Brooke Notes-George

George, Diana. “From Analysis to Design: Visual Communication in the Teaching of Writing.” College Composition and Communication, vol. 54, no. 1, Sept. 2002, pp. 11–39.

Summary: “In an attempt to bring composition studies into a more thoroughgoing discussion of the place of visual literacy in the writing classroom, I argue that throughout the history of writing instruction in this country the terms of debate typical in discussions of visual literacy and the teaching of writing have limited the kinds of assignments we might imagine for composition.” (George 11)

As George states in her abstract, she explains how visual literacy has been viewed throughout compositions studies’ history. She begins in the 1940s post-World War II with Dick and Jane books recognizing that pictures need to be “read,” moves into the 1950s and ’60s recognizing that television also has images that need to be interpreted, and into the 1980s where students need to be the producers of images and not just the consumers.

NCTE’s primary author on the committee, Neil Postman, made a call for teaching films in the English classroom in 1961 and for assisting students in acquiring “taste and critical judgement” as a “literary experience” through films (17). In 1986, Costanzo wrote a report for NCTE that explained how film and writing are “equal partners” (24).

Classrooms did not foster visual literacy in textbooks or in assignments like George portrays in her 2002 article. She highlights textbooks from the 1950s-1970s that engage writers with pictures in a superficial way, in using it as a prompt or for analysis, but not for composition. In contrast, George assigns a visual argument assignment and is excited by the arguments her first year writing students compose.


Bartholomae, David, and Anthony Petrosky. Ways of Reading. Boston, MA, St. Martin’s Press, 1987.

George, Diana, and Diane Shoos. “Dropping Breadcrumbs in the Intertextual Forest: or, We Should Have Brought a Compass.” Passions, Pedagogies, and Twentieth-First Century Technologies, Edited by Gail Hawisher and Cynthia Selfe, Utah State UP, Logan, UT, 1999, pp. 115–126.


  • “My guess is that many of these difficulties will not ease up in yet another age of back-to-basics talk and threats of outcomes-based funding. Yet, our students will continue to work with whatever technology–much of it primarily visual–they can get their hands on” (George 32).
  • “Literacy means more than words, and visual literacy means more than play” (16).
  • “What was radical about Berger’s work was his insistence on breaking down the barriers that separated high culture (in this case art history) from low (advertising)[…] In this textbook, not only was meaning no longer restricted to the verbal, the visual was also not used as a gentle step into the ‘more serious’ world of the verbal” (George 23).


  • George explains the influence of design, making an example out of the formatting of a research paper. How can one break the idea of “academic decorum” with research papers and make it mainstream?
  • What are the three R’s she references from Rudolph Flesch?