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The Humanities Conference 2003

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Metaphor, The Hidden Connection in Visual Literacy and Teaching

Dianne Heidke.

Heidegger said, “ Why are there things instead of nothing?” The simple answer is because we create them. Metaphor is the principal tool we use to create and explain reality, giving shape to the way we think about ourselves and the world around us. Metaphor allows us to make connections; it marries separate domains of experience or knowledge to create new paradigms. Metaphor is a cornerstone of communication. It is fundamental to creative and critical thinking.

Teaching through, with, and about the operation of metaphor is important because it can convey wholistic understanding. A metaphor can be simultaneously specific, general and contextual, giving the ability to see a whole situation from multiple perspectives. Metaphor is a powerful tool because it facilitates and promotes both communication and creativity. By knowing how metaphor operates (visually, poetically, or musically) one cannot only effectively communicate, but one can understand how creativity comes about in these mediums.

Visual art, from the simplest representation to the most complex piece, is concerned with the creation of metaphor. Art communicates in the language of visual metaphors. It can be used to show how relationships work, how things relate to each other, how to create concepts, moods, feelings, and narratives. When children are given the opportunity to examine how disparate elements are intentionally put together to create a particular piece, using color, form and shape, they begin to see how connections or metaphors occur. By seeing the connections in a particular format and between particular objects, it becomes easier for them to make connections in other areas of learning and even possibly to make their own new connections and metaphors.

This paper will explore and examine the role of metaphor referencing current teachings on visual literacy (e.g. Yenawine and Housen) and children’ development.


Dianne Heidke  (United States)

  • Visual Literacy
  • Metaphor
  • Cognitive Development
  • Metaphor in Communication and Creativity
  • Creativity
  • Communication
  • Childrens' Development
  • Art
  • Social Studies
  • Critical Thinking Skills

(Virtual Presentation, English)