Interpreting Literature with Children

By Shelby A. Wolf | Go to book overview

Epilogue:
How Like the Mind

In Russell Freedman's (1998) marvelous book on the life and work of Martha Graham, he explains that Martha was quite close with Helen Keller, the famous blind and deaf author and advocate for the handicapped:

Keller would visit Martha's studio and “watch” the dancing by feeling the vibrations of the dancers' feet on the wooden floor. Once she asked Martha to describe jumping to her. “What is jumping?” she asked. “I don't understand. ”

Martha asked Merce Cunningham to demonstrate. She placed Helen's hands on Merce's waist as everyone in the studio looked on. When Merce jumped into the air, Helen's hands rose and fell with his body. Her face lit up with a joyous smile. She threw up her arms and exclaimed, “How like thought! How like the mind it is!” (pp. 95–96)

Putting the jump together with the mind is a complex blend that perfectly captures what I've been trying to say in this book. The sheer physicality and activity in leaping up and down—the push off from the floor, the short but thrilling suspension in space, the return to firm ground with the flexibility required to spring once more into the air is so like the mind.

Indeed, putting two things together—even two entire systems like a jump in a dance and thought—is a key characteristic of the mind. As Fauconnier and Turner (2002) explained, “the exceptional cognitive abilities of human beings [lies] in their capacity to put two things together. Aristotle wrote that metaphor is the hallmark of genius” (p. 175). Yet Fauconnier and Turner are very clear that Aristotle also wrote that “'all people carry on their conversations with metaphors. '… The various schemes of form and meaning studied by rhetoricians can be used by the skilled orator, the everyday conversationalist, and the child” (p. 17).

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Interpreting Literature with Children
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Prologue: Engagement Beyond the Edges of the Earth 1
  • I - Salutations! Learning About Literature *
  • 1 - Critical Perspectives 9
  • Books for the Professional 40
  • 2 - Literary Elements in Prose & Poetry 44
  • Books for the Professional 87
  • II - Ways of Taking from Literature *
  • 3 - Talking About Literature 93
  • Books for the Professional 128
  • 4 - Culture & Class in Children's Literature 131
  • Books for the Professional 164
  • 5 - Gender in Children's Literature 167
  • Books for the Professional 195
  • III - Ways of Doing Literature *
  • 6 - Interpreting Literature Through Writing 201
  • Books for the Professional 222
  • 7 - Interpreting Literature Through the Visual Arts 225
  • Books for the Professional 252
  • 8 - Interpreting Literature Through Drama 255
  • Books for the Professional 281
  • Epilogue: How like the Mind 284
  • References 290
  • Credit List 306
  • Index 309
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