An Ending

<< Conceptions of literacy are currently in flux. The historical narratives about literacy that Trimbur uncovered in his 1991 piece are still at the heart of the current struggle. However, the power of digital literacy to shape and change human experience more broadly has shifted literacy crisis rhetoric. Embodied literacy practices (how bodies perform and engage literacy) and not merely linguistic features are associated with crisis discourse. In particular, self-sponsored, out-of-school literacies are constructed as agentive within this framework but often constructed as detrimental to ongoing literacy development. The image of this new crisis discourse is often figured in the body. Critics see text message language within school essays and lament the downfall of Standard English. However, they also associate the contemporary mediated embodiment of students with a cognitive state that creates illiteracy. Within this model, in question are not only the ends of literacy encountered when they are displayed on the printed page or screen, but also the mediated means of acquiring literacy. We are anxious about how new digital literacies are affecting more established ones, and digital technologies are the central target for our concern.

Trimbur was clearly on to something when he suggested that universities and writing professionals are multiply implicated by literacy crisis rhetoric. And it is because we are implicated that it is important to take on the complex task of interrogating the way we position student bodies with respect to literacy: Are we really concerned that students can’t pay attention well enough to write? Or is it more frightening to think that they might stop paying attention to us and to our authority to impart both knowledge and operation of literacy? >>

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This webtext is the product of many prior experiences and conversations. I wish to thank Angela Rounsaville for conversations during my initial drafting period – particularly for helping me connect more deeply to Trimbur's argument in the context of literacy studies theory and embodiment theories. In addition, I wish to thank Lynn Lewis for her ongoing dedication and supportive feedback, the late Genevieve Critel for her encouragement, the anonymous reviewers of this webtext for useful and valuable comments, and my research participants for their time and willingness to share.