#SemioPills 4: Robert Yelle

Robert A. Yelle (b. 1966) is a distinguished American scholar in the fields of semiotics, anthropology, and history of religion. He is Professor of “Theory and Method of Religious Studies” at Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Munich, Germany. He grew up in Andover, Massachusetts, where he graduated from Phillips Andover Academy (1984) and Harvard College (A.B. in Philosophy, 1988) in General Studies. He received a J.D. from the University of California at Berkeley (Order of the Coif, 1993) and a Ph.D. in History of Religions from the University of Chicago (2002). He is the author of numerous publications, including the monographs: Explaining Mantras: Ritual, Rhetoric, and the Dream of a Natural Language in Hindu Tantra (Routledge, 2003); The Language of Disenchantment: Protestant Literalism and Colonial Discourse in British India (Oxford University Press, 2013); Semiotics of Religion: Signs of the Sacred in History (Bloomsbury, 2013); Sovereignty and the Sacred: Secularism and the Political Economy of Religion (University of Chicago Press, 2018). He is currently Editor of the AAR/Oxford University Press book series “Religion, Culture, and History”.

These are the questions we asked Prof. Yelle:

  • What was your path of entry into semiotics?
  • Do you see huge differences between European and American semiotics?
  • Could you please summarize the content of your latest monograph, Sovereignty and the Sacred (University of Chicago Press, 2018)?
  • Could you please explain your theory of transcendence, and how semiotics can tackle this category?
  • Can structuralist theories, like Claude Lévi-Strauss’, still be key references for today’s research?

You can find his answers in the following video.

What is NeMoSanctI?


NeMoSanctI is a research project carried out at the University of Turin. It studies how models of sanctity have changed after the Second Vatican Council. To this end, it applies a pioneering methodology based on semiotic theory to a wide corpus of normative, judicial, and narrative texts.

This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 757314).