-garde directions in the world. Then it gives a cross-section of basic phases of his poetry: Scientism, from Scientism to Signalism, classification and typology of Signalism: phenomenological, stochastic, concrete, visual, computer, kinetic, slang etc. The third chapter is dedicated to a stylistic analysis of signalist poetry according to the types cited, ie verbal and visual aspects of that poetry, on the example of Todorović's poetry as well as that of other Yugoslav poets, linked in different ways to Signalism: Rešin - Tucić, Despotov, Rošulj, Lj. Jocić, V. Radovanović and others.

In short, Kornhauser has dealt primarily with the question of how a new quality of poetry influences a change of mind, and whether there is such an influence at all. For, as we have known, the notion themselves have not changed, but a different "speaking" about them brings new contents in poetry. The awareness of a change of literal material brought about changes in the theory of literature area. The basic preoccupation of that awareness is dealing with action, i.e. with how a work originates. Kornhauser's approach to signalist poetry belongs right to that school, uses its methodology and terminology. It does so very consequently. In that sense his study is the most serious work on the most essential questions of Signalism, a work that could serve to other students of the most recent poetry as an example how an artistic work can be studied in a strictly scientific way.

Dragoljub P. Đurić


Živan Živković: Signalism: Genesis, Poetics, and Artistic Practice, “Vuk Karadzic”, Paracin, 1994.

The study of Dr Živan Živković ‘’Signalism: Genesis, Poetics and Artistic Practice’’ is a somewhat summarized version of his doctoral dissertation he defended at the Faculty of Philology in Belgrade on April 29. 1991. where he is a lecturer at the department of Serb Literature.

While working on this study, Dr Živković had two significant advantages which in the best sense of the word reflected on the quality of his work, i.e. the level of his scientific approach to Signalism and the truly impressive exhaustive information he has mastered as its author.

The first Živković’s advantage is the result of the fact that, being a literary critic, he was compelled to follow the highly dynamic creative practice of Signalism, which could be marked as continuity of novelty, and which implies continuous changes of creative methods and artistic instruments. Founder of Signalism, Miroljub Todorović alone, published about thirty books of poetry, hardly two among them by applying the same method. This means that a critic must first assess each book of a signalist creator from the point of view of theory of literature, to determine its true determinants and define its aesthetic status, in order to be able to evaluate it as a work of art. Moreover, this cannot be done without a previously determined criterion adapted to the new genre of artistic creation, but this criterion must be narrower, but at the same time a more precise measuring instrument of a general aesthetic criterion. In other words, Dr Živković first had to be a literary theoretician and a scientific interpreter of Signalism, defining its criteria, and only then a literary critic, and as such, a good mediator between the new work of art and the reading public. It should be emphasized that Dr Živković has acted like this for ten long years before he defended his doctoral thesis. Literary theoretical, aesthetic, criteria and critical experience acquired in this way was presented in a large number of reviews, essays, articles and in two absolutely unavoidable books: ‘’Orbits of Signalism’’ (1985), and “Testimonies on Avant-garde” (1992).

Scrupulous as a literary critic, in his text “Anatomy of Anathematizing Avant-garde” (foreword to the book by Miroljub Todorović “Cocks from Bajlon-Square”, Belgrade, 1986) Živković energetically defended Signalism against malevolent, in fact plagiaristic claiming of the achievements of Signalism by the so-called “poetry of change” in Serb literature. In yet another text, more expressive than in the others, ”Mixing Quicksand” (1988), Živković raises his voice in defense of Signalism, against misconception, negligence and misinformation. It refers to a paradox - a text full of praise which, due to ignorance, lack of knowledge and light-mindedness of its author, is harmful because it presents the creative spirit of Signalism in a distorted light. Based on data, incontestable procedure of producing evidence for his arguments, Živković saved Signalism from the “praise”. This is just another instance which shows that Živković in a certain sense acts as a co-creator of Signalism. In fact, that is what enabled him to write about this movement with most directly experienced knowledge, which is by no means a negligible advantage when speaking of avant-garde experimental poetry which he always had a subtle hearing and a reliable eye for.

If Živković has acquired the described advantage solely by his own self-sacrificing diligent work which made him a mature literary critic and scholar, he owes the second advantage greatly to the founder of Signalism Miroljub Todorović, actually the Signalist Documentation Centre in Belgrade, a treasury of comprehensive data on Signalism which was put at Živković’s disposal during his entire writing of this brilliant book. This was a colossal time- saving opportunity for its author, which enabled him to devote the time and energy which would have been necessary for collecting material entirely to writing. It is self-understood that the data and documents from this treasury demanded selection and classification, which Živković made expertly and faultlessly.

