Representations of language acquisition and literacy in contemporary literature

  • Elena Gerola West

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Representations of language acquisition and literacy often find their way into literary texts. They tell compelling stories of conflict, desire, pain and success set against recognisable historical backgrounds. When they are discussed from a literary standpoint, they can help us understand the social dynamics whereby we become language users and literate beings. Nevertheless, they are often overlooked by literary critics or interpreted via frameworks that produce reductive interpretations. This thesis synthesises research on literary representations of language acquisition and literacy and puts forward a new theoretical framework called the “literacy narrative approach”. The literacy narrative approach conceptualises language acquisition and literacy as situated practices which coexist with other semiotic modes and is designed to help students of literature and literary critics articulate the epistemological potential of literary texts that address these issues. This thesis tests the literacy narrative approach by applying it to three contemporary literary texts. The practical applications suggest that, through this approach, we can revise the way in which the text has been received, look at language acquisition and literacy in a different way and delineate a new area of research within literary theory and criticism.
Date of Award29 Sept 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bristol
SupervisorCarol M O'Sullivan (Supervisor) & Catherine G O'Rawe (Supervisor)


  • Literary theory
  • Literary criticism
  • Literacy
  • Language acquisition
  • Multimodality
  • Language Learning
  • Semiotic mode
  • Translation

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