IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Article paying tribute to Gunther Kress published

14 October 2020

A tribute to Professor Gunther Kress has been published in the journal System, written by UCL Institute of Education (IOE) academic Professor Li Wei.

Gunther Kress

Professor Kress, who worked at the IOE and was a linguist, semiotician and social theorist, pioneered the fields of critical linguistics, critical discourse analysis and social semiotics. He died on 20 June 2019.

Having worked in Germany, the UK and Australia, Professor Kress took up the post of Professor of English Education at the IOE in 1991. In 2006, he established the ESRC-funded Centre for Multimodal Research with Carey Jewitt and remained co-director of the Centre with Jeff Bezemer until his unexpected death.

Professor Li Wei’s tribute highlights Gunther’s career, his research and theory, and their time as colleagues.

Gunther’s work looked at children learning to write and emphasised no form of communication, whether writing, reading, speaking or listening is separate, rather communication is multimodal. Learning was a central theme throughout Gunther's career. His initial interest in how children learn to write developed into a life-long commitment to a new, social semiotic theory of learning.

In focusing on Gunther’s work, Professor Li Wei writes: “He used many varied examples to critique what is often taken for granted in the existing models of learning, and he was determined to take learning beyond the official school curriculum. He was deeply committed, and wanted his students and readers to be as well, to understanding what learning is about, how we learn, and the changing conditions for learning in cultural, social, technological, and semiotic terms. His own publications and speeches were always rich in descriptive detail and explanatory power and politically explicit. They draw attention to details and broader issues in a way other scholars rarely do.”

The article ends through exploring Professor Li Wei and Professor Kress’s professional relationship and work together on language, meaning-making and the importance of studying Chinese.

In memory of Gunther Kress (1940-2019)