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Literacy, Economy, and Power

Writing and Research after "Literacy in American Lives"

Edited by John Duffy, Julie Nelson Christoph, Eli Goldblatt, Nelson Graff, Rebecca S. Nowacek, Bryan Trabold

Publication Year: 2014

Following on the groundbreaking contributions of Deborah Brandt’s Literacy in American Lives—a literacy ethnography exploring how ordinary Americans have been affected by changes in literacy, public education, and structures of power—Literacy, Economy, and Power expands Brandt’s vision, exploring the relevance of her theoretical framework as it relates to literacy practices in a variety of current and historical contexts, as well as in literacy’s expanding and global future. Bringing together scholars from rhetoric, composition, and literacy studies, the book offers thirteen engrossing essays that extend and challenge Brandt’s commentary on the dynamics between literacy and power.

The essays cover many topics, including the editor of the first Native American newspaper, the role of a native Hawaiian in bringing literacy to his home islands, the influence of convents and academies on nineteenth-century literacy, and the future of globalized digital literacies. Contributors include Julie Nelson Christoph, Ellen Cushman, Kim Donehower, Anne Ruggles Gere, Eli Goldblatt, Harvey J. Graff, Gail E. Hawisher, Bruce Horner, David A. Jolliffe, Rhea Estelle Lathan, Min-Zhan Lu, Robyn Lyons-Robinson, Carol Mattingly, Beverly J. Moss, Paul Prior, Cynthia L. Selfe, Michael W. Smith, and Morris Young. Literacy, Economy, and Power also features an introduction exploring the scholarly impact of Brandt’s work, written by editors John Duffy, Julie Nelson Christoph, Eli Goldblatt, Nelson Graff, Rebecca Nowacek, and Bryan Trabold. An invaluable tool for literacy studies at the graduate or professional level, Literacy, Economy, and Power provides readers with a wide-ranging view of the work being done in literacy studies today and points to ways researchers might approach the study of literacy in the future.

Published by: Southern Illinois University Press


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pp. C-C

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-viii

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pp. 1-10

As we write this sentence, more than a decade has passed since the publication of Deborah Brandt’s Literacy in American Lives (2001). At the time of publication, Literacy in American Lives was one of many voices in the boisterous, interdisciplinary, and ultimately transformative conversation about literacy that had become known, collectively, as “the New Literacy...

Part One: Looking Back at Literacy: What It Did to Us; What We Did with It

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1. Elias Boudinot and the Cherokee Phoenix: The Sponsors of Literacy They Were and Were Not

Ellen Cushman

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pp. 13-29

The Cherokee Phoenix is the first newspaper published by an Indian tribe in the United States, and it included the Cherokee syllabary, the first indigenous writing system, in many issues (see fig. 1.1).1 Invented by a Cherokee silversmith, treaty signer, and student of the language named Sequoyah over...

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2. Testimony as a Sponsor of Literacy: Bernice Robinson and the South Carolina Sea Island Citizenship Program’s Literacy Activism

Rhea Estelle Lathan

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pp. 30-44

I begin with Audre Lorde and Jacqueline Jones Royster because they both superbly embody the objectives of this essay: to make a case for expanding definitions of literacy to include arenas where writing is in a symbiotic relationship with social and political obligations. Both Lorde and Royster are...

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3. Beyond the Protestant Literacy Myth

Carol Mattingly

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pp. 45-60

Literacy historians have long credited the Protestant mandate to read Scripture for advances in literacy, with historians of American literacy pointing to New England Puritans as the model for the Protestant impetus to literacy.1 This belief is commonplace in our best histories. For example...

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4. Writing the Life of Henry Obookiah: The Sponsorship of Literacy and Identity

Morris Young

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pp. 61-76

The nineteenth-century text Memoirs of Henry Obookiah tells a tale somewhat familiar to another nineteenth-century text, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself. While the significant difference is that Henry Obookiah was not subject to the harsh life...

Part Two: Looking Now at Literacy: A Tool for Change?

