[text]uring: writing through fashion for a new literacies dissertation

[text]uring: writing through fashion for a new literacies dissertation

Rachel Kaminski Sanders

The term 'literacy' encompasses reading and writing practices, each with distinct meanings and histories. Scholars define individuals as 'literate' or 'illiterate' based on these practices, a point not to be taken lightly. New literacies studies have expanded literacy from print to encompass all forms of meaning-making, leading to an expansion of associated terminology. In American higher education, despite the expanded meanings of terms like 'writing' and 'text,' the term 'research' remains dominated by written language, even within dedicated disciplines (Coiro et al. 2008; New London Group 1996; Wilber 2008).

Through a cultural studies perspective, I traced the historical evolution of American literacy to the present day. The study revealed darker consequences of literacy's past, providing insights for scholars to understand silenced voices and advocate for their inclusion in the future. Given the ever-expanding practices of literacy, the need for increased attention to writing instruction, and the problematic otherness of arts-based disciplines such as fashion, my goal is to broaden the range of accepted scholarly compositions in higher education. I believe this pursuit is key to the advancement of academic research publications.

To address this paradox, I actively embraced new literacy practices by creating a dissertation supported by Barone & Eisner’s (2012) concept of arts based research. Drawing on my experiences in the industry, I sought to challenge views of fashion as frivolous by writing my dissertation in the language of dress, offering a new perspective on the interwovenness of literacy and fashion. My dissertation argues that fashion is a form of writing by exploring nonverbal communication in scholarly work. This move reconciled the perceived frivolity with the substantive nature of fashion and ignited my commitment to the acceptance of research in diverse language forms.