Post-writing and post-reading lead to post-literacy

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Description

A Charles Sturt University (CSU) academic says the anxiety about arts funding in Australia, and how this affects writers in particular, should be cause for concern about national literacy.

Senior lecturer in English in the CSU School of Humanities and Social Sciences in Bathurst Dr Suzie Gibson (pictured) said the recent job cuts at Fairfax Media newspapers have further heightened concerns.

"The printed broadsheet is now a dinosaur, just as traditional books are starting to look like alien forms in English classrooms," Dr Gibson said.

"It is no surprise then that one of Australia's most respected writers, Frank Moorhouse, is now lamenting the fact that he is poor. In the most recent edition of one of Australia's few surviving literary journals – Meanjin – he writes about being broke after half a century of working as a journalist, screenwriter and novelist.

"In response, Ben Eltham, writing in the Sydney Review of Books, asserts that Moorhouse's dire financial situation reflects very poorly on the 'state of Australian letters'."

Dr Gibson said the quixotic notion that writing alone could ever earn the majority of writers an adequate living has always been dubious.

"Most writers, even great ones, have had to eke out an existence through finding alternative means of income. The great modernist writer Joseph Conrad toiled on shipping vessels in the early part of his career, while for 18 years Australia's Nobel Prize winning novelist Patrick White sold flowers, vegetables and milk.

"Late nineteenth century American novelist Henry James never had money worries because he was born into wealth. The fact that he indulged in crafting infamously difficult novels that were never commercial successes therefore hardly mattered to him."

Dr Gibson observed that in this era of post-industrialism crossed with globalisation, new and seasoned writers have to get used to the fact that our not-so very brave new world has fostered a largely non-reading public that interfaces with email, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram every day, but rarely with longer or weightier forms of literature.

"Although the digital sphere may have given birth to new kinds of reading and writing − mostly of the shorthand kind − it has also cultivated an inattentive and distracted reader," she said.

"For anyone teaching in the tertiary sector over the last 10 to 20 years it has become abundantly clear that reading resilience is a real and urgent problem. Literacy levels have fallen, leading to the development of subjects that teach university-level students basic writing skills.

Period21 May 2017

Media contributions

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Media contributions

  • TitlePost-writing and post-reading lead to post-literacy
    CountryAustralia
    Date21/05/17
    DescriptionA CSU academic says the anxiety about arts funding in Australia, and how this affects writers in particular, should be cause for concern about national literacy.
    PersonsSuzie Gibson

Keywords

  • post-reading, post-writing and post-literacy