Icono/Graphy: Interactions of Image and Text

Course Description: 

Captioned press photos, music videos, illegible handwriting, typographic film, visual poetry, cinema trailers, digital hypertext … the intersections of image and writing are numberless. The course will explore this heterogeneous field by focusing on selected ‘written images’ or ‘pictorial script’ from the 19th century to contemporary software. On the one hand, it addresses a rich variety of mechanic, photographic, electronic and digital devices – typewriter, cinema, video, computer code – as media operators that generate complex forms of ‘icono/graphy’. This will provide insight not only into key issues of intermediality but also into the historical shifts, ruptures and dynamic relocations in the contact zone between image and letter. On the other hand, the course links these instances to broader theoretical reflections of the two (re)presentational modes, their philosophical foundations and changing significance in thinking and discourse: we will discuss models of semiotics, post/structuralism, media theory & archeology and the history of knowledge. Beyond that, the course aims at deepening the participants’ critical awareness of their own media reception/production, including the specific mediality of academic sources and output.

Learning Outcomes: 

Students will be introduced to instances of image-text-relations from the 19th century to the present, especially with respect to photographic and digital media and their use in both artistic and scientific contexts. They will establish connections between media technologies and theoretical concepts. The discussion of texts and (moving) images will foster the structured and critical evaluation of arguments. The participants will train their skills of synthesis and communication through class discussion, small presentations and written papers. They will have the opportunity to apply their practical knowledge in the form of video works.


1. Attendance and active participation, including a short in-class presentation as impulse for discussion (10%).

2. Midterm paper: 3-4 pages / draft version of the final term paper / handed in via email as doc or pdf file. Alternative: Midterm video: short audiovisual thesis made from self-produced material and/or found footage / due 02-20-2018 (30%).

3. Final research paper: 12-15 pages / handed in via email as doc or pdf file. Alternative: Final research video: audiovisual thesis from self-produced material and/or found footage / due 04-30-2018 (60%).

The subject of midterm and final paper/video is chosen by the student; it must not overlap with subjects from the course sessions. The discussed theoretical approaches and texts may be readopted. Midterm and final video works will not be evaluated according to technical criteria but based on the originality of the argument and approach as well as the visualization of theoretical concepts.