“Literacy as grace” — Reba McEntire’s “Is There Life Out There”

Long time no post, I know. I’ve been busy getting my WR 121 class going (took me forever to finally decide on the readings! — more on that later), etc, etc.

Saw this video on a “Top 100 Country Music videos” thing last night — Reba McEntire’s “Is There Life Out There?” It brings tears to my eyes. And makes me want to say, “Yay for community colleges!” (though a returning student could of course go to a four-year school).

But it also reminds me of Sylvia Scribner’s discussion of the three main metaphors used to define/describe literacy (which came up in our reading for ENG 595 Language, Technology, and Culture this week). Like the movie Educating Rita (1983, I think), this video is an example of academic literacy being defined with the metaphor “grace” as opposed to “adaptation” and/or “power.”  By “grace,” Scribner doesn’t necessarily mean anything religious (though she’s thinking a little of that). It mainly means that literacy makes the person more humane, that literacy enhances — in some spiritual or simply cultural or personal way — the person (see her “Literacy in Three Metaphors“).  I like the word “rich,” in this context — literacy as something that makes life richer (spiritually, personally). So, in Educating Rita and in this video, both women don’t earn more money or become more economically better-off, but they do become more fulfilled (whatever that term means) and more happy.

But that way of thinking about literacy is the one that is usually the most compelling to me. I keep going to school, getting degrees, loving it — but not making much money!! I am compelled also by the literacy “as power” and as “adaptation” metaphors — but I almost always assume the “literacy as grace” thing is going on in the person’s life, too.

Anyway, when watching the video, you have to keep in mind that it was made in ’91, or you’ll wonder 1) why she’s writing her paper on a typewriter and 2) why she doesn’t just re-print it when her kids spill cover on her paper. I was using a word-processor in ’91, but I guess the video wouldn’t have had half the pathos without that scene, that turning point.

Rats, I’m getting the “Embedding disabled by request” message when I try to play the video. Oh well. Here’s the link instead.


2 thoughts on ““Literacy as grace” — Reba McEntire’s “Is There Life Out There”

  1. What concerns me about literacy as grace is the idea that if literacy makes people “richer,” or “more humane,” that means that those who are not literate are “less humane.” But of course you know each of literacy metaphor can also be a myth. I’m just here to bring the downer point of view. ;)

    Yeah, when the user disables embedding, it won’t embed. Here you now have the video and the link, but the video doesn’t play on the page. Might just want to leave the link and delete the object.

  2. Yeah, you’re right — the metaphor does imply that without this (academic) literacy, this woman would be “less than.” It’s cool, though, then that she says that line at the end: “I learned more from the stain than from the paper” (or however it’s worded), implying that what really made her “richer” was her closer relationship with her family more than getting in “A” in that class.

    Yeah, I should probably delete the object, but I like the look of haing the video-looking link there (even if it doesn’t work). Crazy, I know. :)

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