Literacy Media and Meaning

By Stankiewicz, Mary Ann | Art Education, July 1997 | Go to article overview

Literacy Media and Meaning


Stankiewicz, Mary Ann, Art Education


LITERACY, broadly defined, is the ability to write and read. When the visual arts are metaphorically treated as a language, the concept of literacy is extended to art and we talk about visual literacy, aesthetic literacy, media or cultural literacy. Just as methods of teaching students to make and respond to visual art have changed over time, so have methods of teaching verbal literacy. Children in early American schools were taught the alphabet, two-letter syllables, then combinations of syllables that made words. The New England Primer was chiefly a spelling book because colonial educators assumed that knowing how to write and spell were the most important components of literacy (Tchudi, 1991).

A new kind of literacy arose between 1790 and 1853, a `technical literacy" that required master of four languages or systems of notation (Stevens, 1995, p. 2). Workers from earlier generations had to invent machine parts by trial and error, or physically disassemble and reassemble a machine to understand how it worked. Antebellum young men and women learned the vocabulary and grammar of alphabetic expression (traditional verbal literacy, as well as scientific notation, mathematical notation, and spatial-graphic representation in order to communicate information about the new world of industrial machines. Drawing gave them a means to represent and communicate technical understandings, contributing to the spread of technology and the invention of new and improved machines.

During the late 19th century, teachers of English adopted the belief "that knowledge of the rules of grammar led to improved performance in language" (Tchudi, 1991, p. 5). In the visual arts, a parallel trend can be found. Students were taught elements of art and principles of design, how to describe and analyze their relationships in works of art, and how to organize the elements according to the principles to produce `good"designs. In the visual arts, the "alphabet"has been defined as dot, line, shape, direction, value, hue and saturation of color, texture, scale, dimension and motion (What is visual literacy?, 1994). As Kerry Freedman and Sydney Walker point out in their respective articles, many works of contemporary art are not amenable to formal analysis. More often artists at the end of the 20th century seem to challenge viewers to interpret meanings from their work.

Almost two decades ago, Vincent Lanier advocated aesthetic literacy, an approach to art education in which students would examine "questions and problems of aesthetic theory" applied to a range of visual arts "both fine and vernacular" (1981, p. 162). He even suggested that "a dialogue curriculum in art would be something like a class in English and American literature" (Lanier, 1981, p. 163). Unlike earlier approaches to literacy in art that taught "spelling" and `grammar" through studio instruction in elements and principles of art, Lanier's proposals for aesthetic literacy focused attention on response to works of art.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Literacy Media and Meaning
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.