Cavell, Literacy and What it Means to Read

Amanda Fulford

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This paper explores three current notions of literacy, which underpin the theorisation and practice of teaching and learning for both children and adults in England. In so doing, it raises certain problems inherent in these approaches to literacy and literacy education and shows how Stanley Cavell's notions of reading, and especially his reading of Thoreau's Walden, help to construct a notion not of literacy, but of being literate. The paper takes four themes central to Cavell's work in his The senses of Walden: awakening; estrangement and familiarity; conviction; and the obligation to read, and argues that these ideas offer an approach to language, and an understanding of reading in particular, that is different from current iterations of literacy. Such ideas, though alien to current – mainly empirical – work within literacy studies, have a resonance for literacy research and education today.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)43-55
    Number of pages12
    JournalEthics and Education
    Issue number1
    Early online date26 Jun 2009
    Publication statusPublished - 2009


    • Literacy
    • Reading
    • Cavell
    • Walden
    • Being literarate


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