5th Global Conference
Friday 8th July 2011 – Sunday 10th July 2011
Mansfield College, Oxford, United Kingdom
Images for Deification: Visual Literacy in Marguerite Porete’s Mirror of Simple Souls.
Pablo Garcia Acosta
Bibliotheca Mystica et Philosophica Alois M. Haas Research Group, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain
This paper aims to show how Le Mirouer des simples ames, a theological treatise by the heretic beguine Marguerite Porete (died in 1310), constructs visual images to teach a specific set of doctrines to a public not necessarily clerical or educated. We should start from the fact that this book has no iconography in the traditional sense of the term, but the written text needs and claims “interior visualization techniques” for its correct use. We will restore the perceptive historical context in which this book and its images were used and we will discuss the historical reception of the Mirouer as a didactic device. On the first place, we will focus on analyzing the ambiguous concept of “image”: how it is used in the poretean discourse and what its cultural implications are: interrelations between listening and seeing, rethorics of visualization and written versus visual literacy. On the second place, we will show how Marguerite incarnates doctrines into images by analyzing concrete examples. We will decode them through the philological analysis and we will compare them with other documents from that period, using written (Meditaciones Vite Christi, for example) and, mostly, visual texts (Hortus Deliciarum, Speculum Virginum, the so-called Rothschild Canticles…). This will allow us to understand the position of the discourse facing its doctrinal-expressive tradition and to extract its “difference”.
Visual Literacy in Development Communication: Pictorial illustration preferences in a low-literate target group
Vaal University of Technology, South Africa
The paper discusses the role of visual literacy in a development communication setting and specifically focuses on the process of identifying pictorial communication preferences in the Thibela community of the rural Qwa Qwa region in South Africa. The aim was to collect empirical information on the basis of which easily comprehensible and appropriately illustrated nutrition education material about growing and using soya beans, produced in a visual style acceptable to the community, could be developed. The data collection and analysis procedures were guided by core concepts from the visual literacy literature, including the notion of visual representational latitude (VRL) as described by Pauwels, as well as the contractual axis of semiosis, which forms part of Johansen’s semiotic pyramid model. The data collection approach involved a ten to fifteen minutes long, voluntary and anonymous session in the respondent’s home language during which a field worker completed a questionnaire in the presence of the participant (n=75). The questionnaire was designed with a view to accommodate low-literate participants and comprised items relating to pictorial referent recognition, varying degrees of visual abstraction, as well as a range of illustrative styles, including pictograms, clip art and hand-drawn images. The outcome was that a clear consensus emerged among the participants about the type of pictorial signs that should be included, and the manner in which they should be used. The questionnaire data also illustrate the main strengths and weaknesses associated with the different illustrative styles according to the views and opinions of the respondents, and underscore the widely accepted view that inappropriate visual images have the potential to generate an extensive range of unintended meanings. On the strength of the data collected, a visually illustrated nutrition education calendar was produced and then distributed free of charge in the community.
Spectral Sights: Low to Paranormal Visuals and Visions in The Eye
Kai Khiun Liew
Div of Broadcasting and Cinema, Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University
In 2002, The Eye, a horror film directed by the Hong Kong based Pang brothers, dramatically linked popular imaginations to the haunting relationship between the techno-scientific and the anthromorphic-supernatural. Centering on the traumatic experiences of a visually impaired female violinist who, after successfully undergoing a corneal transplant from a victim of a fatal accident, begins to see spectral images staring back at her upon gaining her sight, the film inspired not just several sequels, but adaptations, and remakes internationally from Japan and India to that of Hollywood close to a decade after its release. This paper draws upon the Cartesian anxieties expressed in the secularization of the human eye as bio-optical sensory tool made readily transferable surgically in The Eye to examine the possibilities of expanding the range of approaches towards visual studies. Dominated by the geometrical-ized cognitive recognition on “lines and angles”, an underlying presupposition of mainstream pedagogical approaches to visual literacy is the possession of an “optically normal” levels of visual acuity, or in other words, being sighted. Although intended to help visualize the invisible, the unseen, the unseeable and the overlooked, as a field predominantly for the sighted by the sighted, visual literacy has tended to peripheralize not just the visually impaired, but the visually “altered”. In many ways, instead of restoring the blind to clear and unified visions of modernity’s disenchanted times with the promises of advance ophthalmological surgeries, The Eye underscores the spatiotemporal non-synchronic horrors as well as signifying the postmodern undecidability of difference between the living and dead. As such, this cinematic text signals the need to critically engage with the non-contemporaneous perspectives on the heterogeneous formations and interplay of “sub-normal” and “paranormal” visuals and visions.