Paul Antoine Bouissac

Fonds number:
Title: Paul Antoine Bouissac
Dates of Material:
5.5 m of textual records
264 photographs
26 drawings
8 audio cassettes
5 compact discs
4 audio reels
2 video cassettes (VHS)
1 album
1 poster
Biographical sketch

Paul Antoine R. Bouissac (1934–) is a writer and an academic. He was born in Perigueux, France, the son of Antoine Louis Bouissac and Marguerite Marie Frêne. He lives in Toronto.

Bouissac received license-ès-lettres in Études latines (1955), Études grêcques (1955), Psychologie générale (1956), and Grammaire et philologie classique (1962) at the Sorbonne in Paris, where he also received a Diplome d’Études Supérieures in 1956. In 1970 he received a Doctorat du Troisième Cycle en Linguistique (sémiotique) at the University of Paris.

Bouissac was appointed Lecturer at Victoria University, Toronto in 1962. After this he was appointed Assistant Professor at Victoria University (1965); Associate Professor at Victoria University (1969); Professor at the Graduate Department of French at the University of Toronto (1971); Professor at the Graduate Department of Linguistics, University of Toronto (1972); Professor at Victoria University (1974); and Professor Emeritus at Victoria University (1999). He became a Member of the Associate Faculty at the Centre for Comparative Literature in 1981, and of the First (1980) and Third (1982) International Summer Institutes for Semiotic and Structural Studies. He served as visiting professor at New York University in Buffalo (1975), the University of South Florida (1975), New York University (1980), and again at New York University in Buffalo from 1981 onwards. He also served as Associate Director of the Summer Institute for Semiotic and Structural Studies at Indiana University in 1982.

During his career, Bouissac received awards from the University of Toronto in 1963, 1971 and 1972, from the Canada Council in 1967, 1968 and 1977, from the Wenner Gren Foundation in 1970, and fellowships from the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies (1972–73); the Guggenheim Foundation (1973–74); Connaught (1988–89); and Killam (1989–91).

Bouissac’s publications include one work of fiction, Les Demoiselles (1970), and works of non-fiction: La Mesure des Gestes; prolegomenes à la sémiotique gestuelle (1973), Circus and Culture; a Semiotic Approach (1976), Iconicity: Essays on the Nature of Culture: Festschrift for Thomas A. Sebeok on his 65th birthday (1986), Encyclopedia of Semiotics (1998), Semiotics at the Circus (2010), Saussure: A Guide for the Perplexed (2010), Circus as Multimodal Discourse: Performing, Meaning, and Ritual (2012), The Semiotics of Clowns and Clowning: Rituals of Transgression and the Theory of Laughter (2015), The Meaning of the Circus: The Communicative Experience of Cult, Art, and Awe (2018), The Social Dynamics of Pronominal Systems: A Comparative Approach (2019), and The End of the Circus: Evolutionary Semiotics and Cultural Resilience (2021).

In 1964 Bouissac became president and main stockholder of the Debord Circus, a circus that attempted to present high quality animal acts in a single ring. The circus only lasted 2 years and closed in 1965.

Source of supplied title

Title based on contents of the fonds.


Includes 8 audio cassettes and 4 audio reels, 1 compact disc, 26 drawings, 1 video cassette, ca. 212 photographs, 1 album, 1 poster.

Immediate source of acquisition

Acquired between 1971 and 2023.

Language of material

Some of the material is in English and some is in French; there is also a small amount of correspondence in Spanish.

Access restrictions

Access to letters of reference in the file marked RR is restricted until 2032. Authorization to access restricted material to be obtained from the Chief Librarian.

Finding aids

Box/file list available


Further accruals are expected.

General notes

Victoria University Library owns 19 posters made at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris during a student occupation of the school in May 1968. These were donated by Paul Bouissac.

Access points

Bouissac, P.A. (Paul Antoine), 1934–

Related special collections at Victoria University Library
Related resources

Paul Bouissac’s Open Semiotics Resource Centre web site.