This article argues for a context-sensitive, integrative approach to research on reading, writing, and related text-based practices in second language acquisition (SLA). The approach views literacy not as universal psycholinguistic processes but as constellations of social, cognitive, and linguistic practices that vary with situational and cultural contexts and that are learned through apprenticeship. Many of the phenomena that have been explored in SLA research under the rubric of the cognitive (e.g., learning strategies, reading strategies, writing strategies, transfer, etc.) need to be explored simultaneously from the perspective of the social (i.e., their functional significance within particular contexts of language use). Within the context of socially and culturally embedded literacy, the role of the literary, the traditional material for the teaching of reading and writing in many university-level foreign language classrooms, takes on new importance in terms of its potential impact on the development of second language literacy. Methodologically, this agenda places key importance on qualitative approaches, and highlights the need for a great deal more research on semiotics in written communication practices.