Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Literacy and Patterns of Mind

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’ĂȘtre’. 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.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Learning new things

I am currently working on my master degree in English literacy, and through this I learn so many interesting things. A subject we have had this semester is 'Reading Verbal and Visual Signs'. As a part of that we analyse images, as we would analyse poetry.
This is my first image analysis.
               Our professor said there would be a competition on who could find the most interesting image (it was an optional competition, and only myself and a couple of others entered). I submitted two images, and I won with the latter.

Image analysis

Image number one:
Tulkas and Melkor

This is image can be both centred and polarised in its composition.
The fists of Tulkas are in the middle, and may be the salient part of the image. His character is also in the foreground. He is looking determined and angry, and covered in symbols of almost angelic meaning. If you know the story of the War of Wrath from Silmarillion, this image is a fan made piece of art, taken from the moment when Melkor’s strength finally is overpowered.
Tulkas was a Maia who was given Valar powers. He came last to Middle Earth and tipped the balance in favour of the Valar.
            Much to Tulkas’ delight it was decided that Melkor had to be removed. This was a war to make Middle Earth peaceful for the coming of the Firstborns, the elves. Tulkas wrestled with Melkor and bound him with Angainor (chains) forged by AulĂ«, the smith.

The reason this could be viewed as a polarised image, even though the other character is further back, is that the character in the back actually engages with the audience. The character is the evil Melkor (later known as Morgoth the destroyer). With breaking the fourth wall, Melkor’s character becomes more than the lurking darkness at the back.

The two characters are getting the same kind of attention because of how they are placed. Maybe as you see it first, Tulkas is in the front, but the moment you see Melkor in the back, it is as if he is forcing his way to the front.
In this setting Tulkas is the New, and Melkor the Given, which is a twist of how we normally read the Given and the New. It is normally from Left to right. In this setting it is from right to left.
            Tulkas represent the light and Melkor the darkness. And even though Melkor is surrounded by flame, it is not the light of day that drives him. It is the false light of the flames. Tulkas is glowing from his inner light from Aman.
            We can also draw a line from Tulkas’ glowing eyes to Melkor’s glowing eyes, as a kind of horizon in an image without both heaven and light.

If we divide the image into two, the one of Melkor could be a triptych, with him in the middle and the two Balrogs on the sides.
            All the spears of the soldiers are pointing the same way. And the spears are also prolonging the angle of the mountains. Making the mountains go on forever.

This particular war shaped Arda (or Middle Earth), and the fights made even the land move, that’s how violent it was. The violence comes through in the image.

The mountains almost look like fangs, like the teeth of a dragon surrounding them, or about to devour them.

The sight is compromised by the blizzard, and there is no light other than the one Tulkas embodies.

If I were analysing this image from a position where I did not know where it came from, I would probably put it in a Norse mythology tradition. This could easily be Thor and Loki in battle (though there is no hammer).

Image number two:
Fifth Element

Triptych in composition
Three images, three faces. The interesting thing about this triptych is that it can almost be called a classic triptych with a religious theme. The story is a classic good vs. evil.
            The character in the middle, the salient, is looking straight at the audience, making a connection. The character to the left and the character to the right are looking in the same distance, maybe looking at the same thing?
            The space ships are flying towards the centre, increasing the importance of the middle character. Funnily enough, the character who IS the Fifth Element (Leeloo, played by Milla Jovovich) is to the hero character’s (Corben Dallas, played by Bruce Willis) right, and not in the middle. He might then be a representation of the Given, and she of the New?
            To his left, in good medieval image style, is the evil character (Zorg, played by Gary Oldman).  However, if you have seen the film, you will know that the real evil is in the shape of a planet. And this planet is showed in the middle at the bottom of the image. The planet is red, almost as if it is covered in flames, and the characters at the top are surrounded by almost heavenly blue, even Zorg, who actually in the end becomes a sort of a comic character, rather than a true evil General. This is a rather classic depiction of good vs. evil, a blue and serene heaven vs. a burning chaotic hell.
            This whole composition is quite symmetrical, and the light of the ‘Fifth Element’ becomes a horizon line, dividing between heaven and hell. But it can also be seen as the bottom of a sword, though that might be stretching it a bit far.

The two characters at the sides are almost mirroring each other. Or they could represent the opposite? I believe they are opposites. They are the two characters who represent the earthly good and evil, and the planet becomes the Devil, and in a sense Corben Dallas becomes God. I am only speculating here, and this is a rather superficial analysis. From an image point of view, then, Zorg and Leeloo becomes opposites, and the planet and Corben Dallas becomes opposites. 
Leeloo becomes the weapon Corben Dallas eventually wields to beat the evil.