Weekly Featured Writers

Each week, 1-2 people will curate the ideas and writing from our class into a featured blog. We will use these blogs to connect with colleagues outside our course.

Dr. Kim Jaxon

Website: kimjaxon.com/me

Office Hours Fall 2022 by appointment.

Email: kjaxon@csuchico.edu

Category: Featured blogs

Brady Freitas: Curated Blog for Week 2

Brady Freitas: Curated Blog for Week 2

Hi everyone! 

During week 2 in Theories of Literacies, we explored all notions of what is constitutive of literacy by reading Jennifer Roswell and Kate Pahl’s “Introduction” to literacy studies in The Routledge Handbook of Literacy Studies. In essence, literacy is so much more than merely being able to read and write. Roswell and Pahl give a great definition on the expansive, complex, and diverse ways literacy emerges in our lives, for it:

“exists in homes [and many other places] with the varied ways that people live, speak and practice the everyday… Literacy is aesthetic, material and multimodal. Literacy is both local and global, evident in rural as well as in urban settings. Literacy changes with practices, and transmutes across borders, languages and modes. Literacy is digital, immersive and networked. Literacy is felt, sensed and associated with place” (Roswell and Pahl 1).

This is a noticeably longer take on what literacy is in comparison to the one we are used to hearing in grade school as simply the ability to read and write. As you read the definition you might think: “How can literacy be all these things?” “What happened to it just being about reading and writing?” 

Thanks to our other reading this week by David Bloome and Judith Greene, “The Social and Linguistic Turns in Studying Language and Literacy,” it works in tandem with Roswell and Pahl’s expansive and frankly overwhelming description, in order to to help us understand the reasons for such a broad take on what constitutes as literacy. These turns in the field of literacy— to the social and linguistic— are the reason why Roswell and Pahl’s definition of literacy can be so wide-ranging. 

It is important to understand in what ways these turns reshape our understanding of literacy —one that is aligned with how it is seen by literacy researchers— rather than our pop-cultural consciousness of thinking reading a book and being able to write a letter to your grandma as the things that make you literate, for example. Starting with what Bloome and Greene call an autonomous model of literacy, “the individual employs cognitive and linguistic skills, strategies, and processes that are mostly autonomous of the social context which the reading or writing occurs” (Bloome and Greene 20). Another title for this model of literacy could be the anti-social model, as it merely focuses on reading and writing skills that are outside the social and cultural context in which they occur. This model posits two ideas: 

  1. that literacy is (only) reading and writing 
  2. and that literacy is static in what is constitutive of it (i.e. literacy is not social). 

However, with the turn to recognize that language is inherently a social heuristic in which we communicate in our realms, literacy becomes a “non-trivial use of written language” where no matter what, the ways in which we— as humans— do literacy cannot be separated from the idea of what literacy means in that specific context” (Bloome and Greene 20).

This calls for a new model of literacy, one that understands the flux and social nature of literacy. The ideological model of literacy, according to Bloome and Greene, fits the social turn by a literacy that

“does not exist as a thing in-and-of-itself. Rather it is the situated, contextualized use of written language by people as they interact with each other within the social institutions and social spaces in which they live their lives. Literacy practices and events are embedded in, and constitutive of cultural ideologies. That is, a cultural ideology informs, and is informed by, what literacy practices are used in what social situations when, by whom, with what meanings, and with what social consequences.”

Similar to how I said you can think of the autonomous model of literacy as anti-social, you can think of this one as the social model of literacy. With that being said, the social turn in literacy allows for a more nuanced and accurate depiction of what literacy is, depending on the socio-historical context in which a certain literacy is taking place. Moreover, before we can turn back to Roswell and Pahl’s wide-ranging definition of literacy: it is still necessary to shift to Bloome and Greene’s explanation of the linguistic turn in literacy studies. 

The important thing to remember when it comes to the linguistic turn is the fact that language represents and organizes the social world we live in. This turn allows for the “deconstruction and reconstruction of disciplinary bodies of knowledge,” which allows for a multitude of epistemologies and ontologies to be thought up and considered, hence the fact we see Roswell and Pahl’s definition around what literacy can be, as so expansive-oriented (Bloome and Greene 22). The linguistic turn enables for the expansion of the field, while the social turn allows for literacy studies to continuously adjust and reshape depending on the sociohistorical literacy event. 

Therefore, when we turn back to the “Introduction” by Roswell and Pahl, it becomes clear that the spaced-focused, time-focused, multimodal, digital, hermeneutic, everyday, and communal literacy approaches all have a validity within the scope of literacy studies thanks to the social and linguistic turn within the field. When considering all the different approaches and subcategories within literacy studies through the lens of the social and linguistic, it is apparent that this reimagining of what literacy is, is important for a more nuanced, disparate, and accurate understanding of how we become literate beings in the world(s) we live in.

decorativeRecursively, the idea that “literacy is felt, sensed, and associated with place,” I begin to understand how place is a crucial component when thinking about literacy (Roswell and Pahl 1). However, a question I am left with from this reading is in what ways do I begin to understand the felt and sensed aspects of literacy? What does this mean exactly? 

During our class session our initial probing question into these readings was “What is the range for what this field [literacy] studies?” Of course after reading Roswell and Pahl’s “Introduction,” I was relatively overwhelmed with the rhizomatic structure that is literacy studies, all connected in some ways via the social and linguistic turn, but all doing vastly different things. This question was one we explored the meaning / answer to throughout our class time together, and one I believe which will shape the rest of the course, in order to gain a deeper sense of what the field studies. Thus, when referring back to the felt and sensed aspects of literacies, it has me thinking that they— like literacy itself— are always changing and influx, which results in me asking what ways do I currently feel and sense literacies in the places I am embedded into? 

After talking about the field a little bit we turned to schooled literacy, and ways in which we see the effects of these literacy events and practices shaping our histories of literacy in some ways. One of the largest themes from this discussion is the difficulty of breaking away from schooled literacies. For example, Alondra, a graduate student, explained how she still raises her hand when wanting to say something even though there has been no need / purpose to do this since her days in K-12. We also discussed why memorization is the test of importance on subject competency. Larisa mentioned how even in her high school English classes, which are notoriously known as a place for critical thinking and exchange of ideas through socratic seminars / fishbowls, there was still the need for supposed reading comprehension with tests on novels. Having a test based upon memorization of the novel’s material seems strange and foreign if given one in a college-level literature class. A hard question to answer as to why memorization is so important in K-12 education, but one reason that made sense (I forget who mentioned it, the irony) was the fact that standardized tests like the SAT and ACT were the determiners in getting into prestigious institutions after high school. 

