The purpose of this study is to examine adult literacy beyond its constraints as a social problem and instead consider the implications of illiteracy as a particular form of lived experience, analogous to women's oppression at large. Through a complex system of meaning making, the knowledge accrued by illiterate adults is qualitatively different, and examining these differences in terms of their correlation to coping mechanisms developed in the face of social alienation and diminished professional prospects yields a greater understanding of class privilege and how nontraditional learners fit into a larger social structure. From the perspective of academic feminism, adult illiteracy presents several problems regarding the scope of an inclusive feminist community that acknowledges privilege and difference. The primary method through which information regarding feminism is conferred is printed materials, which utilize highly specific, specialized jargon, and unwittingly create an exclusive community marred by internalized racism and class stratifications. This study explores other methods through which feminist ideation might theoretically be possible, i.e. cultural "reading" communities and vocational and continuing education programs focused on cultural competencies, as women come out of their imposed silences and become aware of their circumstances in a way that resembles feminist thought, if perhaps without sophisticated language with which to communicate those ideals. In this way, feminist ideation and semiotics tie in together, as attitudinal change may occur without the semantic realization of what this entails. This goal of this paper is also, in part, to justify why acknowledging gendered learning differences and a particular female subjectivity for adult literacy clients will yield better results for their self-valuation, as gender is a component of diversity all but ignored within the scheme of adult literacy pedagogical theory.


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Thesis Completion





Preston-Sidler, Leandra


Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)


Office of Undergraduate Studies

Degree Program

Interdisciplinary Studies


Dissertations, Academic -- Office of Undergraduate Studies;Office of Undergraduate Studies -- Dissertations, Academic







Access Status

Open Access

Length of Campus-only Access


Document Type

Honors in the Major Thesis