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A lecture by Professor Cathy Burnett (Sheffield Hallam University), The messiness of literacy: unsettling simple accounts of literacy through a baroque perspective on virtual play

Graduate School of Education Lecture Series

Event details

The view of literacy reflected in the current literacy curriculum in England sits uneasily with the kinds of rich and complex meaning making experiences associated with digital environments. Arguably it is also at odds with the messiness of educational experience and the contingent nature of meaning making that lie at the heart of literacy and learning more broadly. This presentation will use an episode of  virtual play as the starting point for considering what a baroque approach might offer to those interested in destabilising the ‘regime of truth’ associated with simple models of literacy. Six techniques of the baroque will be used to examine stories of actions and interactions in and around a virtual world visited by 9 and 10 year-old children in a classroom in Northern England. The stories, together with the gaps, contradictions, continuities and discontinuities between them, will foreground multiplicity and complexity in children’s virtual play with a particular focus on relational, affective, embodied and material dimensions of children’s meaning making. It is suggested that this approach provokes. The analysis will raise important questions not just about the nature and scope of literacy in education but about the kinds of literacy research needed to provide vivid accounts of literacy in the contemporary context.

Cathy Burnett is Professor of Literacy and Education at Sheffield Hallam University where she leads the Language and Literacy Education Research Group. Her research interests focus on relationships between technology, literacy and education. She is President Elect for the United Kingdom Literacy Association.


The recording will be available from 14 March for staff, students and Exeter associates.




Baring Court 114