PhD Programme in Literacy Studies

Literacy Studies is the study of individual and social use of text, together with cultural, linguistic and social change processes that are a consequence of or related to such use.

Professor and three students at a computer. Illustration picture in article about the PhD Programme in Literacy Studies at UiS.

The PhD-programme in Literacy is administered by the Faculty of Arts and Education. Organizationally, the programme is attached to the Department of Cultural Studies and Languages, but is run in close co-operation with the National Centre for Reading Education and Research

The term Literacy Studies refers to the use and impact aspects of written and textual culture. This implies that attention will be focused on the role of reading in textual culture, i.e., how texts help to regulate understanding of communication, the underlying processes behind reading activity, what change processes take place and what skills a person must master in order to be able to take part in the communication.

In all contexts, reading is considered to be an important prerequisite for satisfactory participation in productive activity and cultural and social life. Competent use of text and textual orientation are fundamental for planning and executing tasks in modern society. In countries with a highly educated population, such as Norway, the majority of people with a higher education work in private or public services. The study of reading highlights the quality of such services and what conditions are required for the services to function. It is important to study technological, social, aesthetic and political factors through various academic perspectives.

In public debates about reading, the focus is usually on recreational reading, and especially on the reading activities of children and adolescents. Extensive new studies are required in this area, together with a clarification of what the data basis for research in this field may be. However, from a social point of view, occupational reading, the use of text that regulates both attention and execution of work-oriented and more practical processes, may well be as important as recreational reading.

The term Literacy, used as a definition both of the fundamental ability to read and reading as an integrated and reflexive practice in all written and textual culture, should be described using several related sets of definition. It will then span a continuum, which extends from reading related to defined threshold level (functional literacy) via acquisition of cultural factors that support or supplement functional literacy, e.g., knowledge of special language factors, certain text traditions and information units (cultural literacy), to a complex ability to decode ideological dimensions of use of language and text, communicating in occupational and social practices, being integrated in cultural rituals, traditions and institutions and to mastering new multi-modal expressions (critical literacy).

A common platform for this approach is to regard literacy as practices that develop in broad and complex contexts, which draw on both individual and joint history, which have been based on symbol systems that presume mutual mastering and exchange of coded information and representation and which in total have become established as a cultural heritage with a number of value setting values.

In the main, these perspectives will consist of an historical-contextual perspective, an aesthetic – hermeneutic perspective, a didactic perspective and a linguistic perspective. We have defined these perspectives in four core areas in Literacy Studies:

  • Reading and writing in society and history
    Related traditional fields:
    linguistics and literary science (history of books and printing, sociology of literature), history, history didactics, sociology, social anthropology
  • Reading and interpretation
    Related traditional fields:
    Literary Science (hermeneutics, narratology, multimodal texts), theology, religious science, philosophy.
  • Reading and writing development
    Related traditional fields:
    Applied linguistics, didactics, psychology
  • Writing systems
    Related traditional fields:
    Linguistics, socio-linguistics, philology. This core area includes, among other things, The Middle English Grammar Project, which is an ongoing, NFR-funded research project at UiS, in co-operation with the University of Glasgow. The project includes several Ph.D. projects.