Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Comparative Literature


Sonali Perera

Committee Members

Anna Akasoy

Peter Hitchcock


Literacy, postcolonial literature, Mahasweta Devi


In this study, I examine the twentieth century’s vast history of large-scale literacy campaigns and the imprints and legacies of those campaigns in literary texts from the global South. Literary texts by Mahasweta Devi, Nuruddin Farah, J. M. Coetzee, M. G. Vassanji, Abdulrazak Gurnah, and others provide compelling examples of narratives that foreground literacy - particularly its acquisition, loss, or redistribution in the lives, communities, and emerging independent nations in which these narratives take place. The second half of the twentieth century represents a global effort at the realignment of reading, writing, and power. In this moment, the authors at the center of this study restore the nonliterate to the scene of development, globalization, and nationalism. In these postcolonial literacy narratives, both the literate and the nonliterate confront the historical, material, and cultural valences of literacy in their lives - and, through these, both the limits and the power of education.