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Andrea Lunsford: What is Literacy Today?


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Slides from a summer workshop given by Andrea Lunsford and Brent Ashley at the Bread Loaf School of English, Summer 2013

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Andrea Lunsford: What is Literacy Today?

  1. 1. What Is Literacy? Andrea A. Lunsford Stanford University Bread Loaf ~~July 28, 2014
  2. 2. Alvin Toffler predicts . . . [In the future] “illiteracy will not be defined by those who cannot read and write, but by those who cannot learn and relearn.” (I say the future is TODAY!)
  3. 3. According to Stephen Apkon, “[l]iteracy is the ability to express oneself in an effective way through the text of the moment, the prevailing mode of expression in a particular society. Literacy follows language. To be literate . . is to be conversant in the dominant expressive language and form of the age. --The Age of the Image: Redefining Literacy in a World of Screens (2013)
  4. 4. I agree with Apkon’s definition, but would add a few points:  In today’s literacy, reading, writing, speaking, and listening are increasingly blurred  Acts of literacy are deeply social and collaborative: to communicate, as Apkon notes, means to commune  Literacy involves consuming and producing, receiving and creating  Storytelling is the universal literacy—in words, images, moving pictures, and sounds.
  5. 5. And so . . . What is writing?? An epistemic technology  that creates and performs lines of thought within conceptual frameworks  that draws from and expands on conventions and genres  that uses signs and symbols, drawn from multiple sources  takes advantage of a full range of media  responds to others and other writing/reading
  6. 6. Children instinctively enact this definition of writing early on Meet Xinghe, just six years old, living in Beijing, and writing (in English) in words, images, and sounds
  7. 7. Or consider these fifth graders at work Meet Emma Zavala, student in Mr. Nitikman’s Fifth Grade Class at Washington School in Santa Barbara Check out their accompanying Website at ass-book
  8. 8. Such texts are increasingly remixes or mashups— and they’re not new Consider Tom Phillips, who in 1966 set out on a quest: to find a used book that cost no more than threepence and then to transform each page using drawing, painting, collage, and cut-outs to make an entirely new version. According to Phillips’s website, he “found . . . an 1892 Victorian obscurity titled A Human Document by W.H Mallock and he titled his altered book A Humument.” First published in 1973, there have now been five editions. His work is now considered a classic postmodern artist’s book.
  9. 9. Or the work of many other great students, like Will Rogers
  10. 10. Or to my students, some of whom have won Stanford’s Lunsford Oral Presentation of Research Award
  11. 11. Joy Williams’ and Alice Cohen’s "Baba Iaga and the Pelican Child" - An Electric Literature Single Sentence Animation
  12. 12. To sum up the argument I’m making  Literacy is active, participatory, and always adapting to new circumstances, audiences, and media  Writing now includes image, sound, video, color—any tools available to writer/authors.  Student writers want and need to create as well as to receive texts.  As teachers, we must find ways to draw on the best of the old literacy while engaging students in the best of the new.
  13. 13. a few recommended sources….  Stephen Apkon, The Age of the Image: Redefining Literacy in a World of Screens. NY: Farrar Strauss, 2013.  Adam Banks, Digital Griots: African American Rhetoric in a Digital Age. Carbondale: SIUP, 2011.  Jonathan Safran Foer, Tree of Codes. NY: Visual Editions, 2010.  Brett Gaylor, RiP: A Remix Manifesto. YouTube, 2008.  Henry Jenkins et al, Reading in a Participatory Culture: Remixing Moby Dick in the English Classroom. NY: Teachers College P, 2013.  Lawrence Lessig, Remix. NY: Penguin, 2009.