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Sponsorship As A Contribution To Literary Development

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Responding to Sponsors of Literacy

I’ve always been a writer; since as early as elementary school, I’d love to create stories and put them down on paper. I would rarely stick to a single form of writing, however, and would eventually to go on to tinker in various techniques. In my middle school years, for example, I was impressed and intrigued by cartoons such as Calvin and Hobbes and Foxtrot and spent a great deal of time writing and illustrating my own comic book series, modeling them after my favorite cartoons. Since then, I have developed my structure of choice from comics to prose to poetry and even stage plays—two of the latter of which I have actually gotten produced and published.

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It would be foolish to say that nothing influenced me to make such choices as a writer, as every artist in some way has someone or something from which they draw their inspiration. As aforementioned, Calvin and Hobbes was a catalyst for me personally, and as I enrolled in middle and high school and grew to love the theatrical arts, playwriting snapped in my mind and became one of my major outlets for expression and storytelling.

English Professor Deborah Brandt would consider these influences “sponsors of literacy,” and she defines them as “agents . . . who enable, support, teach, model, as well as recruit, regulate, suppress, or withhold literacy” (4). She goes on to explain how these sponsors are never constant, how they are always changing and developing as people give birth to new generations of writers (or the “sponsored”). I can certainly relate to this idea on multiple levels. Other than the simple fact that certain people in my life (my sponsors) have encouraged me to write and hone my skills—such as my parents initially, then respectively grade school teachers, favorite authors, fellow classmates and peers, adult friends/colleagues, college professors, etc.—they have also fit into the role on a different level. Brandt describes the role sponsors play as a reciprocal relationship in which “they lend their resources or credibility to the sponsored but also stand to gain benefits from their success, whether by direct repayment or, indirectly, by credit of association” (5). Already in my own life this has happened; an unofficial playwriting mentor of mine—who has published his own works and who helped me through the process of publishing my first play—has already seen the benefits of sponsorship as Brandt would describe it. Assisting me has garnered his own writing a larger audience, as those who appreciate my scripts also are drawn to notice his own, and hence, the reciprocal relationship was effectively created.

One of Brandt’s stronger points in her essay is that literacy is not only powerful and valuable, but also very different across the world—especially in terms of access routes and the availability and power of sponsorship. This brings into consideration how different my personal sponsors could be from someone else’s. In most cases, being a white male living in the United States earns oneself a position of privilege, and that certainly can be seen in both my access and power to literacy over the years. As Brandt mentions in her studies, social class and economics plays a powerful role in literacy, as the instances of diversion she researched leads to differing conclusions—specifically, a female secretary with literary limitations (14) and a Jehovah’s Witness with literary opportunities (15).

Growing up with the prospects of a strong, economically stable family with encouraging influences (sponsors) all around me were vital to my own personal literary developments, and will continue to be a vital contributor to my studies and developing writing skills as I embark on my English career, which will invariably require a strong understanding of writing studies.

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