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5. Sponsoring Education for All: Revisiting the Sacred/Secular Divide in Twenty-First-Century Zanzibar

Julie Nelson Christoph

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pp. 79-96

In 2010, while describing the reading and writing activities in which he had engaged in the past twelve months as part of his professional activities, a forty-five-year-old man explained that he does not read “[b]‍ecause I am a businessman” and that he does not write because “[i]‍n business...

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6. Connecting Literacy to Sustainability: Revisiting Literacy as Involvement

Kim Donehower

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pp. 97-110

When Deborah Brandt’s Literacy as Involvement (1990) was first published and reviewed, it was considered mainly in terms of what it might offer classroom pedagogy. Reviewing the book for the Journal of Advanced Composition, Patricia Bizzell worries that “[while] I share Brandt’s...

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7. Toward a Labor Economy of Literacy: Academic Frictions

Bruce Horner and Min-Zhan Lu

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pp. 111-126

Increases, and demands for further increases, in the volume and velocity of global traffic in peoples, goods, services, capital, and information are forcing literacy scholars and teachers to revise their models of literacy and literacy instruction. In this chapter, we review the ways in which two...

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8. The Unintended Consequences of Sponsorship

Eli Goldblatt and David A. Jolliffe

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pp. 127-135

Deborah Brandt’s well-known definition of a literacy sponsor has been used to explore and analyze learning situations inside and outside academic settings. This formulation sensitizes us to the benefits that flow to institutions offering classes or tutelage of any sort. By Brandt’s light we...

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9. Making Literacy Work: A “Phenomenal Woman” Negotiating Her Literacy Identity in and for an African American Women’s Club

Beverly J. Moss and Robyn Lyons-Robinson

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pp. 136-154

The sentiments above, spoken about Robyn Lyons-Robinson by fellow club members, were shared by many club women during the sixteen months of the ethnographic study for which Beverly J. Moss collected data. “Keeping us informed,” “always telling us about something that’s going on...

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10. Seeking Sponsors, Accumulating Literacies: Deborah Brandt and English Education

Michael W. Smith

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pp. 155-165

The chapters in this volume make the influence of Deborah Brandt’s ideas on composition studies abundantly clear. In this chapter I argue that Brandt’s thinking can be equally generative for English education, basing my argument on what I see as the instructional implication of two key constructs...

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11. Combining Phenomenological and Sociohistoric Frameworks for Studying Literate Practices: Some Implications of Deborah Brandt’s Methodological Trajectory

Paul Prior

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pp. 166-182

Over the last three decades, phenomenological and sociohistoric theories have shaped the way literate practices have been theorized and studied (Prior, 2005, Russell, 2010). However, while sociohistoric (or cultural-historic activity) theory has been actively discussed and debated, phenomenological...

Part Three: Looking Forward at Literacy: The Global and Multimodal Future

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12. Beyond Literate Lives: Collaboration, Literacy Narratives, Transnational Connections, and Digital Media

Cynthia L. Selfe and Gail E. Hawisher

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pp. 185-202

This chapter describes an ongoing study of globalized digital literacies inspired by Deborah Brandt’s outstanding historical study of twentieth- century reading and writing in Literacy in American Lives (2001) from which the epigraph is excerpted. Our research has tried to extend...

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Epilogue: Literacy Studies and Interdisciplinary Studies with Notes on the Place of Deborah Brandt

Harvey J. Graff

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pp. 203-226

Claims about literacies, and their lack, surround us, multiplying like metaphorical insects.* Different observers see either an abundance of literacies forming foundations for flowing multimodalities or a crisis rooted in the presumed absence or inadequacy of appropriate literacies threatening the...

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Anne Ruggles Gere

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pp. 227-232

In 2002 I wrote a review of Literacy in American Lives in which I explained that reading Deborah Brandt’s book helped me understand my own family history better; it illuminated the many things that contributed to the fact that my mother, the youngest child, graduated from college, while her older sister...


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pp. 233-236


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pp. 237-244

Back Cover

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pp. BC-BC

E-ISBN-13: 9780809333035
E-ISBN-10: 0809333031
Print-ISBN-13: 9780809333028
Print-ISBN-10: 0809333023

Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 7
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 869904564
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Literacy, Economy, and Power