Kim brought up a great question in class, which was “for those of you who are teaching English 130W [Academic Writing aka FYC] this semester, what do your students think they are doing in regard to writing, and are they learning about different disciplines / discourse communities?” As someone who is teaching English 130W this semester, I began to think about the literacy practices I was asking of students, while also questioning the literacy event that I was constructing in my classroom. We moved on from this question relatively quickly, into related topics of students (personal) needs, and ways we can support students in coming to class and doing the work. However, when thinking back to Kim’s question it is one that I am interested in exploring for the entirety of the semester and beyond, as the classroom is an important place in which instructors can deconstruct certain K-12 sensibilities, while giving students opportunities to understand and operate in college settings both materially and in designated discourse communities. With that being said, one other thing that Kim mentioned that resonated, is the fact that there should not be a first-year composition course, at least the way we have it structured now. If we are asking students to write in certain discourse communities for their majors, why the hell are we not teaching them that? 

After discussing our relationship with literacy and our schooling— something that is hard to think outside of, as it is so interconnected to our socio-historical moment— we turned to mapping our own histories of literacy. Some fellow classmates shared books, professors, and classes they took, while others shared video games they played growing up. A challenging task to rhizomatically connect your literacy practices to one another throughout your life, I initially began thinking about my time in graduate school and working backwards from there. I was hoping to eventually get to other literacy practices and events that were present when I was a kid, however, I began to think too closely on the literacy practices I have gained while in college solely. Perhaps in the future, breaking up my literacy practices by place, will help me focus and hone in on certain literacies throughout my life. 

From this week’s readings and class discussion I am left with the following questions, including the ones I have bolded in my blog post above: 

  • In what ways are my literacy practices being changed as I progress through this course? Do I feel I have gained a more keen cognizance of what my own literacy practices are (by the end of the semester)? 
  • What do you teach when it comes to literacies (for all of us who are or want to teach in the future)? 
  • How can we create effective heuristics to help us operate in certain places, spaces, and literacy events?  
  • What literacies count and which ones do we disregard? Why? And in what ways can we ensure justice for disparate, diverse, and different literacies than ones that hold hegemony in our current position in the space-and-time continuum?  

photo of BradyAuthor’s bio: Brady Freitas is an English graduate student at Chico State. His research interests include spatial and geographic rhetorics, place-based pedagogy, and practices of the everyday. He currently teaches first-year composition, with hopes to continue his passion for teaching in the future. In his free time, he likes to spend time outdoors, hanging with his dogs, and going to Whiskeytown Lake. 

Travis Cowley: Curated Blog for Week 2

Travis Cowley: Curated Blog for Week 2

Hello all! This week we had two readings for the class. “The Social and Linguistic Turns in Studying Language and Literacy” by David Bloome and Judith Green, and the “Introduction” by Jennifer Rowsell and Kate Pahl from The Routledge Handbook of Literacy Studies.

Rowsell and Pahl’s Introduction to The Routledge Handbook of Literacy Studies first introduces the different complexities of literacy studies as a field of study. How literacy functions as a social platform to bring change, both in the context of communities and in the context of individuals. How literacy exists in every space of life: digital spaces, within material, rural or urban spaces, “across borders, languages and modes” (1). Roswell and Paul begin by describing the power dynamics surrounding literacy that try to inform what kinds of literacies matter and which kinds of literacies don’t matter. Roswell and Paul then begin to describe the research that continues to demonstrate how literacy studies as a field continues to expand beyond the limits it was originally put into. This continues to change the definition(s) of literacies– especially in the contexts that matter. The rest of the chapter breaks into different parts that describe different approaches or understandings of literacy studies. 

Part I focuses on the different researchers (including Bloome and Green) who have laid the foundations for the ever-expanding branches of literacy studies. Part II is focused on spatial literacies or literacies that produce spaces that are “produced in societal contexts” (7), connecting literacy with community, society, and more global issues. Part III describes the literacy studies as a research that is longitudinal. This part of research focuses on the changes to literacy and literacy studies throughout time. Part IV focuses on how literacy studies can focus on literacies that are multimodal– existing across mediums, genres, and forms. Part V focuses on the turn in literacy studies into the digital world. Part VI looks at approaches to literacy studies that combine literary theory and hermeneutics. Part VII focuses on ‘functional’ literacy studies, which Tim Wall so aptly described, or uses of literacies in every day. Part VIII focuses on how research in literacy studies co-creates literacies that exist within communities. Phew! If that seemed like a mouthful or a list, that is because Roswell and Paul write this to give an idea that literacy studies are constantly changing, expanding, and adapting in different communities, fields of research, and in everyday life. This just creates definitions of literacies and different fields of research within literacy studies that are ever-expanding.

Green and Bloome’s article covers two different ‘turns’ or major changing points in the history of literacy studies. The first described is the ‘social turn’ in literacy studies. This is seen as a shift in the study of language as well. The best way I could describe this is in the difference between a prescriptive view of language from a descriptive view of language. Prescriptive views of language try to define language as it should be or could be in a kind of idealistic way. Descriptive views of language see language as constantly changing and thus believe there is no idealistic way of viewing language. The social term can be seen in the same light, where literacy studies switched from thinking of ways in which literacy should be to a more descriptive or ‘observing’ way of understanding literacy studies. 

The second turn in literacy studies is the ‘language’ turn of literacy studies. This describes the way language (and by extension literacy) is rooted in society and social organization and this understanding of language provides a lot of implications for literacy studies through ethnographies and in thinking about literacy studies in social power dynamics. This problematized the methodology of ethnographies where “the ethnographer writes culture, not finds culture”(9) or in other words, the ethnographer looks at language and culture from an outsider’s perspective. This also brought into perspective the ways in which literacy is understood as a technical or social skill. Complicating the way in which we think of literacies as important in “social context(s) and that is situated within a particular social system” (10). That is, literacies are only important to the particular contexts in that they are needed. There is no universal limit of literacy that can qualify some people as illiterate and others as literate. 

