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DEL904 Critical Literacy For Theory Into Practice In The Language

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  • Course Code: DEL904
  • University: Nanyang Technological University
  • Country: Singapore

Question:

This assignment requires you to apply use the concepts, tools and terms of critical literacy to analyze a self-chosen text and draw out implications/significance.

Choose a public text which may be in any combination of mode as long as it can be captured for analysis and marking. It may be educational or not. Analyze the text, referring to concepts and frameworks presented on the course, dealing with, for example, context, purpose, audience, genre, language, semiotic modes and relationships among them etc. Please refer to the grading criteria posted on the course Blackboard site in ‘Assignments’.

 

Answer:

A text, according to theorists of the post-modern age, is any material, written, visual or vocal, that is open to interpretation and analysis. Using tools and concepts of critical literacy is evolving as a pedagogical method of interpreting texts, encouraging readers to look beyond the appearance and the obvious corresponding meanings of a text, and identifying the underlying political, social and gendered connotations of a given material (Janks, 2012). The subject-material of this essay is the cover of Time magazine featuring an illustration of Christine Blasey Ford. The illustration is a collage made out of the words she used at the testimony, it is a powerful work conveying poignant messages that relates to gender bias and political polarization apart from its conspicuous portrayal of oppression and the anxiety of the assaulted.

The political context of the magazine cover is an issue widely talked about in media, news and among the common mass. Given the mass awareness of the highly debatable topic, it was strategic, rather smart of the artist to use the words of Ford, for creating a collage that speaks tones of her unnerving experience and the difficulties it has caused her. The very first look at the depiction will strike the audience as a representation of the traumas and hurdles that a victim of sexual assault is forced to live with, but for someone who is well versed in the concept of critical literacy, the illustration will reveal the artist’s underlying intentions. The way the magazine brand uses its social influence to condition the mass to perceive of the matter exactly the way they want it to is another notable aspect to consider if the material be analyzed through critical literacy. The intent of the exemplification are twofold: it is either presenting Ford as a helpless victim of sexual assault or it is a tactful ploy to make the skeptical audience question Ford’s credibility (considering the fact that the words are a helpless plea seeking empathy and approval, none of them have a sound, legal associations.

 

The artist of the typographical illustration, Haley Sweetland Edwards, chose to title the work as ‘Her Lasting Impact’. It is for the analytical audience to decide if this ‘impact’ refers to Ford’s ensuing trauma post assault or the impact of her words on the jury members and the common mass. The illustration makes use of words, and one of the central thoughts of critical literacy is that the way people speak and are spoken to becomes the ground for basing perceptions and build individuals into the person they are becoming. Language is a powerful tool that molds people and their insights into developing a collective unconscious, conditioning their thought-process and making them into individuals that they are entitled to become, on account of the discourse they are subjected to (Street, 2003). The theory of critical literacy seeks to liberate readers and audience of this traditional system of interpreting a text that leaves no room for out of the box thinking. The approach is based on the premise that all texts, literary or not should be approached from a questioning perspective. The message of the creator should be examined for identifying concealed undertones, that might be safely tucked in the sub-text. What appears to be a desperate appeal of a despondent victim of sexual abuse at first look, exposes the lack of proof and logic in the statements if evaluated from a critical perspective. The artist has taken extra care in the assortment of words in different areas of the figure. The quotes from the memory of the assault are attached to the area of her forehead and the ones seeking help has been placed on her hand, which is seen as both welcoming and deflecting. Phrases like ‘one hundred percent’, ‘seared into the memory’ and ‘the laughter’ dominate the figure of the illustration, it indicates the ensuing trauma that originated from the appalling incident. In other words, it portrays her as a vulnerable and helpless victim, who must have the support of law and the common people to see things through.

To the unaware and gullible individual, the illustration is an act of empowering a victim of sexual assault, but the critical eye will not miss the obvious lack of credible material, and the complete silencing of the opponent’s voice in the design of the magazine cover. It would not be altogether unfair to assert that the brand value of TIME magazine makes it easier to modulate the perception of the public, who, owing to their gullibility, takes the portrayal at face value without questioning the legitimacy of the claims. The unconventional thinker will observe the sexual politics and political biases that lurks underneath the apparently simple portrayal of a woman seeking justice for being assaulted sexually. The selected words acquire her all the benefits of being her gender, something as juvenile as the words she used would not be pertinent if the claimant had been male. Being a female in a world that still practices routine oppression of the ‘second’ sex, Ford gets the benefit of the doubt even if it is at the cost of the voice of the accused (Darde rand Baltodano., 2003).

The cover is more like a putting together the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, but this act of arranging the words increases the number of possible meanings that can be derived from the illustration. Some of the words seem repetitive, and the emotions invoked are one sympathy for the victim and disgust for the accused. Although the paradoxes so prevalent in her own words should propel the skeptic to look beyond the surface reality and attempt to seek out the facts, or whatever it is that lies beneath all politically biased messages. Whether the accused is really guilty of the charges is for the jury to decide, all the liberty that an average individual is entitled to can be exercised by not conforming to the media’s propaganda, since it feeds on the gullibility of the unaware and confused audience.

 

References and Bibliography:

Darder, A., & Baltodano, M. (2003). The critical pedagogy reader. Psychology Press.

Janks, (2012) contemporary critical literacy p.151-153

Keifer-Boyd, K. (2018). Working to Dismantle Systems of Oppression. Visual Culture & Gender, 13, 1-5.

Luke, A., & Freebody, P. (1999). A map of possible practices: Further notes on the four resources model. Practically Primary, 4(2), 5-8.

Street, B. (2003). What’s “new” in New Literacy Studies? Critical approaches to literacy in theory and practice. Current issues in comparative education, 5(2), 77-91.

Street, B. (2003). What’s “new” in New Literacy Studies? Critical approaches to literacy in theory and practice. Current issues in comparative education, 5(2), 77-91.

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