A Writing Identity?

SO I think I have a pretty good idea as to who I am as an instructor, such that I would definitely say I’ve developed an instructor identity. While the majority of my research evolves around linguistic and sexual identities, it suddenly occurred to me while composing an email to my parents that I don’t think they know who I am…as a writer. This led me to considering whether or not I could say that I have developed an identity or identities as a writer.  For example, they don’t read me as a regular textual communicator (we don’t chat, im, text, or email all that regularly or to any great extent). I haven’t written a letter or postcard to my parents in about 15 years (and yes, I understand that although 15 years is a significant period of development for me, it has seemed like a matter of seconds to them). They know me really only through verbal communication, mostly via the telephone. That brings me to consider how I communicate differently in writing vs speaking, and the concept of distance vs closeness and its influence on communication.

So what does it take for an identity to have formed? It’s formed if we can observe it? What are the common characteristics? There must be degrees of identity formation and key events that contribute to and shape formation. What does it take for one to be aware of the identity?

So in my dissertation I theorize that participation and imagination both assist the development of an identity. If I imagine myself to belong to a community of writers and imagine that I am a writer via my own multiple definitions (personal or other), then I can be a writer. This “to be a (noun)” act is significant in that labeling legitimizes existence. But it is also the act of writing, the participatory behavior, that legitimizes the label.

So it’s not surprising that I like to begin my writing courses with discussions of what it means to write and to be a writer. I ask, “Are you a writer?” If so, why. If not, then why not?

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Sapir-Whorf and Perceptions of English Language


Part 1, English Freedom

It’s another presentation at a Saturday conference and this time we’re sitting in a circle discussing the negotiation of second language identities. I mention to the participants and fellow presenters that my dissertation will examine perceptions of empowerment and queer identity facilitation via the learning and performance of English (as a semiotic act/space). Heads nod when I suggest that there is something about English and English speakers that reference a sense of freedom for many language learners outside the American context. I follow with the question, “But is it really English that allows for this freedom in alternative identities, or would any second language allow this?” The room offers a unanimous “It’s English.” Continue reading

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Give Mary Gods a Quid, Ya’All

“You sound like the operator,” I say through a large grin.


“Like the operator…the woman in the phone!”

My mother looks at me for a moment and then asks, “Whadduya mean?”

“When you talk on the phone, you sound funny. Like the woman,” I reply.

She considers this and is about to say something when I interrupt, enunciating every syllable my 6 year-old voice utters:

“Hello, this is Anita Harrison, Marlen Harrison’s mother. Marlen will be absent from school today because he is ill.”

I stop for a moment and giggle. My mother begins to smile. I continue with my right-hand pinky at my mouth and my right-hand thumb placed to my ear…

“Please have his teacher send homework home with our neighbor Andrea Burns.” I mimic my mother’s telephone voice in a posh, female tone. I tell her, “You sound different when you talk on the phone.”

“I do?”

“Yeah! You try to sound fancy.” Continue reading

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The Problem of Evidence


“The problem of evidence consists of the tasks of making this fact intelligible” (Garfinkle, p. 103).

    While recently writing an autoethnography examining the semiotics of name in relation to experience, I consistently came across criticism of ethnographic research aimed at highlighting the problem of interpretation of evidence. Coffey (1999) explains that in ethnography the researcher, and his/her interpretive eye, is as much a part of the research as are the subjects being examined. This sentiments is echoed in Garfinkle’s (1976) exploration of the documentary method of sociological research and the problem of Continue reading

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What do we know about reading?


As usual, I’ll sabotage this question and turn it around a bit to reflect what I thought I knew about reading and to examine some of Smith’s ideas that I found most interesting. As has been my recent mode, while reading Smith I found myself thinking, “Geesh, I knew that, but I guess I never really gave it that much thought.” It’s an interesting commentary considering the subjects and theses of both Rosenblatt’s text and now Smith’s (and I was tickled to see nods to Rosenblatt throughout Chapter 4), both concerning reading, the reader, and understanding.

Sternberg’s approach to understanding the mind and cognition (Metaphors of the Mind) explored a number of metaphors. Smith does the same albeit with a slightly different approach. Chapter 1 begins with a section entitled “Reading the World” and concludes that “reading” itself is a metaphor for looking and understanding, i.e. interpreting facial expressions. Chapter 2 continues with metaphorical examinations by comparing the mind to the computer and introducing concepts for the mind such as script and schema. These concepts form an introduction to the idea that reading is more than mere recognition of letters on a page, phonemes, and representations of sounds; a heck of a lot of thinking and experience are involved in the process of making meaning via reading. One of the most interesting ideas Smith explores is that much of reading is prediction! I suppose it is. I’d go a step further and bring a little bit of my newly learned pragmatics vocabulary into this discussion and couple prediction with implication. As a reader, I must Continue reading

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The Ring of the Text

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What is a text and where is it located?


“The reading of any work of literature is, of necessity, an individual and unique occurrence involving the mind and emotions of a particular reader.”


For at least 20 years or so, I have waited to read such an assertion, having always believed that standardized tests of reading comprehension were, to put it bluntly, ridiculous. How could an individual be assessed based upon his transformation of a piece of literature from a set of printed symbols to a situation with meaning? It always seemed that questions such as “What is the author’s main point?” were rife with the possibility for the reader to impose his own take on the main point. Or perhaps what it all comes down to is that I’m the kind of reader who is apt to taking over a text and imposing himself on it. Fowles, god love him, writes, “A sentences or paragraph in a novel will evoke a different image in each reader. This necessary co-operation between writer and reader, the one to suggest, the other to make concrete, is a privilege of verbal form” (in Rosenblatt, p. 15). Thank you, Mr. Fowles. Continue reading

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Letter to Achilles


Letter to Achilles

Hold fast,
breathe deeply,
tend to your armor, o warrior.

Your heart and I
will likely pummel you with waves of emotions,
soak you in stormy moods,
chill you with ice storms of thoughtless words,
and no doubt already have. Continue reading

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