Graphic representation is linked to meaning at a number of levels, among them those of orthographic system, text, and individual character. This essay explores the range of possible meanings of “the graphic” at these different levels, particularly in terms of political economy, language ideology, and multileveled semiotic functioning. As the illustrations discussed here suggest, writing and other forms of graphic representation powerfully connect the ideological and material cultural realms, and their patterns of use (including production, distribution, circulation, and consumption) reveal and enact social relationships and inequalities. The author reminds readers that to fully explore the rich implications of the graphic, scholars must expand their investigations beyond writing's capacity to represent spoken language and also investigate the iconic and indexical dimensions of graphic semiotic functioning.

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