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English studies and language teaching : epistemological access and discursive critique in South Africa.

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This study investigates ways in which English Studies at Rhodes University, the University of the Witwatersrand, the University of Natal, and the University of Sydney responded to linguistic and academic literacy needs of entrance level students. Both qualitative and quantitative data from these research sites are integrated with an autobiographical narrative based on my own personal experiences of learning English and in English at secondary and tertiary levels in South Africa. Dealing with data this way made it possible for my study to examine strategies through which different English departments negotiate the challenge of enabling students to access the discourse of the Discipline. I relied on the principles underpinning Genre Theory and Grounded Theory to engage critically with participants’ responses to interview questions and documentary evidence from research sites. It appears from the study that modules designed to develop students’ linguistic and/or academic literacy skills need not maintain a pedagogic practice that is either grammatical rules or academic writing and critique based, without an attempt to integrate the two. This separation is seen as artificial, and reflects pedagogic practices that tend to mystify the discourse of the Discipline of English Studies. Given the fact that not all students posses relevant cultural capital to negotiate meanings successfully within this discourse, many of them are excluded during lectures. Literature and research findings in this study indicate that this exclusion manifests itself when such students fail to choose grammatical structures according to the purpose for which they construct texts, both in speaking and in writing. Within this context, there is a need for an alternative model to inform theory, module design, and pedagogic practices in entrance level modules.


Thesis (Ph.D.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 2007.


English language--Study and teaching (Higher)--South Africa., Language and education--South Africa., Theses--Education.