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Literacy as a Civil Right

In Stuart Greene’s edited volume Literacy as a Civil Right: Reclaiming Social Justice in Literacy Teaching and Learning, the authors explore and envision alternatives to structural inequalities in the American educational system that distribute knowledge and opportunity unequally. This seminar takes up these questions at the college level, asking how understanding literacy as a civil right for college students might inform questions of access, intelligence, and deservingness at American universities.

The first half of this seminar, then, will provide an introduction to literacy studies, moving from the autonomous theorists and new literacy studies to more recent materialist critiques of new literacy studies. In the second half of this seminar, we will apply our knowledge of literacy studies to the central question of the course: How does understanding literacy as a civil right complicate our own beliefs about access to higher learning and college composition?

Specifically, this course will address the following questions:

  • What is literacy? What does literacy do?

  • What counts as literacy?

  • What does it mean for literacy to be understood as a civil right?

  • What does the principle of literacy as a civil right offer the study of composition and rhetoric?