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Serious business on the periphery: College reading theory and pedagogy

Gregory Travis Adams, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


In this dissertation, I argue that college reading theory, pedagogy, and research in English studies fails to explore the full range of what is needed to prepare students for reading within and beyond college. In order to create a clear picture of reading's place and function in higher education, I analyze relevant histories of English Studies, scholarship on the use of texts in first year composition (Tate; Lindemann; Helmers; Horner; Elbow; Crowley), writing center scholarship, developmental reading research, and K-12 literacy research and pedagogy (Gallagher; Blau; Tovani). I draw on my experiences and observations teaching reading in each of three sites—first year composition, writing centers, and university workshops—in order to offer critiques of current reading pedagogy as well as work toward reading pedagogies that push college reading instruction beyond English Studies' circular discourse around the kinds of texts which should, or should not, be read in composition courses. In the end, I argue for a New Literacy RAC model of college reading instruction that incorporates renewed reading pedagogy in FYC and reading instruction in writing centers. At the same time, I recognize that implementing such a RAC model faces significant challenges, including reconfiguring what it means to teach English—reading and writing—all while society moves away from humanistic expectations for higher education and while readers turn increasingly to 21st century reading technologies. As societal pressures call for more "direct" workplace linked education, universities must also consider reports like Reading at Risk and To Read or Not to Read which signal a shift not only in what kinds of texts people read but also in the kinds of reading long clung tightly to and taught by departments of English. Numerous scholars (Readings; Scholes; Smit; Menand) have noted that English departments and composition programs now operate within institutions of higher education whose long relied upon humanist liberal arts justification no longer fits the wider societal demands upon or vision for college education; it is within these contexts that we will have to re-shape college reading instruction.

Subject Area

Literacy|Reading instruction|Rhetoric

Recommended Citation

Adams, Gregory Travis, "Serious business on the periphery: College reading theory and pedagogy" (2012). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3504086.