In class, we covered many different topics, often starting with a question that led to a complicated and shifting conversation, coming up with insights and answers along the way. The class began with debriefing. Kim Jaxon, our professor, laid out a potential agenda for our class time. We also expressed the different experiences we’re having as grad students– the stresses and challenges. 

Kim then asked us a question: “What do y’all get out of these introductory readings…what’s the range of what this field (literacy studies) is covering”? 

Ben started the class discussion by saying that the way literacy studies continues to expand and diversify makes him think that anything isn’t a discipline until academics study it. This led to a conversation on Western views of thinking– how something has to be ‘official’ or studied to exist in the Western world. This led to a conversation on reification, and the appropriation of different traditional Mexican and Mexican-American foods and beverages to fit a market of consumers who wish to buy healthier to-go food. Alondra brought up the example of a ‘spa water’ recipe by a tik tok creator that was essentially a bastardization and plagiarization of agua frescas. Larissa also brought up the example of street tacos being renamed ‘health tacos’ as a similar example of this. 

We then shifted the conversation towards thinking of literacy as it changes throughout spaces. This conversation was grounded in thinking about how literacy changed in our online education throughout the pandemic. We all expressed our grievances with Zoom learning: how engagement was terrible through the zoom platform and how difficult it was to learn in the same space day-to-day. Kim then introduced the thought that Zoom learning mostly mimicked the kind of learning that is done in the classroom. Essentially, the solution to teaching students online was to mimic the same learning that is done in class, but on Zoom. But Zoom as a platform essentially revolves around the same dynamic of teachers telling students what they need to learn. It’s recreating the classroom, digitally, but forgoing the online dynamics that weaken student engagement. Leading to a more lectured, and less engaging environment for learning. 

This led to a discussion about the ways in which students and teachers have been ‘school’d’ or shaped into thinking about school and learning in traditional and restricted ways. Cassidy brought up her example of teaching and her students continuing to ask to use the bathroom. Hayden also expressed an example of students wanting to raise their hands instead of speaking up to share something in class. Brady expressed that high school was not preparatory for college and even was pervasive in the ways students think about college. We also discussed the ways in which students are taught to write ‘in general’ in most writing composition classes. We discussed how this is problematic because there is no writing ‘in general’– the writing and reading needs for students vary upon context. Brooke brought up an example of a forensics class she took where she was allowed to use her notes during the test. Brooke explained that note-taking in forensics is a real writing/reading need. She explained how the class she took is an example of the class teaching or reflecting the real-life literacy needs required for the actual field the class is intended to prepare students for. 

At this point in the class, I asked the grad students around the table what advice they would give to me as I will one day teach a writing composition class as they are now. Much of the advice led to a discussion on the importance of being flexible with students. This involves creating assignments that are relevant to what students are interested in. It also means designing a space that demystifies the different ways new students coming straight from high school may think college functions. It’s about being conscious of the environment new students are immediately coming from– an environment that very much has them school’d (high school). 

We then got to discussing the ‘social’ or ‘language’ turns in literacy. We spent some time defining and thinking about what those actual turns were. We discussed how literacy is really a moment in time. Trying to define literacy is like trying to map the exact form of particular sand dunes. They are always going to be sifting, shaping in and out of form like waves. We thought about the actual act of mapping literacies and literacy events. If we mapped literacy events in learning environments in time and space we think we would see something like a rhizomatic system. This led to Professor Jaxon showing us a video by Marijke Hecht that compared learning environments to rhizome root systems in trees. Professor Jaxon then provided us with papers and pens to map out our own literacy and learning events that have led us to where we are now. We weren’t able to finish this project during the class period and reflect on the experience, but I can reflect on my own experiences as I had them. 

I felt like tracing my literacy and learning events was extremely difficult, and almost became too difficult of a project to complete within that class period. I started by thinking about why I was personally invested in reading and writing to begin with. A lot of my interest stemmed from my experiences with literature and how I believe developing a sense of critical thinking allowed me to think about my own life in re-inventive and productive ways. This laid the groundwork for much of my experiences with every course I’ve taken in college (which I mapped out) and every book I’ve read (which I also mapped out). ‘Thinking outside of myself is the direction the map was ultimately headed. It was connected to readings like Carmen Boullosa’s Before, or Yu Hua’s To Live, Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions, and Deborah Miranda’s Bad Indians. It was also connected to writers like Audre Lorde, Simone de Beauvoir, or Ibram X Kendi. The direction of ‘thinking outside of myself’ is also thinking ‘reflective to myself’– understanding the spatial, historical, and critical perspectives that are involved in reading, writing about and teaching literature as well as thinking about one’s own place in that field. The nodes became too many to connect on one sheet of paper for me. I decided to stop before I dug out too much of my brain. I hope as we continue this course we can continue to think about these questions: 

-Why do we set standards for literacies? Who do these standards benefit? Who do these standards hurt? 

-How can we picture environments of learning that are more rhizomatic? Or at least more inventive or creative than the standards of learning environments we continue to use? 

-What kind of literacy events occur in our classrooms? Both the ones my cohorts teach and the class we’re in now? 

-What kind of literacy experiences are we bringing to ENGL 632 with our unique backgrounds? 

Author bio: Travis Cowley is an English Graduate student at CSU Chico. He’s doing the English MA program to develop professionally, research California Multicultural Literature, and because, believe it or not, it’s fun! If he’s not at school he’s probably at home gaming or hanging out with his lovely partner Bella.

Featured Curators: Zeth Martinez & Shannon Miller

Featured Curators: Zeth Martinez & Shannon Miller

My Absolute Objective and Correct Opinion Based on Little Evidence and Biased Analysis

By Zeth M. Martinez

I was assigned to blog for February 25, 2019, but without collecting more data it has been hard to definitively define “literacy” so as to publish and profit from my findings. An assessment of the date above may prove invaluable for further research. In the class prior, we chose groups and decided on an essay in common as well as our own individual reading. I chose the Part III Time-Focused Approaches as I had already read the entirety of Part II and III when I had thought “part” and “chapter” were interchangeable terms. They were not. There was a small hope that this would at least reduce the cost of labor (time). However, after a quick read, I came to the horrible realization I would need to read the entirety of both essays again. This did not reduce the cost of labor. When class started we met with our groups.

