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Language, Literacy, Identity, and Culture in a Global Context -- spring 2011

Esther Prins course announcement, spring 2011.

Spring 2011
Wednesdays, 2:30 - 5:30pm
112 Keller

prins_sml.jpgCourse Instructor: Dr. Esther Prins

This course examines the relationships between language, literacy, culture, and identity. We begin by exploring competing theoretical perspectives regarding the nature and consequences of literacy and its relation to oral communication. Most of the course is devoted to ethnographic studies of literacy, which we will use to explore:

• how literacy practices differ across sociocultural contexts;
• how people use literacies to construct identities;
• the relationship between official, school-based and popular, out-of-school literacies; and
• how scholars can best study literacy(ies).

Ethnographic accounts from Nepal, Liberia, Mexico, the United States, and other countries reveal how people use oral and written language for multiple purposes. Students will have the opportunity to discuss several texts via video conference or conference calls with authors such as Mike Cole, Laura Ahearn, and Deborah Brandt.

The course will enable students to develop a fine-grained understanding of how scholars conceptualize and study literacy and identity in cross-cultural settings and will familiarize them with classic and recent works in sociocultural studies of literacy (New Literacy Studies). The course is relevant to students in adult education, K-12 education, communications, sociology, English, and related fields.

Texts (tentative)

Black literate lives: Historical and contemporary perspectives (Fisher)
Discovering literacy: Access routes to written culture for a group of women in Mexico (Kalman)
Invitations to love: Literacy, love letters, and social change in Nepal (Ahearn)
Literacy and literacies: Texts, power, and identity (Collins & Blot)
Literacy in American lives (Brandt)
The psychology of literacy (Scribner & Cole)

Comments from previous student course evaluations

“The atmosphere was extremely conducive to learning. It was a class that really spurred my critical thinking.”

“really eye-opening and expansive”

“carefully selected, rich readings”

“It’s a great course!”