Graduate Interdisciplinary Specialization

From the arts and sciences to education, social work, business, medicine, law, and engineering, the Graduate Interdisciplinary Specialization in Literacy Studies extends the educational and research experiences of graduate students who are interested in the broad or specific roles, relationships, processes, and products of reading and writing, and who want to designate a secondary field of study.

The goals and opportunities of the Graduate Interdisciplinary Specialization in Literacy Studies include:

  • understanding literacy in its specific historical, social, cultural, political, and economic contexts
  • recognizing that the origins of literacy lie in language and the uses of language vary from context to context
  • exploring literacy’s place in cognition and communication, and in relation to other modes of communicative competence
  • studying acquisition, uses, practices, and consequences of literacy and literacies across age, gender, race, class, ethnicity, geography, and media
  • investigating the uses, abuses, complexity, and contradictions of literacy as a social practice
  • developing critical approaches to common assumptions about the importance, power, and centrality of literacy
  • distinguishing and evaluating the literacies of academic disciplines for their commonalities and differences
  • criticizing and redeveloping communication and understanding across different literacies, and
  • recognizing that literacy cannot be reduced to one definition, nor to one effect on individuals or societies.

Similar in format to a graduate-level minor, the Graduate Interdisciplinary Specialization requires 12-15 semester hours of coursework, ten hours of which must come from outside the student’s major area of study. Interested students are encouraged to consider as a starting point the connections between their primary field of study and those areas within literacy studies that are especially relevant at the present and that anticipate important research questions and career opportunities:

Social and Cultural History of Literacy
Reading: Reading Practices, History of Reading; Multimodal Reading
Writing: History of Writing; Multimodal Writing; Writing and Symbol Systems
Literacy Education; Reading Education; Writing Education
Language, Literacy, and Literature; Translation; Multilingualism
Literacy and Print Media; Book History; Printing, Publishing, Reader Response
Literacy in Science; Science Education; Technology and Engineering Education
Literacy and Digital Media; Information; Communication; Technology
Literacy and Visual Media; Popular Culture; Visual Design
Literacy and the Arts; Art Education; Music Education
Literacy and Politics; Public Policy; Law and Social Action
Literacy, Health, Wellness, and Medicine
Literacy in the Family, Religion, Class, Gender, Sexuality
Literacy in the Community; Social Work and Welfare
Literacy in the Workplace; Literacy in the Marketplace

Some of these foci are foundational in their attention to the basics of literacy studies, especially with respect to language and history, theory and practice, and their relationship to compelling questions about reading and writing across different modes and within different contexts.  Other foci move into newer domains and raise timely questions about multiple literacies and, equally important, the relationship of new illiteracies to literacy’s foundations in reading and writing texts.


CORE COURSEWORK (6 semester hours)
The core courses cover the foundations of literacy studies, including the central questions, history, theories, approaches, and methods.

ELECTIVE COURSEWORK (6-9 semester hours)
Numerous courses across the graduate curriculum focus on literacy or otherwise concern the study of making, communicating, and understanding meaning. The student will establish a cohesive emphasis for and approach to the elective coursework in consultation with her faculty advisor and the specialization coordinator.

There are two options:

Option 1: 6 hours in elective courses and a critical or research paper of publishable quality
The first option is intended to encourage students to integrate, extend, and apply the insights of different disciplines to a specific issue, question, or inquiry.

Option 2: 9 hours in elective courses
The second option is intended for students whose goals are best served by additional coursework.