Our group discussed our reading in common, Chapter 12 “Historical Inquiry in Literacy Education Calling on Clio” by Bill Green. Isaiah, a member of my group, lead the discussion by asking our thoughts of the essay in question. The consensus of the Tribunal of Part III—Shane, Isaiah, and myself—was that the essay made interesting points and the overall thesis was valid but we all had our own unique concerns. My concern was that the essay seemed to challenge other literacy studies such as New Literacy Study (NLS) without convincing me that there was any true attack on historical inquiry. As stated in the text, “literacy as a situated socio-cultural practice” (185) had become the dominant form through literacy studies such as NLS. However, there wasn’t enough done for me to believe there was any true friction between this field of thought and a study of historical dimensions. For Shane, the criticism mostly came from the structure of the essay itself. His blog expressed his major concern most directly, “(the essay) is marred, I feel, by a lack of clear examples conducive to the declared aims.” After discussion, we came to the conclusion that the evidence was buried within the essay making it harder to contribute to the line of thought it was meant to support. For Isaiah, it was a matter of the essay not saying much at all. However, I will say his secondary essay was the best of Part III so his overall opinion may have been overshadowed by that lens. It was the essay I wanted for myself but he called it first which makes him an objectively bad person. I have no proof to support my claims but I feel it to be true so true it must be. What was convincing about the essay was that history was an underutilized aspect of literacy study that could provide a context in the open concept of literacy itself. After this discussion, we selected a quote for a shared google doc and chatted about concepts that could never evoke conflict—life, politics, how amazing and humble I am—until we moved to the next stage of class.

The wonderful, amazing, and person-in-charge-of-my-grades, Dr. Jaxon—who is wonderful and amazing—suggested that our group go first to follow chronological order. So I—and possibly Isaiah—glared at Shane until he felt obligated to speak. It was a successful strategy. Shane was “eager” to take up this mantle and I was perfectly fine with him doing all the talking so long as I reaped a majority of the rewards. Shane brought into class discussion Bill Green’s concept of history as reminiscent to String Theory, which brought about a plethora of conversation and absolute fear to me as it wasn’t previously approved by the Tribunal of Part III. The class wanted to understand the concept of time travel and string theory we were suggesting. Naturally, I thought of a way to shift all blame and focus on Shane or possible Isaiah until Charlotte mentioned The Flash which suddenly made the concept click for myself. This would allow me the tool to take all the credit when the opportunity presented itself. Hannah E. said she does not watch The Flash so the quest for another possible substitute began. Isaiah brought up Jet Lee’s The One as an example of history merging within itself and creating something new. I liked this suggestion and its implication however few knew the reference and it was an example of finite possibilities. This was added with Looper—brought up by Neesa—as a contender for The Flash replacement. However, both Looper and The One were examples of finite time travel with direct and linear cause and effect. The Flash, or a multibranched multiverse, was a more accurate description so the conversation turned to Rick and Morty. An infinite plethora of historical cause and effect meant to be studied to gain a perspective of literacy was better fitted into the context of Rick and Morty’s multiple dimensions where a single change altered the worlds in notable ways.

Hannah E., or non-The Flash watcher, grounded the conversation back to literacy with a question summed to the best of my ability as, “But what does this have to do with literacy?” The question caught us off guard but ever since Charlotte brought up The Flash I felt confident in how to ground the conversation back to literacy.

In short, I hatched my plan to take credit for Shane and Isaiah’s hard work by throwing my two cents at everyone. My response was best summed up as, “history is a dimension of literacy underutilized. The developing relationship to literacy as a practice and concept has a historical progression that can better ground our understanding of the study of literacy.” Of course, this was said in my signature—and trademarked—mumble, repetition, and bumbling but the point seemed to satisfy self-proclaimed non-The-Flash watcher Hannah E.

All groups had a chance to engage their readings and all did so in unique ways. For example, the group in charge of Part IV Multimodal Approaches assigned each group a word with a task to create three different modes of engaging these words to express transmediation and transduction. All in all, it was fun to see how everyone engaged their readings. In fact, it was too much fun. As I’m sure all are aware, the acceptable amount of enjoyment from any classroom experience is anywhere between 5 to 5.8 out of 10 (according to my current fancy at the moment). Anything below 5 leaves the student to wander in thought and anything above 5.8 distracts them from absorbing the allotted material of the day. This was beyond the 5.8 and must be treated as an outlier.

(No participants were harmed in the collection of this data. One suffered discomfort after making direct eye contact with me but that was all.)

Author Bio: Zeth M. Martinez is a graduate student seeking his Masters in Creative Writing at CSU, Chico, and is certainly human. He has been published in the 9th volume of Multicultural Echoes and was on the editorial board of Watershed Review. Both would agree he’s a real-life human being with recently upgraded prehensile grip. He has only recently realized most of his stories revolve around death, which may speak lowly of his self-analysis and reflection units. A fellow human has described him as “an emotionless robot.” Zeth simply replied, “[Insert Response 13-B].” It was an acceptable response given default factory settings.


From Shannon Miller:

Every Monday night is a thought provoking experience in our Theories of Literacies classroom. This week’s session was by far one of the most intriguing, mostly due to the fact that we were able to choose our sections from the Routledge Handbook of Literacy Studies that we wanted to read. The available options were:

Section II: Space-focused approaches

Section III: Time-focused approaches

Section IV: Multimodal approaches

Section V: Digital approaches

Section VI: Hermeneutic approaches (of which our classroom consensus resulted in a resounding “Nope”)

Section VII: Making Meaning from the Everyday

and lastly,

Section VIII: Communities.

My group and I chose Digital approaches because we are fascinated by all this new-fangled technology and how it relates to learning. The subsection that I chose to read, “Consumer Literacies and Virtual World Games,” was right up my alley. The whole chapter talked about younger kids (ages 8 to 11) and what virtual world games they play on a regular basis. This hits home because growing up, a large chunk of my time, daily, was taken up playing stuff like Neopets and Runescape. More specifically, this chapter focuses on the fiscal relationship that kids have with these types of games. Generally, wealthier kids spend more time playing one or two virtual world games on a regular basis and have their parents pay for monthly memberships, which allows them to have access to exclusive items. Other kids who may or may not have their own home computer tend to play these types of games too, however, they are not as likely to have a membership and they also tend to play many games sporadically as opposed to focusing on just one. Children from lower income families play a multitude of games almost exclusively at school, usually the only place where they have access to a computer.

