Reconfiguring Cultural Literacy: Multi-Authored Cultural Literacy Narratives in a Post-Hirsch Age
Type of Degreedissertation
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My dissertation argues that Hirsch’s definition of cultural literacy must be updated so that it focuses on the behaviors, practices, beliefs, and ideals of individuals (any individual) and how each of these areas connects to the socially constructed nature of literacy. I employ the solo performed documentary drama of Anna Deavere Smith, comments from the blogosphere, and Victor Turner’s theory of social drama to examine the role of narrative and reflection during incidents of social conflict in America and the impact narrative and reflection have on the development of cultural literacy. My analysis considers the manner in which cultural literacy can be measured and developed through the reflexive activity of reading and writing about cultural events (large-scale events such as 9/11 and more localized/personal events such as a minority student engaging a dominant ideology for the first time). Following the research on social and community literacy (Street, Flower, Gee, Delpit, Lu), I am interested in the way that cultural differences are approached, understood, and negotiated on a daily basis and how narrative can be employed to analyze cultural literacy through individual and group interactions during times of social conflict. My analysis suggests that both cultural literacy and illiteracy are made apparent during these conflicts and that the use of narrative reflection presents an opportunity for the development of cultural empathy, which can lead to cultural literacy. This conclusion presents us with the pedagogical opportunity to implement course objectives that place students in situations of social or cultural conflict through their interaction with narrative (both those written by them as well as those written by others).