Visual Literacy  book cover
1st Edition

Visual Literacy

Edited By

James Elkins

ISBN 9780415958110
Published October 11, 2007 by Routledge
228 Pages 40 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

What does it mean to be visually literate? Does it mean different things in the arts and the sciences? In the West, in Asia, or in developing nations? If we all need to become "visually literate," what does that mean in practical terms? The essays gathered here examine a host of issues surrounding "the visual," exploring national and regional ideas of visuality and charting out new territories of visual literacy that lie far beyond art history, such as law and chemistry. With an afterword by Christopher Crouch, this groundbreaking collection brings together the work of major art and visual studies scholars and critics to explore what impact the new concept of "visual literacy" will have on the traditional field of art history.

Contributors: Matthias Bruhn, Vera Dünkel, Jonathan Crary, Christopher Crouch, Peter Dallow, James Elkins, Henrik Enquist, W.J.T. Mitchell, Richard K. Sherwin, Susan Shifrin, Jon Simons, Barbara Maria Stafford, William Washabaugh

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Concept of Visual Literacy, and Its Limitations, James Elkins 

1. Visual Literacy, W.J.T. Mitchell  

2. The Remaining 10%: The Role of Sensory Knowledge in the Age of the Self-Organizing Brain, Barbara Stafford  

3. Nineteenth-Century Visual Incapacities, Jonathan Crary 

4. From Visual Literacy to Image Competence, Jon Simons 

5. The Visual Complex: Mapping Some Interdisciplinary Dimensions Of Visual Literacy, Peter Dallow 

6. Visual Literacy in North American Secondary Schools, Susan Shifrin 

7. Philosophical Bases for Visual Multiculturalism at the College Level, William Washabaugh 

8. Bridging the Gap Between Clinical and Patient-Provided Images, Henrik Enquist 

9. Visual Literacy in Action: Law in the Age of Images, Richard Sherwin 

10. The Image as Cultural Technology, Matthias Bruhn and Vera Dünkel 

Afterword, Christopher Crouch 

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James Elkins is E.C. Chadbourne Chair in the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is the author of Pictures and Tears, How to Use Your Eyes, and What Painting Is and, most recently, The Strange Place of Religion in Contemporary Art and Master Narratives and Their Discontents, all published by Routledge.


"Visual Literacy brings intellectual rigor to a concept that often passes as an unexamined cliché. This collection of essays explores how well the metaphor of ‘reading’ elucidates the viewing and interpretation of images, whether artistic, political, or scientific. The volume will find its place on the bookshelves of both serious scholars of vision and instructors who rise to the challenge of integrating diverse visual artifacts into the undergraduate curriculum."—James D. Herbert, University of California, Irvine

"Given that much university education is dominantly and sometimes entirely text-based, the central issue of whether there can and ought to be a stronger emphasis on the visual is a valuable, challenging, perhaps even threatening one, for denizens of academia."--Margaret Woodward, Eureka Street