Literacy and Power: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Literacy and Power

1st Edition

By Hilary Janks


250 pages

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Paperback: 9780415999632
pub: 2009-10-02
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Hilary Janks addresses key questions about literacy and power in this landmark text that is both engaging and accessible.

Her central argument is that competing orientations to critical literacy education − domination (power), access, diversity, design − foreground one over the other, but are crucially interdependent and need to work together to create possibilities for redesign and social action that serve a social justice agenda. She examines the theory underpinning each orientation, and develops new theory in the argument for interdependence and integration.

Sitting at the interface between theory and practice, constantly moving from one to the other, the text is rich with examples of how to use these orientations in real teaching contexts, and how to use them to counterbalance one another.

In the groundbreaking final chapter Janks considers how the rationalist underpinning of critical literacy tends to exclude the non-rational shows ways of working ‘beyond reason’ − pleasure and play, desire and the unconscious − and makes the case that these need to be taken seriously given their power to cut across the work of critical literacy educators working from any orientation.


"This book has integrity – in more than one meaning of the word. Hilary Janks sets out to describe and exemplify an integrated model of critical literacy which includes both cognitive skills and social practices but she is herself a writer of proven professional integrity. One of the attractive features of this book – and there are many – is that the author includes the important historical dimension as she outlines the development of critical literacy theory and practice…. Janks’ view of diversity as a productive resource for social and cultural transformation speaks to any of us, wherever we live and work."--Literacy, the journal of the UK Literacy Association

"The book offers a mapping of a sphere for action that is thoughtful, hopeful and profoundly practical."--Reading & Writing

"Janks accomplishes what she intended: step by step, one chapter at a time, she refines her interdependent model of critical literacy and clearly explains it to the readers. Her work in strongly grounded in theories and practice. All readers, from administrators to classroom teachers, from teacher educators to graduate students, will benefit from reading this book."--Education Review

Table of Contents

Foreword, Sonia Nieto



1. Turning to Literacy

2. Orientations to Literacy

3. Language and Power

4. Reading Texts Critically

5. Diversity, Difference and Disparity

6. Access, Gate-Keeping and Desire

7. Critical Text Production: Writing and Design

8. Redesign, Social Action and Possibilities for Transformation

9. The Future of Critical Literacy



About the Author

Hilary Janks is a professor in Applied English Language Studies in the School of Education at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.

About the Series

Language, Culture, and Teaching Series

This series of texts for undergraduate- and graduate-level teacher education courses focuses on the intersections of language, culture, and teaching – specifically on how language and culture inform classroom practice. Books in the series are intended as primary or supplementary texts in the growing range of courses that address issues such as, but not limited to, foundations of multicultural education; multicultural children’s literature; teaching diverse populations; foundations of bilingual education; teaching English as a second language; and sociocultural issues in teaching.

The primary objectives of the series are to challenge traditional biases about diversity and about students of diverse languages and cultures, and to reframe the conventional idea of the textbook by envisioning classroom practice as critical, creative, and liberatory.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
EDUCATION / Aims & Objectives
EDUCATION / Multicultural Education