English Ph.D. Dissertations


Literacies in Context: Working-Class Deaf Adults

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


English/Rhetoric and Writing

First Advisor

Donna Nelson-Beene (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Trinka Messenheimer (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Kristine Blair (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Nickoson Lee (Committee Member)


This dissertation explores the literacy practices of working-class Deaf adults in a variety of contexts. While literacy practices have been the subject of study by many scholars, they have most often been studied in educational contexts and in terms of textual literacy practices (reading and writing). However, there are a great deal of alternative literacy practices that go unacknowledged primarily when determining what it means for a person to be literate; therefore, it these alternative literacy practices need to be studied in context in order to provide a better and more accurate definition of literacy or what it means to be literate.

This dissertation seeks to begin to remedy this problem. In analyzing the literacy practices of working-class Deaf adults, this dissertation argues that several literacy practices are a part of their daily lives but that those literacy practices are dependent upon the context. The data for the analysis was collected via interviews conducted in American Sign Language with three individual participants: Linda, Wade, and Karen. I then interpreted the signed words, facial expressions, and body language in order to produce a text that could then be analyzed using the Constant Comparative Method. Analysis of the data based on the five main contexts of home, workplace, marketplace, school and social locations presented four main types of literacy practices: textual, visual, digital, and oral.