Daniell, Beth. “Narratives of Literacy: Connecting Composition to Culture.” College Composition and Communication, 50 (1999): 393-410.

  • D. notes that the turn toward literacy in the 70s and 80s was the result of a staid presence by Marxist theory and ethnography.  Literacy – as she defines it – “connects composition, with its emphasis on students and classrooms, to the social, political, economic, historical, and cultural” (393).  The narratives of literacy that color the field today are analogous to Lyotard’s “micronarratives” – stories that draw attention to the conflicted politics of the discipline, the relationship between theory and ideology, the ethics of research, and the problems of separating the spiritual from the academic.
  • In contradistinction from literacy as orality-literacy divide or literacy as cultural, D. believes literacy is cognitive.  To understand the origins of literacy means to understand how literacy changes the ways human beings think, understand, learn, and progress. . . and also explains how cultures “advance” (394).[1. I don’t understand why these are necessarily separate – seems like literacy could be cognitive and also cultural.]
  • D. recognizes the Freirean notion that literacy is liberatory and a means to free people from political and economic oppression by a ruling class.  This narrative recognizes that literacy is a cultural construct and that certain forms of literacy are recognized because they are given preference by the social, economic, and political factors of the time (399).  Unfortunately, in the academy, this narrative often turns into missionary work that removes agency from the student and demonstrates the “correct” way to liberatory literacy.  As D. notes,

  • “Little narratives” that rely on ethnographic method, thick description, and Marxists/Feminist critique have drawn attention to the problems with the metanarratives of literacy (orality-literacy, literacy as liberation) literacy.  These small narratives demonstrate that literacy is contextual, multiple, multicultural, intercultural, and embedded in social structures of power (405).

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