Journal of Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice, JAL Vol 4, No 1 (2007)

Breaking the Frame: Lectures, Ritual and Academic Literacies

Lucia Thesen
Issued Date: 14 Sep 2015


Lectures are central to undergraduate academic literacy practices, yet they are a neglected area of research. This paper approaches the lecture through the lens of ritual studies, and sheds light on aspects of academic engagement that usually remain hidden. The approach used here emphasises the dynamic (rather than static) character of the ritualisation process, and foregrounds embodiment and symbolic meaning. The data are from a study of lectures in the Humanities in a South African university, and include ethnographic reconstructions of ‘liminal moments’ in two different lectures, as well as material from focus group discussions with students after the lectures. I argue that lectures have been prematurely written off, and that with ritual theory as a lens there is much to learn about participants’ desire for engagement and about the relationship between micro processes ‘on the ground’ and wider institutional and political dimensions of academic engagement. I conclude by discussing the implications for academic literacies of lectures as a space in which the modes and meanings of orality rather than textuality are primary.

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DOI: 10.1558/japl.v4i1.33


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