Literacy

In Keywords, the term “literacy” does not have an entry of its own. Instead, Raymond Williams (1976) traces its evolution from its fourteenth-century root, “literature.” For the first three hundred years of its life, “literature” was an all-purpose word referring sometimes to “being well-read,” and at other times to “the books in which a man is well-read” (Williams 1976). Gradually, this common-ancestor word divided into several distinct species: the root-word, “literature,” strengthened its links to nationhood (as in English literature or French literature); “literate” came to describe being well-read; “literary” became associated with the “profession of authorship”; and “literacy” arose in the late nineteenth century as a social concept “to express the achievement and possession of what are increasingly seen as general and necessary skills” (Williams 1976). In the definition of “literacy,” the operative word is “skills,” suggesting a low-order, mechanical, even superficial ability related …

This essay may be found on page 141 of the printed volume.

Works Cited
Permanent Link to this Essay