HyC Adventures
The Poetics of Perception
Iconic Reading





Iconic Reading:

A New Way of Seeing


Hyatt Carter



Scriptural passages, carefully crafted as chiasmic structures, require not only a linear reading but also a concentric, a spiral, or a helical reading, a reading from extremities to center, and vice versa.


Such a reading restores an iconicity to language that, I believe, the philosopher C. S. Peirce would have appreciated. 


The text is read, yes, but — what’s more — the text as image, as form, as structure, is prehended.


This kind of iconic reading was, once upon a time, second nature, but was somehow lost when modernity turned from chiasmic to dialectic or teleological modes of thought that established linearity as the new standard.


But the rediscovery of chiasmic structures invites a return to iconic reading and, in this return, there are lessons to be learned from illuminated manuscripts such as the Book of Kells and the sacramental art of religious icons that plays an important role in the Eastern Orthodox church.


In this new way of reading, this new way of seeing, your ABCs become your ABCBAs.



The figure below is a model of chiasmic structure as a conical helix. Beginning at A, you can trace its helical path around the cone until it reaches the center of the chiasmus at D.






This figure is from John Breck, The Shape of Biblical Language, p. 51. Note the second word in his title.






Chiasmus: An Introduction
Iconic Reading
Whitehead's Use of Chiasmus in PR
25 Chiasmi by Eihei Dogen
The Gospel of John: A Miracle of Composition
Amazing Literary Grace: St. Paul's Hymn to Love
Beauty of Structure in the Four Gospels
Dogen's Use of Chiasmus in Shobogenzo
Chiasmic Beauty from the Mists of Chinese Antiquity
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