Visual Metaphor, Cultural Knowledge, and the New Rhetoric.Report as inadecuate

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Modern Western European ways of thinking are based on a print culture that uses verbal metaphors, and indigenous ways of thinking are based on an oral culture that uses visual metaphors. Visual metaphors provide a dominant mode of information processing and are used among indigenous groups to share cultural knowledge, yet Western culture is oblivious to it. One way of knowing involves reading people through nonverbal communication, but in Western culture, nonverbal communication can be virtually invisible. Problems occur when knowing and sensitive children from oral cultures such as American Indians are judged by people from cultures that do not know much about visual thinking. These children are aware of visual space, are sensitive to nonverbal communication, and understand that silence communicates. In writing English compositions for school, these children do not use the syllogistic reasoning of Aristotle because it is not part of their cultural knowledge, nor do they use the forms of logic that underlie the classical tradition of rhetoric. These students' writings have been criticized by their teachers as not having any structure. The fact that their structure is based on visual metaphor goes unnoticed. Teachers must be aware of the distinction between these two types of metaphors if they are to understand how indigenous people learn. Two dominant American Indian metaphors--the journey and the Quaternity (recurrence of the number four)--are discussed, and aspects of visual literacy that inform both aesthetics and the psychology of visual thinking are examined. (Contains 43 references.) (TD)

Descriptors: American Indian Culture, American Indian Education, American Indian Students, Cognitive Style, Cultural Awareness, Cultural Differences, Epistemology, Indigenous Knowledge, Metaphors, Nonverbal Communication, Oral Tradition, Rhetorical Theory, Semiotics, Visual Learning, Visual Literacy, World Views

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Author: St. Clair, Robert N.


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