Notebooks of the Mind: Explorations of Thinking

By Vera John-Steiner | Go to book overview

PART TWO
THE LANGUAGES OF THE MIND

The diverse processes of expression -- the ways in which individuals acquire powerful means to convey their thoughts to others -- constitute the central topic of the next few chapters. Are ideas shaped differently when communicated through graphic, musical, or verbal languages? Or is there a uniform relationship between internal representation and external ordering across different modalities of thoughtful expression?

The intense and difficult struggle to give shape to the content of one's thoughts is powerfully evoked by the painter Ben Shahn, the writer Gail Godwin, and the choreographer Martha Graham, among many others. Part of the difficulty of such a process lies with the highly condensed nature of inner thought. While inner representations have this compression in common, there are also important developmental, cognitive, and affective differences present in various modalities of thought.

Many of those interviewed for this book spoke of their early immersion into music or the graphic arts as part of their later ease with a particular expressive modality. These experiences helped to shape a particular kind of internal and external language of thought. At the same time it would be an oversimplification to assume that writers, for instance, are limited to verbal thinking only, or that painters are limited to the visual aspects of their imagination and understanding.

In the pages that follow, the specific features of visual, verbal, musical, choreographic, and scientific languages are examined. Both essays written by experienced thinkers and interviews are used in the exploration of the manifold transformations that characterize the externalization of thought. The skilled and confident use of a particular expressive

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Notebooks of the Mind: Explorations of Thinking
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Foreword vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction to the Revised Edition xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • Part One - Sources of Thought 11
  • 1 - The Beginnings 13
  • 2 - Apprenticeships 37
  • 3 - The Invisible Tools 59
  • Part Two - The Languages of the Mind 81
  • 4 - Visual Thinking 83
  • 5 - Verbal Thinking 111
  • 6 - The Languages of Emotion 141
  • 7 - Scientific Thinking 173
  • Conclusion: the Creativity of Thinking 205
  • Appendix 1 225
  • Notes 229
  • Bibliography 245
  • Index 253
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