Education professor earns Literary Research Association Pearson Award

December 02, 2020

Gail Boldt, professor of education (language and literacy education), earned the P. David Pearson Scholarly Influence Award from the Literacy Research Association. Boldt was honored along with her research collaborator Kevin Leander, director of Graduate Studies and professor of literacy education in the Department of Teaching and Learning at Vanderbilt University.

The award recognizes the influence their article, “Rereading ‘A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies’: Bodies, Texts, and Emergence,” which was published in The Journal of Literacy Research in 2013, has had in the world of literacy research.

Gail Boldt

Gail Boldt

IMAGE: Steve Tressler

Within the field of literacy, an article published by The New London Group in 1996 called “A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures” has been highly influential in revising the field’s understanding of “literacy” to “multiliteracies,” which indexes the fact that there are multiple ways that we read, make meaning, and communicate about the world.

"In our article, while acknowledging the incredible importance of The New London Group’s work for the field and for us, we challenged what we saw as the overly instrumental and rationalized conceptual framing of youth identities, literacy practices and of literacy research that arose from the 1996 article and had become dominant in the field," Boldt said.

"We brought the work of the French social theorists Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari to bear in arguing for a dramatically different understanding not only of youth engagements with literacy-related actives, but also of research itself."

Boldt and Leander argued that both literacy-related activities and research are saturated with affect and emotion, created and fed by an ongoing series of affective intensities that are different from the rational control of meanings and forms. Their 2013 article article broke new ground in reframing literacy as a site where affect, imagination, possibility, passion and energy are constantly produced.

"It opened the floodgates for bringing affect theory to bear on literacy research and practice; this has been a strong movement in literacy since the publication of our piece," Boldt said.

"I’m proud and humbled that the article has had an influence on literacy research and practice and particularly on the work of emergent literacy scholars who are developing related ideas in creative ways and with keen attention to ways that literacies research and education can and should but does not always work in the service of more equitable, inclusive and just practices and framings of literacies in and out of schools," Boldt said.

"For me, conceptualizing literacies within the field of affect attends to what our practices produce in terms of children and youth experiencing literacies as playing a role that fuels their passions for life and creativity and relating to the human and more-than-human world."

Boldt said the publication of the article has created opportunities for her to interact with scholars from all over in ways that are exciting and that bring a sense of vitality to her ongoing work.

"Receiving this award creates another opportunity to engage with my research community. I am deeply grateful to Jon Wargo, who teaches at Boston College, for nominating the article and to the 30 literacy scholars who co-signed the letter," she said.

Boldt and Leander first met and began working on the article in 2006.

"It was seven years of talking, writing and revising between when we began and when it was finally published. It was seven years in which our ideas and a friendship were able to grow," Boldt said.

"We have continued to work and write and publish together since then, and have had to pleasure of bringing others into our collaborations as well. As academics, we are lucky to find colleagues who create with us conditions in which our imagination and energy flourish. I have been very lucky indeed."

Over the course of her career, Boldt's research evolved and expanded. She defines herself as a curriculum theorist with interests in literacies, elementary and early childhood education; identity (including gender, sexuality, class and race) and post-identity; childhood studies; cultural studies; and disability studies. She works primarily with narrative research, drawing analytic lenses from Deleuzo-Guattarian, post-structural and psychoanalytic theories.

At the undergraduate level, she teaches in the literacy block that is part of the elementary and early childhood education major and teacher certification program. She currently is the lead faculty member for the block.

Boldt earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from Trinity College; her teaching certification from Mills College in Oakland, California; a master of theological studies from the Divinity School at Harvard University; a master of education in counseling from Penn State; and a doctorate from the University of Hawai’i in teacher education and curriculum studies.

Before coming to Penn State, Boldt was an assistant and associate professor in the Language, Literacy and Culture Program at the University of Iowa. She spent a year as a visiting scholar at the Chicago Psychoanalytic Institute and completed a postgraduate program at the Washington Center for Psychoanalysis called New Directions in Psychoanalytic Thinking. She has worked in the infant and young child program at the Washington School for Psychiatry; was a research fellow at the Anna Freud Center at the Yale Child Study Center; and is a research fellow of the American Psychoanalytic Association.

The Literacy Research Association is a nonprofit professional organization, composed of individuals who share an interest in advancing literacy theory, research and practice. The organization established the P. David Pearson Scholarly Influence Award in 2012 to honor, in P. David Pearson’s name, the author(s) of an article, chapter or book written at least five years prior to the nomination, that has demonstrably and positively influenced or impacted literacy practices and/or policies within district, school and/or classroom settings.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated December 02, 2020