Baroque allegory and urban graffiti, scientific illustration and captioned press photo, music video and typographic film, ancient pictogram and digital hypertext … the intersections of image and writing are numberless. The course will explore this heterogeneous field of cultural practices and media techniques by focusing on selected instances of ‘textual imagery’ or ‘pictorial script’ from prehistory to contemporary software.

On the one hand, it addresses the genealogy of mechanic, photographic, electronic, and digital devices (stone tablet, typewriter, video, computer code …) as a series of material operators that pass on immaterial information and cultural knowledge in ever-changing icono/graphic forms. On the other hand, the course links this techno-history of image and letter to wider theoretical reflections on the two modes of representation. We will discuss their philosophical foundations, their conceptual contact zones, and their impact on cultural discourses with reference to semiotics, post/structuralism, media archaeology and the history of science & knowledge.

Finally – and apart from analyzing how the dynamic rel(oc)ations of image and letter are inevitably entangled in issues of politics, power, gender, memory and identity – the course will deepen the students’ awareness of their own media reception and output, including their use of academic text and image sources.

Watch the trailer video for the course here: