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Literacies Post

kayari's picture

I was overall intrigued and impressed by our presenters this past week and the perspectives and information varied greatly, though related to various forms of literacy. I am interested in the way literacy regarding the written word intersects with literacy in textiles and other art forms. In this sense does literacy mean proficiency in a certain area? The ability to decode and recreate material in that code?


For our presentation on Storytelling this Tuesday we will have students break up into groups to write their own fables on a topic of their choice. Although we will have limited time and limited art supplies we are interested in providing students options to convey their fable through oral and written word as well as illustrations, physical art such as masks and props, and using the body to act out the message.


Jenny brought up a really interesting point on Twitter about her wishing academic texts used images and illustrations. This really got me thinking about the potential to have images together with text and theory. I really think this would provide depth to theory and many academic texts. The images could range from photographs of real world examples of the theory occurring in life. They could also be art created by the author with similar intention as the academic text or art that inspires the author. I think the possibilities are endless with images and art in academic text. I recently created a blog in which I put my photographs juxtaposed with my thoughts and reflections. I love the way the images add to and complicate the meaning of the words. I intend on using lots of images in my thesis of student art as well as some of my own. What would shifting the academic field necessitate in order for academics to feel free to publish non-traditional texts with images interspersed? How would this change the learning process if our dense theoretical texts were "illustrated".


Riley's picture

Yes, I've been thinking about

Yes, I've been thinking about this as well. I often think about our discussion a few weeks ago on the subject of what it means to be a writer. Mastery of the craft? Passion and dedication? I really like your definition of literacy--I think it's general enough to apply to any task, whether it is arts-based or not.

When I think about literacy I think there's a personal dimension--confidence and ability to communicate skill and knowledge in a certain kind of "skill set"--as well as a social one--whether or not others can recognize you as a part of the group. Perhaps that's too simplistic, but I feel like a definition of literacy has to be as socially-based as it is personally-based, and that the two go hand in hand. It explains, for example, problems some students have in failing to surmount an education system telling them they are "stupid," as well as how giving students individual confidence in the skills they possess can help them overcome society's "damage-centered" perspective of them.

It's an interesting conversation that can extend to a more concrete defniniton of literacy in interesting ways, especially in the context of postcolonial literature.

alesnick's picture

"the ability to decode and recode material in that code"

What a useful definition of literacy -- I think it fits both Amy's students and the weavers Mary studied.  I would add that when this ability is recognized by others and able to be deployed as a tool for pursuing one's desires (including values, dreams, and collectivist aspirations), this is powerful literacy.  

I too am intrigued by the idea that we explore how academic could and would need to change were pictures to join words as essential to academic literacy.  We are finding this in belles lettres, for instance via the rise of the graphic novel.  Video installation art also often combines visual and verbal texts, as does other contemporary painting.  

It is interesting because pictures communicate differently -- is a less mediated way -- than words -- why not combine the potency of each?  

Jody and I are writing a chapter for a book right now that a student of ours is going to create illustrations for, as a matter of fact.

I am so excited for your presentation tomorrow.