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Mark Halawa

Email: halawa [at] schriftbildlichkeit.de

Telephone: +49 30 838 54 102


Postdoctoral Project

"The Concept of Notational Iconicity and the Beginnings of a Post-Metaphysical Critique of Rationality"



My present research asks the question, what is the relationship between the concept of notational iconicity and the present-day development of a post-metaphysical critique of rationality? By „post-metaphysical critique of rationality“ I mean the claim, increasingly advanced throughout the humanities and social sciences since the 1980s, that the description of the self and its relation to the world can no longer be subordinated – as had been for centuries the case – to purely intellectual acts of interpretation or analysis. Instead of making an analysis of meaning-related phenomena, post-metaphysics investigates above all the nature of presence phenomena. Only in this way can it avoid the „metaphysical“ disinterest in material and sensual phenomena so typical of certain intellectual paradigms, paradigms in which the fact of their being something „irreversibly nonconceptual in our lives“ (Gumbrecht) is systematically hidden or denied.

My research contends that the concept of notational iconicity takes up and supports the critiques of rationality advanced by post-metaphysical presence theories. As the concept of notational iconicity assumes a „hybridization of language and image“ (Krämer) and foregrounds the visuality and iconicity of writing, the „metaphysical“ denial of the materiality and perceptibility of writing becomes impossible. Furthermore, writing becomes describable as not only discursive, but also aesthetic. Seen from the perspective of notational iconicity, theories that see writing purely as a tool for the transcription and retention of meaning or as a simple supplement to spoken language appear unacceptably reductionist for both phenomenological and aesthetic reasons. The critique of rationality in post-metaphysical presence-theories – that is, a turn toward the sensual moment of presence, which cannot be effaced even by examining the intellectual moment of representation – finds in the concept of notational iconicity a theoretical grounding for its analysis of the domain of writing.

The concept and theory of notational iconicity should not, however, be reduced to a critique of rationality. In fact, I hope additionally to show in my research that the concept of notational iconicity differentiates itself distinctly from various post-metaphysical theories of presence: unlike many contemporary presence-theories, notational iconicity establishes no unbridgeable dichotomy between representation and presence, sense (meaning) and the sensual, semiosis and aisthesis. In contrast, the concept of notational iconicity stands by the claim that the full potential of writing can only be grasped by way of the tension between Aisthesis and Semiosis. To privilege one of these categories over the other is not possible within the framework of notational iconicity: it provides an understanding of writing that is aesthetic, aisthetic and discursive all at once.

In this research project I hope to show that the concept of notational iconicity not only poses challenges for disciplines that have always been concerned with the study of hermeneutic and discursive subjects, but also for those concerned with questions of perception and aesthetics, even if they seem on the surface quite distant from hermeneutics. Notational iconicity brings to these disciplines the provocative and challenging claim that there exists a fundamental dialectical relationship between aisthesis and semiosis. Notational iconicity requires us to understand writing in relation to the image; but it also invites us to understand the image in relation to writing.

As will become clear over the course of a project so immersed in both diagrammatics and image theory, it is not at all my intention to argue that the presence of writing somehow weakens or critiques the power of images and iconicity, as might be supposed given the largely adversive view of language taken by contemporary image theory. On the contrary: notational iconicity explores a dimension of the iconic that is of great importance to image theory precisely because of its closeness to writing, not in spite of it; because of the widespread skepticism about language within image theory, this closeness has been often ignored. I intend to explore in my research above all notational iconicity’s implications for image theory; and therefore I hope to contribute not only to expanding our understanding of writing, but also of the image. My hope is to carry the conceptual challenges of notational iconicity beyond the borders of language and linguistics into other domains of knowledge.



Curriculum Vitae


Ph.D. in Philosophy, Chemnitz University of Technology 

WS 2010/2011 and ongoing

Lecturer at the Institut für Optionale Studien (IOS), Universität Duisburg-Essen

10/2010 and ongoing

Post-doctoral Fellow at DFG Research Training Group 1458, "Schriftbildlichkeit“ ("Notational Iconicity“), Freie Universität Berlin

03/2009 and ongoing

Member of the DFG-Network „Bildphilosophie“ ("Philosophy of the Image“)


Founding Editor of the Online Journal "r:k:m – Rezensio-nen:Kommunikation:Medien“  (www.rkm-journal.de)

WS 2007/2008 & WS 2008/2009

Lecturer in the Department of Communication Studies, Universität Duisburg-Essen


Doctoral Fellow of the Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes (German National Academic Foundation)


Research Assistant in the Department of Communication Studies, Universität Duisburg-Essen


Studies in philosophy and psychology at the University of Skövde, Sweden


Studies in communication, applied social sciences, and psychology at Universität Duisburg-Essen; completion of Magister Artium (Master’s Degree)



Selected publications


„Karl Bühler’s and Ernst Cassirer’s Semiotic Conceptions of Man“, in: Janette Friedrich (ed.): »Karl Bühler«, Sonderheft der Zeitschrift Verbum.

with Marcel Finke (ed.): Materialität und Bildlichkeit. Visuelle Artefakte zwischen Aisthesis und Semiosis, Berlin: Kulturverlag Kadmos.

with Marcel Finke: »Körperlose Anwesenheit? Vom Topos der reinen Sichtbarkeit zur artifiziellen Weltflucht«, in: Marcel Finke, Mark A. Halawa (ed.): Materialität und Bildlichkeit. Visuelle Artefakte zwischen Aisthesis und Semiosis, Berlin: Kulturverlag Kadmos.


»Image and Visual Studies, and the Concept of ›Pictorial Turn‹«, in: Piet Zwart Institute, Willem de Kooning Academy University Rotterdam (ed.): post.pic. Imageboards, Tagging, Tool Images, Visual Studies – a Primer by Practitioners, Rottderdam: Willem de Kooning Academy, University Rotterdam, S. 24-26.


»Vom Freiheitsverlust des Betrachters. Einige kritische Bemerkungen zum ›Willen zum Sehen‹«, in: Ingeborg Reichle, Steffen Siegel (ed.): Maßlose Bilder. Visuelle Ästhetik der Transgression, München: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, S. 37-50.

»Widerständigkeit als Quellpunkt der Semiose. Materialität, Präsenz und Ereignis in der Semiotik von Charles Sanders Peirce«, in: Kodikas/Code: Ars Semeiotica – An International Journal of Semiotics, Vol. 32 (2009), No. 1/2, S. 11-24.


Wie sind Bilder möglich? Argumente für eine semiotische Fundierung des Bildbegriffs, Köln: Herbert von Halem Verlag.

»Betroffene Sichtbarkeiten. Abu Ghraib und die Gewalt des Blicks«, in: Mauerschau 2/2008, S. 7-24.


with Achim Eschbach (ed.): Karl Bühler. Themenheft/Special Issue. Kodikas/Code: Ars Semeiotica – An International Journal of Semiotics, Vol. 28 (2005), No. 1/2.



Charles S. Peirce: The Logic of Interdisciplinarity. The Monist-Series. Elize Bisanz, ed. Berlin: Akademie Verlag. In: „r:k:m–Rezensionen:Kommunikation:Medien“, http://www.rkm-journal.de/archives/1490.



W.J.T. Mitchell: Das Leben der Bilder. Eine Theorie der visuellen Kultur. Translated from the English by Achim Eschbach, Anna-Victoria Eschbach und Mark Halawa. München: Verlag C.H. Beck. [Orig.: What Do Pictures Want? The Lives and Loves of Images. Chicago/London: The University of Chicago Press 2005.]


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