It then goes on to talk about the ways in which these games get kids and their parents to spend money on them. My favorite quote, probably from this whole book even, is when the researchers: “analyzed what they termed ‘Neopian economics of play’ on the Neopets website, highlighting the capitalist ideology present through the various activities on the site, as well as through product placement, sponsorship, cross-media promotion, and branding” (383). It’s just so hilarious to me because, as a kid, I was totally obsessed with everything Neopets. Of course, back in my day, the advertising wasn’t as blatantly obvious as it is today. All these young whippersnappers and their “pay to play” games, tisk tisk… Unfortunately, people (and especially kids) play into all the tactics used to take money.

Anyway, each group had the opportunity to share what their section was about with the class. They all had some pretty interesting aspects to them, such as the group who had “Time” as a section. The way they described the perception of time was that each and every little event (in this case, concerning literacy) could have happened differently each and every time, spawning an unlimited number of possible time lines. Someone even compared it to string theory, which I know next to nothing about, so I’ll just take their word for it. Another group had us do an activity which definitely helped liven the class up. Each group was given a sheet of paper with a word on it and we all had to present that word in at least three different modalities, be it speaking, drawing, acting it out, writing, etc. My group’s word was “dance” so naturally we used a gif of Tina Belcher for one portrayal, while the others included actually dancing, drawing someone dancing, and actually writing the word.

My own group gave a brief summary of how the digital platforms are becoming more prominent in society as a whole and how so many students are using it out of the classroom and inadvertently learning from it. In countries like China, for example, while students enroll in English classes, so much pop culture is from the United States that even out of the classroom, they are immersing themselves in English language content. Unfortunately, we are still in the early ages of digital technologies and with all that is changing, we still cannot fully grasp the pedagogical implications these resources might have on students.

 Author Bio: Shannon Miller is a Masters student at Chico State who likes cats and laying in bed. Originally from the Bay Area, she hopes to go on to teach English to students far and wide.


Featured Curators: Isaiah Hamilton & Kaitlynn Price

Featured Curators: Isaiah Hamilton & Kaitlynn Price

This week in Literacy Studies: A Multilingual Kaleidoscope. We took a look into the field of Critical Literacy Education as well as a peak into the world of Bi/multi/translingual literacies. (Spoilers ahead)

The first of our chapters, “Critical Literacy Education,” provides a meta analysis in order to mark the upward trend in academic articles being published on critical literacy and to point out the shift from articles being written about classroom-based observations to a focus on using empirical data. The chapter also gives a historical overview of the field from 1990-2012. Critical literacy concerns itself with “using technologies . . . to analyze, critique, and redesign structures that influence daily life” (62). When individuals are presented with tools to analyze the world in which they live, they are empowered to do something to alter that world—critical literacy seeks to do with words. Rebecca Rogers and Katherine O’Daniels’ chapter demonstrates this through the work of Paulo Freire, who advocates for the “reading of the word and the world” (63). Freire encourages his adult literacy learners in Brazil to read the world by seeking out the causes of oppression in their community through the naming of specific instances in their lives when they were exploited. Once their words have been articulated and displayed in front of them, they are more easily able to learn ways to combat the continuation of their circumstances. This example shows the importance of the research being done in order to help educators better prepare their students to face the inequalities that they will come into contact with.

The second of the two chapters, “Bi/multilingual Literacies in Literacy Studies,” first provides  the historical context surrounding the problematization of monolingual ideologies in the field that emerged along side the critiquing of the autonomous model. The chapter later spends a large section discussing an example of translingual literacy in a Hong Kong newspaper. To explain in brief: In 1997 China, the official policy of language education was to teach writing in only Standard Written Chinese (SWC)  and English, students are told and taught that Cantonese is dialect, and “Cantonese-specific words (Cantoneisms) are systematically banned and cleansed in students’ writing outputs in schools” (83). However, humans tend to use language however they please when no one is hovering over them, waiting to make corrections, and the chapter shows what happens when people who are well versed in multiple languages fully utilize their knowledge and linguistic experience. In a Hong Kong newspaper, the author, knowing their audience, makes use of SWC, English, and Cantoneisms to make a rich, fluid form of communication. In his Google+ post, Shane shows the value of a historical example such as this one: “this research highlights a flawed but general notion that languages can remain definable (and constructable) at the macro scale. The reality is that the actual communication is a mixing of ‘dialects’ with SWC and even English. This characteristic largely nullifies arguments for standardizing writing to produce greater comprehension among the populace because people don’t really use the ‘standard’ language put forth.”

Before moving on to the discussions held in class, I feel that I need to state that I have severely truncated these two chapters because, as Neesa says in her Google+ post: “Somehow, this text is able to fit encyclopedic swaths of information into the smallest of spaces—if this book were a person, it would be made of pure muscle.”

In light of the articles we had read, the class discussed our impressions of literacy practices, specifically looking at the question: Why do we care about what and how we consume? To better address this question, we broke it down into smaller categories. First, we asked: why do we read? This is actually quite a difficult question as it’s hard to pinpoint the reason, and everyone has a different motivation. Some said they read for entertainment and others said to stay connected to the world. Personally, much like exercise, I dislike the actual process of reading, but I endure it for all the great after effects—I enjoy having read much more than reading.

Next we moved on to a question that generated quite a lot of discussion: Why do we care what people read? One the first answers given was the social aspect that reading can provide. If someone has read the same thing you have, you can engage with that person around the text you have in common. In that same vein, a text has cultural impact—some works provide a key to understanding other works, and some texts are so influential that having read them provides insight to the moves other texts might make. We also discussed the “fast-food effect” that some texts provide. It was offered, “When I’m reading something like People it feels like I’m putting my brain to sleep, and that feels good.” To which another pointed out, “There’s a difference between something that’s ‘fluff’ and dangerous.” A gossip magazine might not be actively harmful, but that doesn’t mean that there are no publications that could be harmful if mishandled.

