Counterhegemonic Practices

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Counterhegemonic Practices

The Evolution ofCounterhegmonicLiteracy Practices


Crisis of Literacy

The pervasive use of internet-enabled devices has caused widespread panic for traditional literacy advocates. The "Literary Crisis" emerges in response to the evolution of what Justin Young dubs "hyperdiscourse. Texting, tweeting, and the thumbs that compose texts are all contributors to a counterhegemonic strategy that advocates for the acknowledgement of composition that exist through digital means. An important point that Young makes is in regard to literacy as a tool by power brokers to mark and sustain racial and class tensions. "The strategic site of cultural hegemony" exists in attempts to define literacy and its antithesis through critical and political discourse. Hyperdiscourse (text messages and e-mails) and the outcry that young people use digital technologies to communicate in uncivil ways, or improperly', suggests a fear of a decline of cultural literacy. Hyper discourse seems to serve as an effective combatant against hegemonic values and socially-constructed ideas of communication."

No Crisis only Evolution

Rhetorical Shadow

Communicative Evolution

Young's article, "Crisis and Opportunity..."require a deeper understanding of literacy alongside socio-economic variables. Digital means of communication seem to level the playing field with regard to access. A great majority of students text or communicate via social media far greater than they compose for any composition teacher. Each medium (Facebook, Twitter, etc) requires certain rhetorical knowledge of conventions and decorum to facilitate effective communication. Students seem well aware of this as they exploit opportunities to gain cultural capital bestowed on them by sharing the latest meme. Andrea Lunsford acknowledges that students employ hyperliteracy skills as they aptly consider audience, purpose, and their environment to communicate successfully; this suggests a type of rhetorical influence. Mutimodality, as an emergent field, should embrace this type of literacy.

So, what is the Literacy Crisis: the systemic division and exclusion of people of a certain race and class on the basis of literacy itself? Or, is it an ideological ploy to Other on the bases of not adhering to the hegemonic status quo? What is clear is that the crisis narrative is ideological. This, coupled with the idea that phenomenon of literacy serves as multiple enablers, allows for an interesting inquiry into a holistic definition of literacy itself. Young's web text offers an ideal way to frame the crisis--that of communicative evolution.

Young contends that the current crisis of literacy has the same roots as previous crisies of literacy long ago. From Plato's resentment of writing, to the establishment of New Literacy Studies (NLS) in 1980, literacy debates have evolved alongside increasing capability to communicate. Analyzing the genealogy of literacy theory illustrates the evolution of the argument vis a vis the crisis of literacy: Young cites Trimbur's claim that the call for a crisis of literacy sustains a cultural marker between the middle class as it also defines the quest for upward mobility; Fergueson and Keller's claim that "texting makes you stupid," suggests the reemergence of a conversation that has been going on since the mid-19th century. Who determines literate vice illiterate? How do these terms differ? What are the variables that comprise such a classification?

Trivius Caldwell20 January 2015ENGL 7050Dr. Gruwell


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