Publication details [#5734]

Hermsen, Terry. 2003. Languages of engagement: An investigation of metaphor, physicality, play and visuality as tools for enhancing student learning and perception. Columbus, O.. 716 pp.


Robert Frost once speculated on the relationship between poetry and thought, conjecturing that all thinking was grounded in metaphor. Many people never took him seriously. Now, thanks to the work of many theorists in a number of diverse fields, from linguistics to philosophy to cognitive science, we can say with some certainty that he was right. Sentences build themselves around analogies; thought creates visual pictures in our brains; metaphors shape our ways of seeing the world. All of this appears to be done mostly unconsciously, as we filter messages, both verbal and visual, from our environment and shape those signs and clues into world-responses. The work which hasn't been done thoroughly enough yet is how to apply this central understanding to education. That means investigating metaphor as a means of linking the whole of learning. As one step toward to such a curricular move, this study first traces some of the key theorists involved with what might be called the metaphor revolution and connects them to some related studies in the area of the physicality (the body and its contact with its surrounding world shapes our perception); playfulness (play's role in childhood, art, and society in general); and visuality (the role of visual imagery in the shaping of thought and consciousness). Secondly, I follow the progress of two high school classes as I introduce them to some of the key concepts in poetry, emphasizing the above concepts. Through writing poems about literature, about their home town environment, about sports activities, elemental memory, and visual images, I trace some ways the above concepts influence their writing, their thinking and their perception by means of my own analysis of the text of their poems and their own analysis of their responses via interviews. By the close of the study, I propose a kind of working "generative cycle" revolving between each of the four categories, so that metaphoric thought breaks down into a four-tiered process, drawing on many sides of experience, all to the end of students attaining what I've called a "more engaged world view," that is, a more conscious involvement with their own perceptive consciousness. (Terry Hermsen)