The last question asked was whether or not it’s necessary for everyone to read. This was answered quite well with a wonderful quote from one of my colleagues (I apologize for not making note of who it was): “Fiction teaches empathy, so if you’re not reading, you need to be learning that elsewhere.” It is a point often overlooked that reading is deeply social. A person can learn to interact with others respectfully by being around other people, but that limits them to learning about those in their immediate surroundings. Through reading, that same person can learn to empathize with cultures worlds away that they may never interact with in person. In our world that becomes more and more connected at an ever-increasing rate, how much more important will such skills be in the future? Reading, especially if practices like critical literacy are taught, can provide that understanding.

Isaiah Hamilton is in his first semester of graduate school. After working full time in a retirement home as a dishwasher for 5 years, he decided that he had been doing that long enough and went to Butte College to see what he could do. He took an English class and decided realized that he liked to think about things and he wanted to teach. He transferred to UC Irvine in 2016, graduated in 2018, and started on his MA English on the Literature track this past January. He has yet to decide on a thesis topic.

On the week of February 18th, the class was left with even more questions moving forward in our quest to find the answer to the inevitable question: What is literacy? Continuing with our reading of The Routledge Handbook of Literacy Studies, Chapters 4 and 5 finish off the final pieces of the puzzle as to what makes up the foundations of literacy studies.

In looking at Chapter 4: “Critical Literacy Education,” the primary focus was based on an overall view of the field of critical literacy. As such, Rebecca Rogers and Katherine O’Daniels define critical literacy as: “the practice of using technologies (from print to digital technologies) to analyze, critique, and redesign structures that influence daily life” (264). One of the many approaches to critical literacy was that of Paulo Freire’s coined phrase of “reading the word and the world” (266). In this concept, exploited experiences that are written down unearth the truths of social problems. When looking at the various scholarship studies conducted in regards to critical literacy, the three themes presented in the 2012 studies proved to be the areas of active inquiry. These themes included: Critical Literacies as a Bridge to Access and Transform Codes of Power, Critical Literacy as Social Justice, and Critical Literacy as Dialogic Engagement. The authors at the end of this section claimed that the field of critical literacy “should continually reconsider definitions of critical literacy” (301) especially when looked at through a world lens across various forums (time, place, etc.)

The focus of Chapter 5 turned many heads as the concept of bi and multilingual studies was pursued. Authors Angel M.Y. Lin and David C.S. Li indicate that the various terms when discussing bi and multilingual literacies can be summed up into the rise of the most recent term of “translingual practice” (325). The two concepts of focus in this section were: (1) for the authors to look at the early theoretical developments of the terms and apply them to recent work that has emerged to break through the one language concept that governs our understanding of literacy, and (2) for the authors to discuss how the new literacy practices have expressed many social viewpoints of literacy practices. Their area of research was focused on a case in Hong Kong, where Cantonese, English and Chinese literacies have been mixed together for the last century. In the conclusion to the study, the author’s claimed that there is an “interesting contrast between, on the one hand, official school literacy norms and standardness….and on the other hand, non-school literacy practices in local newspapers and magazines where such norms and standardness are patently ignored” (349).

After engaging with both chapters, our class had many overlapping themes that came up in our Google community posts. A majority of the class referenced from Chapter 4 Paulo Freire’s concept of “reading the word and the world.” According to Charlotte in her post about Freire’s concept: “having language to describe the ways in which certain groups are oppressed is a necessary step in social justice and moving forward.” Could not agree with her more. Also, there were many references to the three themes in the areas of active inquiry scholarship. I was intrigued by the way that most people interacted with the themes through their own experiences. Both Hannah D. and Hannah E. expressed the same reaction with the quote by Aukerman: “students are often adopting the teacher’s lens. The question, then, is how to create contexts’ where teachers’ knowledge and authority are also the subject of critique.” This concept that they both brought up led them to this “oh sh**” moment when as teachers, they started to recognize that there is the adoption of the teacher lens that students are prone to acquire since the class is designed around the teacher’s aesthetics.

Coming back to the class as a whole for the night, the responses on the Google posts indicated two primary questions of observation: What does literacy do for us…and Why do we read? The class began to state answers such as: “to educate yourself, to escape reality, to stay informed/connected with current events of the world, it is a shared cultural aspect in understanding one another, and the act of participating in a culture were literature still matters/has an impact still (i.e. Shakespeare). All of these concepts boiled down to one claim that the class agreed upon: literacy is attached to identity. After looking with the five foundations of literacy studies, the class engaged in an open discussion of what we now know of literacy studies so far. The list constituted as follows: literacy contains both social and cultural aspects, it is something that people “do”, language is inherited (genetically or socially), critical literacy studies allows for safe questioning of ideas and concepts, and literacy cannot be officially defined because it is constantly changing.

Still, after all of this introduction too literacy studies, there seems to be some looming questions as to what surrounds literacy studies. To summarize this concept up, I will reiterate the same questions that Keaton posed at the end of his post: “Is it just a practice to share literacies and languages with an attention to power structures? Is it the process of being critical to literacies by using frameworks like the one Jank’s proposes, examining concepts of domination, access, diversity, and design in discourses and literacies? Is it something else altogether?”

Kaitlynn Price is currently in her second semester as a grad student. She completed her BA degree at Chico State in 2017 and came back to pursue her MA in English, Literature in 2018. She is currently in the works of her thesis–The Victorian Governess: The Role of Social Anxieties (totally a working title). She plans on identifying how the governess is portrayed in books compared to real life, as well as how her role created social anxieties in her social status in and out of the family circle. She enjoys running, golf, journaling, reading, listening to music, binge watching Star Wars and being with friends and family.









