Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Visual Literacy...and what constitutes a Text?

Through out our discussion, the definition of Literacy kept finding itself challenged or reinforced by a number of people in class. At its most base, literacy does indeed stem from the ability to read and write. However what one needs to keep in mind is that the specific definition I mentioned only finds validity within a world dominated by Literature. As much as the English major in me hates to admit it though, we do not live in such a world.

In fact, our world is inhabited by a multitude of mediums; no longer is intellectual entertainment strictly founds within the bound pages of a book. For in addition to reading, one can easily take a novel like Kurt Vonnegut's "Mother Night" and watch the DVD or find the movie or recording online. As amazing as our technological advancement in the Arts is, the various means of entertainment currently available mean absolutely nothing if we cannot intellectually engage them. For art to be considered Art, we first need to be able to recognize its aesthetic characteristics. Without that ability, we would be prone for accepting all of the bile that is currently be attempted to be passed as "entertainment".

Stepping back to the concept of Literacy and its relation to the written word, most of the books we now consider classics only reached that status with the advent of people knowing how to read and write. In our present day context though, the ability to be literate extends to a much broader capacity of artistic understanding and engagement. For if "Mother Night" has a movie and audio recorded version of its story, then surely watching the film and hearing the narration would only augment a person's understanding and connection with the story.

However, one must take care in expecting a different medium's version of a story from being equivalent in value to the original story. That is why it is of up most importance that the definition of literacy be expanded to include the ability to recognize the artistic qualities of any given work. While reading and writing are important skills to own, it is not enough in today's world as we are constantly bombarded by a wide range of mediums. If one is not carefully trained in being literate, a movie like Joel Schumacher's Batman & Robin suddenly finds itself on par with Virginia Woolf's "To The Lighthouse".

It is with that thought then that I suggest that in addition to focus on the written word, we take advantage of our multifaceted society and actively engage its creations. For if our students are to step out into the world prepared to intellectually immerse themselves in its Art, then we as future teachers need not limit that ability to just the written word.

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