As evident from the title of the book – ‘’Signalism: Genesis, Poetics and Artistic Practice’’ - Živković set out to illuminate these three fundamental properties of the movement from the aspect of literary history, literary theory and aesthetics.

The first part of the book is devoted to the issues of genesis and explicit poetics of Signalism. Introductory notes in the first chapter, Genesis of Signalism, is a conditio sine qua non of further studying of the movement: they are introductory, but they are also a strong foundation of this scientific creation. This chapter discusses post-modernism or neo-avant-garde and denial of tradition, among other. The second chapter is actually a very careful determination of demarcation defined by its title: Signalism in Relation to Historic Avant-garde. Here too, Živković is on solid ground of scientifically verified facts. His previous book ‘’Challenges of Avant-garde’’ published in 1986, made him quite familiar with this sphere. The chapter which follows, Appearance and Development of Signalism is devoted, among other, to manifestos of Signalism, their meaning and reflection on the artistic practice of the movement. The journal “Signal” deserved, according to Živković’s assessment, a whole chapter. All nine volumes of this journal which was published for three years, are carefully studied and their significance objectively evaluated. The last chapter of the first part of the book, Poetics of Signalism (manifestos and others meta-poetic texts) is a synthesis of explicit poetics of the movement. All conclusions reached here are convincingly explained and properly verified.

The second, longer part of this book titled Genres in Signalism deals primarily with artistic practice of the movement, but also with implicit poetics of this avant-garde creative orientation. An abundance of genres, types and subtypes (small groups) of artistic creations illustrates the impressive creative energy of this movement. The best creations in each genre are minutely analyzed with the stress on essential characteristics of the type they belong to. Živković manifested an understanding for novelty and innate gift for observing aesthetic values of complex artistic creations in the analysis of works of art belonging to each genre. His excellent knowledge of aesthetics and broad culture helped him to establish quickly and reliably an experienced aesthetic attitude to each work of art, regardless of its being verbal, visual or complex.

Poetics of each individual genre was determined by Živković partly in reference to manifestos of Signalism and adequate meta-poetical texts, and partly in reference to minute analyses of representative artistic creations for each individual genre. Chapters in this part of the book follow each other in the following sequence: Signalist Scientific Poetry, Phenomenological, Technological and Ready-Made Poetry, Stochastic Poetry, Apeironistic Poetry, Computer Poetry, Permutational (Variational) and Statistical Poetry, Slang (Jargon) Poetry, Haiku in Signalism, Visual, Gesture and Object Poetry, Mail-Art in Signalism.

And finally, as a conclusion: by its approach to the subject, profoundness of analysis, synthesis, joint effects of adequate scientific methods, composition, presentation of evidence, systematic, and excellent choice of appendices, the doctor’s thesis of Živan Živković, “Signalism: Genesis, Poetics and Artistic Practice” is an exceptionally valuable scientific work. It is not just a brilliant foundation for further studying dictated by historical changes. It is much more than that: it is a deeply founded scientific synthesis on Signalism as an avant-garde creative movement in Serbian poetry and culture.

Radovan Vučković


The monograph (dissertation) entitled AVANT-GARDE, NEO-AVANT-GARDE AND SIGNALISM by Milivoje Pavlović, is a synthetically and, at the same time, analytical scholarly and critical work. Pavlović synthetically sets out basic data on the avant-garde and neo-avant-garde and various modifications of the term, which called for theoretical and literary-historical construal of their essence and classification period-wise. Deriving from previous synthetically accounts on the avant-garde and neo-avant-garde a definition of Signalism as a form of neo-avant-garde in the second half of 20th century, influenced by socio-cultural factors, primarily a technological boom and an expansion of communication systems, in a second, more comprehensive part of the monograph, Pavlović analytically depicted a variety of genres of Signalist poetry. In order to present and essential aspirations of the Signalist neo-avant-garde to forge a new poetic language, the author was also coerced to deal with the literary genres problem – so as to present the diversity of a radical disproval of the previous tradition.

As expected, in the light of the inter-disciplinary and meta-textual character and openness of Signalist poetry, Pavlović interpreted it in an international context and in relation to the interaction between and close intertwining of various arts (primarily visual arts and literature). To that end, he referred to a vast number of works by domestic and foreign authors and invested extensive efforts into portraying, in the comprehensive manner, the creative phenomenon which is still to be fully comprehended and construed in the future. Pavlović did so competently and knowledgeably so that, owning to its comprehensiveness as well as his lengthy and studious research, in-depth analysis and sound assessments and inferences, his extensive monograph will be an unavoidable point of reference for further research into the topic and a reliable guide for the literary-minded public to the subject which is by no means simple to fathom and embrace.

На Растку објављено: 2007-10-24
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