Featured Curators: Neesa Sonoquie & Jesse DeMercurio

Featured Curators: Neesa Sonoquie & Jesse DeMercurio

Who knew that the tradition of the “essay” was such a fiery, polarizing hot topic? As an older, long-time student of writing, and as a person habituated to believe that the role of a student is to receive knowledge, not interact in the process of learning, I had never analyzed the essay as a “thing”–it was, rather, just something I always had to write. But, in the course of last week’s Theories of Literacy class I heard a blistering takedown of the essay, owed greatly to a passionate and super cool address at the 2015 CCCC convention by then Chair, Adam Banks (“Ain’t No Walls behind the Sky, Baby! Funk, Flight, Freedom”). Discussion in class, coupled with Chapters 2 and 3 (“The New Literary Studies,” and “Postcolonial Approaches to Literacy: Understanding the ‘Other’”) of our assigned reading in The Routledge Handbook of Literary Studies, led me to believe that this new way of thinking was a sign of the times and that most everyone on the cutting edge of literacy thinking would agree with the following, as suggested by Banks:

I hereby promote the essay to dominant genre emeritus.  I thank you for your loooonnng and committed service over more than a century. We still love you. We want you to keep an office on campus and in our thinking, teaching, and writing lives. We will continue to throw wonderful parties and give meaningful awards in your name. And yet, we also acknowledge the rise and promotion of many other activities around which writing and communication can be organized. And we realize that if we are going to fly and find new intellectual spaces and futuristic challenges to meet with our students and each other, we have to leave the comfortable ground we have found with you.

The essay, it seems, has not only become irrelevant in the rapidly expanding view of what being “literate” really means, but it has also been demonized as the root of what was referred to in the eighties as “modern consciousness,” a model of literacy based on the values of “essayist prose style” as suggested by Ronald and Suzanne Scollen in Narrative, Literacy and Face in Interethnic Communication (Routledge, 39). The Scollens describe mainstream Anglo-Canadian and American English literacy practices as based on these values, placing the relationship between sentences higher than that of speaker to speaker, or speaker to sentence. The emphasis is on vocabulary and grammar, not the social or rhetorical aspects of communication. They go on to say that this approach also fictionalizes both the audience and the author. When one writes as essay, rarely is the potential reader a specific person–instead, one imagines an idealized entity onto which the essay is thrust upon. And the discouragement of personality within the essay form forces the author to erase their own identify in favor of a general “I.” All of this bleeds into the way we Americans talk to each other: we discuss and we argue to form and re-form our opinions, we talk over each other and we interrupt. Power dynamics are obscured as communication is as alive as the sea in unpredictable weather. This is all fine and good until one steps outside of this particular culture.

The Scollons show this jarring confusion when they compare the essayist prose standard to the what they refer to as “bush-consciousness,” specifically, the literacy practices of an Alaskan Native people known as the Athabaskans. In contrast to the expressive, unpredictable literacy approach of “modern consciousness,” the Athabaskans allow power dynamics to guide communication–subordinates listen and learn. The Athabaskans respect and protect individuality, so only enter into communication when perspectives are well-known and already formed. The Athabaskans allow for long pauses in dialogue and discourage posturing. You can see how this would drive a difficult wedge in communication between these two cultures, each judging and misinterpreting the behavior of the other. But, the chance that the American with a mouthful of ideas prevents the Athabaskan from getting a word in, thus deeming the Athabaskan idea-less, or that the Athabaskan label the American as full of himself and lacking substance because of such a passionate and unpredictable display of word-vomit, only highlights the question that seemed to rise above the discourse this week: how, then, do we measure literacy across cultures and communities? That contemplation itself sparks another, maybe more pertinent consideration—how does literacy change across cultural, social, and ethnic boundaries? And lastly, then, how does the writing of an essay test the literacy comprehension of students who bring a vast array of personal and cultural histories, experiences, habits, and knowledge?

As these themes have been in the ether since the beginning of the term, what literacy actually IS has governed much of our class discussion and reading. But leading into this fourth week of class the discussion has gained new dimension with the introduction of how class and culture, along with the age of technology, affects how literacy is defined. In fact, it looks like even the term itself has graduated to “literacies,” making the concept intrinsically more inclusive. On this subject, the class had much to say in our own Google+ forum and during class. Much of the focus has been on literacy as an act, not a thing, and that it is social by nature, and that literacy changes as the context and participants require. For example, Charlotte points out:

We’re looking at how literacy is a social concept, and largely separating it from the individual experience. The implications being: even reading a book alone, however solitary it may seem, is still a social activity, in its own way. Which makes sense to me, I’ve been known to tell my sister the entire plot of books she has no intention of reading, just so I can talk to someone about them. It’s explained: “People do not just read and write texts; they do things with them, things that often involve more than just reading and writing. They do them with other people—often people who share a socially significant identity…These people often make judgments about who are ‘insiders’ and who are not.” (Routledge, 36)

Thus, even the most solitary acts of literacy desire a witness, and it is the members of each community or culture of literacy who make the rules.

So, how to address the complications that accepting the relevance of a variety of literacies entails? And ultimately, how does a fresh approach to literacy and the concept of being literate enter the classroom? It seems the first step is a massive conceptual shift toward “critical literacy.” Rahat Naqvi describes what this looks like in Chapter 3 of the Routledge handbook as follows: “To be critically literate is to be able to do more than produce and represent information in the same form it was absorbed. The aim is the development of human capacity to use texts to analyze and transform social relations and material conditions.” (p. 50) So, critical literacy is not a thing to gain but a thoughtful, meticulous act that never ends. Like a mountain range pummeled by time and the weather, under the influence of a world bursting with ways of meaning-making, our own relationships to literacy will break-down, re-build, shift, collapse, and evolve as long as we expose ourselves to the elements.

But what does this look like in real-life? Historically, dominant cultures eat up subordinate cultures in one gulp. How do differing literacies exist alongside and interact with each other without the “subordinate” culture being eviscerated? Postcolonial philosopher and critic Homi Bhabha suggests that this is actually a collision of opportunity and can be referred to as a “third space”: the “interstices between colliding cultures, areas where new and intriguing developments can take place.” He goes on to say that, “In this ‘in-between’ space, the collision of cultural traditions and ways of knowing allow new cultural identities to be formed, reformed, in a constant state of becoming.” (p. 53) On the concept of this sort of respectful, active duality, Isaiah posted in our forum:

Rahat Naqvi summed up the reasoning behind implementing critical literacy quite well: “Rather than attempt to eliminate the ‘other,’ both the dominant and the subordinate cultures should make efforts to recognize that the other has much to offer in terms of new points of view and ways of knowing” (56). That seems like an ever-increasingly important strategy for how to run a classroom. There is a distinct possibility that students may never have had an opportunity to learn about other cultures before arriving to my class. However, perhaps even more importantly, “by posing questions that cause an individual to reflect, often the dominant culture is forced to come to a deeper understanding of itself” (56). The ability to self-reflect and self-criticize are skills that are hard to grasp but incredibly useful. For me, the next logical question is how to continually find new ways to implement scenarios where critical literacy can be practiced through a class.

