Volume 4, Issue 2
  • ISSN 1387-6732
  • E-ISSN: 1570-6001
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes


This paper explores the theme of literacy in a recent novel, The reader, by the German author Bernhard Schlink. Drawing both on literary analysis and on the insights of the “new literacy studies”, the paper argues that the depiction of illiteracy contained in the novel is problematical in two main ways. First, there are a number of textual inconsistencies regarding the definition and portrayal of illiteracy. Second, the novel provides a questionable account of the relationship between literacy and an individual’s capacity for moral and aesthetic judgement, especially in the context of debates about the Holocaust. We are therefore skeptical of the way in which The reader has been enthusiastically held up as a realistic account of illiteracy and its potential consequences, not least by Sir Claus Moser in Improving literacy and numeracy: A fresh start (1999), a report on “basic skills” produced for the Department of Education and Employment in the UK.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...

  • Article Type: Research Article
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error