Annotation on Holme, Randal. 2004. Literacy: An Introduction. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Chap. 14
Literacy and Patterns of Mind
In this chapter on literacy and the patterns of the mind, the author is discussing the mental processes at work when learning to read; the framework needed to manoeuvre between metaphors and understanding in order for the learner to crack the code of reading. He is also discussing the meta-angle of reading and writing, both in a contemporary and a historical perspective.
The chapter goes through the different frames and schematics (mental patterns) needed in the decoding process, such as images and conceptual metaphors. Without an understanding of conceptual metaphors, the abstract ideas surrounding and interacting with humans at all times will elude the reader, thus losing grasp of content.
The author also covers the discourse of genre and how it is important to recognise the literary practices connected to the genres. Further, he says that the full potential within each genre, or image schema, can be accessed through writing.
The metaphors connected to reading and writing, how humans seem connected to, and captured by cause and effect, and the representation of origin seem important in this chapter. Reading and writing in a historic perspective could be as simple as a method of recording our ‘raison d’être’. Historically this could be shown as a family tree, or a totem pole, or other written evidence of human existence. Genealogy, spatial metaphors and lineage could be shown as an ascending spatial order in images of family trees, and wisdom, from for example the Middle Ages.
Towards the end of the chapter, the author contemplates all the various versions of literacy, and how to extend the spatial metaphors through which we grasp and analyse abstract meanings from, for example, the grammatical analysis of sentences.
He concludes with seeing a link between practices, frames and schemas. The metaphors used in the search for knowledge, through reading and writing, belong within a discourse.
The main themes of this chapter seem to be that reading and writing are both mental and physical processes that have to develop together to give the learner a higher understanding and fuller capacity to develop further within the field. It is also my understanding that to be able to function within a society the learner has to familiarise him or herself with the commonly perceived metaphors, figures and tropes to be able to understand reading, and produce writing, thoughts that are strangely compelling.
Further I understand that the way we relate to the world of letters and fonts, images and visuality is coded within us in a way we do not contemplate on a daily basis, and it becomes intrinsic and internalised through the process of growing up. Also, the author is making the point that to be able to recognise discourse is as important as learning to spell and getting the motor skills to write. It is a part of a far bigger process than isolated spelling and pencil movement.
Writing exists in history, while the action of reading is more ‘here and now’, and by mastering both, the learner opens up access to the past as well as the present and in some way a prediction of the future. We use literacy daily to access our history and our reason to be here. To make use of metaphors to understand is one of the elements that make us human. The tree-metaphor stretches beyond the representation of the physical tree in the forest, and can be applied in situations and arenas not normally connected to wildlife, for example in sentence analysis and in describing family, or even corporate constructions. To comprehend this metaphor (the tree metaphor being a metaphor for metaphors in general) it is important to know that one word can have a variety of connotations, and this knowledge comes with experience.
The author is playing with all of these thoughts in a complicated, yet comprehensive way. It is sometimes a bit hard to follow what medieval images and sentence analysis has to do with the process of learning to read and write, but he makes his case in the conclusion, where he states how he wanted to take an unorthodox look at a the mental challenges involved in something as normal as learning to read and write. It is highly respectful to brave taking on the philosophical side of language and identity, and language development through reading and writing in a discourse where the linguistic view stands out as the most acknowledged.