It seems that everyone is culpable in this scenario, further highlighting the social nature of literacy and the loud dialogue that surrounds it. Much of our class discussion on Monday night centered around Chico State being named an official “Hispanic Serving Institution.” As a class activity we examined how the university is currently responding to that title and how that could be improved. Close scrutiny revealed that there is a bit of a lag between the talk and the walk, but some of that may be due to another big question posed by Dr. Jaxon: How do we know the ways we are succeeding and failing when we are part of the dominant culture? In other words, it is difficult to see outside of your own experience, particularly when experiences exist on opposite ends of the spectrum. We came to no conclusions, as every  question seemed to bring an onslaught of more questions. Maybe this is how great ideas are born–I have yet to be in the room for that, but I can sense the energy in potential, the vibrant unknown that holds the possibility of up-ending old ideas to make room for innovation.

Fastforward, then, to a class in second-language acquisition research the night after this Theories of Literacy class, where I witnessed a distinguished, seasoned professor of educational psychology excitedly shared his new and innovative project with the class–a software program that would eventually be able to grade essays on its own! Once the kinks were worked out, this thing would be able to count keywords and various required data and then offer an appropriate grade. Think about how many more essays could be written, how much more time that teachers would have, he said. I was taken aback. Here was a knowledgeable and experienced researcher actively working to not only uphold the essay form but to further dehumanize it with a robot reader. I found myself annoyed, taking the side of Adam Banks and the “new literacy” proffered by our reading and class discussion—but why? Was I just responding to the point of view that I received first, without thinking critically about it? Did I agree because Dr. Jaxon had a more spirited argument and a brighter personality? No—I realized that in the few weeks of reading and discussion in our Theories of Literacy class my mind had been opened to a fresh perspective on literacy, one that ushered in an entirely new paradigm of thinking, replacing stale thoughts that I had absorbed simply because the teacher said so. I replaced old habits with new mechanisms for active thinking, questioning and wrestling with all that I have learned and what I am currently learning. I was engaging in critical literacy, I think. I mentioned to the professor my most recent education on the tremulous state of the essay in current academics, and I touched on the widening scope of literacy and emerging ways to test comprehension, and he suggested that both his work and the other could co-exist and even support one another. I see them in direct conflict and said so. Hmm. If this discord is a reflection of what is taking place in the study of literacy at large, I think there is a long and bumpy road ahead.

Author Bio: Neesa Sonoquie is an editor and writer and currently working toward a master’s degree in teaching English as a second language. She enjoys going to the movies, Oprah, hot yoga, true crime, good wine, and hanging out with her cat.


This week we continued our reading of The Routledge Handbook of Literacy Studies, with chapters 2 and 3. After chapter 1 introduced us to the foundations of literacy, which saw literacy as a mental happening, chapter 2 told us about the concept of the NLS (New Literacy Standards) viewing “readers and writers as primarily engaged in social or cultural practices” (35). This chapter introduced three founding documents of the NLS to give an overview of the perspective.

Chapter 3 looks at the effect social imaginaries, or theories about how the social world works, have on a postcolonial world. Specifically, Rahat Naqvi argues, the social imaginaries within the field of education need to be examined and reworked again. Where does the immigrant stand within the western world? Naqvi concludes by stating that to be the subordinate in a culture means to be constantly living a dual life. The ultimate goal of educators should be to “…maintain awareness of this dual consciousness, but in a way that integrates the selves” (59).

After reading both chapters, our class had a plethora of takeaways, which found their way into our blog posts. Florencia boiled down the NLS to the idea that “we are not individuals floating in space just doing what we do. We are completely and one hundred percent shaped by what surrounds us.” Isaiah was interested by the topic of critical literacy and came to the conclusion that the “ability to self-reflect and self-criticize are skills that are hard to grasp but incredibly useful.” Kyler was fascinated by the idea of “thinking about literacy involving the ability to even prod what is understood.”

After reading James Paul Gee’s “The New Literacy Studies” and Rahat Naqvi’s “Postcolonial Approaches to Literacy Understanding the ‘Other’,” Zeth defined literacy “as the interaction between people building a (literacy) culture through interacting. However, no one person is one literacy. At the bottom of this well is an individual that isn’t just one literacy but multiple literacies interacting with each other.” Lorena highlighted the importance of teachers being aware of the spaces and situations students are in, as they bring all those literate practices to school. Alex saw the following quote as the definition of literacy: “to be critically literate is to be able to do more than produce and represent information in the same form it was absorbed” (50).

Hannah E. was interested by Scollon and Scollon’s discussion of discourse patterns, particularly where they stated that discourse patterns are “among the strongest expressions of personal and cultural identity” (38). Hannah connected this particularly to the strong affinity Americans have to their particular regions’ accents and dialects. (Also see SNL’s “The Californians”) Haley believes that literacy “should be about moving on from conventional methods of literacy and mov[ing] towards something more socially/culturally equal.” While reading about the English-speakers condescension toward Athabaskans, Neesa “appreciated how the differences in a culture’s consciousness (bush-minded or modern, in the case that they provided) led to stereotyped assumptions built upon misunderstandings fed by ignorance.” Kaitlynn was shocked by the scenario of a child bringing home an Easter egg to their confused immigrant mother (eggs and bunnies?) and explaining the holiday (and all it’s accompanying traditions) by saying, “It’s Easter…this is what we do.”

Here are a few of the questions our class had for going forward:

How can we continually find new ways to implement scenarios where critical literacy can be practiced through a class? (Isaiah)

Does understanding something also inherently involve the ability to question it? (Kyler)

How can practical approaches to critical literacy play out in the classroom? (Hannah D.)

Author Bio: Jesse was born and raised in the East Bay Area before transferring to Chico State in 2014. She graduated with a Bachelor’s in English Education in 2016 and fulfilled a quite-literally life-long dream of becoming a teacher by earning a single-subject credential in 2017. Now, she’s continuing on with graduate studies at Chico State while also teaching middle school English. She enjoys Disney, Harry Potter, Netflix, iced coffee, and stories. (An English major who likes stories? Shocker.)

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