Discourse and “the New Literacy Studies”

Authored by: James Paul Gee

The Routledge Handbook of Discourse Analysis

Print publication date:  November  2011
Online publication date:  June  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415551076
eBook ISBN: 9780203809068
Adobe ISBN: 9781136672927


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The new literacy studies (hereafter “NLS”) is a name that arose “after the fact.” In the 1980s a number of scholars from different disciplines (see citations below, in the next section) began to critique the traditional view of literacy as “the ability to read and write” (a largely individual and mental phenomenon) and to argue for a social and cultural approach to literacy. In the late 1980s I referred to this work, in which I was myself engaged, as “the New Literacy Studies” (Gee, 1989), because I believed that the work shared some common themes and was converging on a new interdisciplinary field of study. The people I included under this label did not necessarily see themselves at the time as being in the same “movement.” Brian Street, one of the earliest and leading scholars in the NLS, has since done more than anyone to institutionalize the NLS and to get it recognized as a consistent approach to literacy studies (Street, 1997, 2003, 2005).

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