ENG 556
Theories of Literacy
Spring 2010

"Literacy does not require or inexorably lead to any particular development, but it is a powerful tool available for organizing, extending, providing resources for, and transforming all of our social endeavors."
--Charles Bazerman
"Literacy (Formed as an antithesis to illiteracy). The quality or state of being literate; knowledge of letters; condition in respect to education. Esp. ability to read and write."
--Oxford English Dictionary
"Literacy is the skill, the process, the practice of 'reading' and being articulate about 'men and nations,' which is more than just simplistic, isolated decoding and encoding skills."
--Jacqueline Jones Royster
"To be truly literate, a person must be conversant with a specific body of knowledge known to educated people, or, more precisely, the cultural knowledge of the dominant society."
--E.D. Hirsch Jr.

"Literacy is a system of oppression that works against entire societies as well as against certain groups within given populations and against individual people."
--Elspeth Stuckey

"There is no thing, literacy, only constellations of forms and degrees of literacy, shifting and turning as history rearranges the social formations in which they are embedded. Pieties of literacy with a capital L ought to be scrutinized: Which literacy? Whose literacy? Literacy for what? How?"
--Andrew Sledd

"More and more, we are divided into two nations: One that reads and one that can't, and, therefore, one that dreams and one that doesn't. Reading is the basics for all learning, and it must be the foundation for all other education reforms."--George W. Bush
"It's not what's inside your head, it's what your head's inside of." --Patrick Hartwell

While theories of literacy have, for the most part, been determined by the primacy of reading and writing script, more recent scholarship in literacy theory and history has served to challenge such limitations. Many contemporary perspectives on literacy view scripted text as one component of complex acts and practices of written communication that occur in social contexts. Anthropological ethnographic studies that examine such communicative acts in their local contexts reveal that literate practices and the texts that are produced are imbued with social and cultural values and traditions, and the needs and desires of individuals. As the statements above illustrate, theories of literacy themselves are embedded within the values and assumptions of individuals, institutions, and academic specialization. In this course, we will examine some of these theories, their influences on academic scholarship and pedagogy, the ideological assumptions that inform them, and how we might view these theories within broader socio-cultural landscapes.

Instructor - Peter Goggin
Line # 22995
W 4:40-7:30 ECG G214

Syllabus
Online Forum
Weekly Assignments
Calendar of Assignments