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Dr. Mary Ann Cain
Indiana University - Purdue University Fort Wayne
Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne
IPFW Student Research and Creative Endeavor Symposium Award Winner
Composition studies recognizes the power of writing to reshape and clarify an individual’s vision of who they are and what they value. Defining self is an individual and lifelong process that is not performed in isolation nor in a single event. Identifying the values, beliefs and culture that shape how you define self is a process of negotiation. Developed largely in narrative, oral, and life history studies, the careful study of how individuals represent themselves in writing opens windows to the soul of self-identification.Building off the qualitative practices of autoethnographic research, and placed within interpretive frameworks supplied by a Composing the Self course, I began to re-visit my own personal archive of nearly 30 years of journals to discover myself anew. My auto-ethnographic study of reflexive journal writing employs methodological practices to discover how personal identity building and counter-story creation occur in “ordinary writing.” As I began to examine the documents as substantive personal recollections of self-representation, a pattern of countery-story narrative emerged. The immediate and naturally imposed identifier of family name and heritage became the first powerful dynamic of self. Over time the connection to family and association to values that I had not consciously chose became a master narrative that I needed to negotiate. Writing allowed me to collect the words of others, sort through them, categorize them based on personal value, and then determine if they would be adopted, adapted, or alienated in my own renaming. My journals and the reflexive process of writing gave me the agency to respond to the imposed perspective of who I was supposed to be as delegated by family and who I desired to become. Journals, or diaries, are often categorized within larger discourses of memoir writing as flippant, narrative “storying,” or “discardable” (Finders 1997, Sinor 2002). The intrinsic value of analyzing journals as archived personal records beyond such diminishing categorical studies is the theoretical base for examining my own writing now as a burgeoning scholar in the field of composition studies. I have discovered that journal writing through life refutes the cultural presumption of flippant diaries written by emotionally unstable, young, twitter-patted girls; my journals carved out a literal and literary ‘safe-space’ in which to reflexively look at my life in process. This study presents the correlation of family cultural identity and self-identification in writing as a re-vision of journals as literary site for individual discovery of identity. Specific coding for identifiers within my journals revealed how writing is the ability to name not only the powers that pressure personal development, but also to rename the value of self. Seen as artifacts in a personal archive, each journal pieced together the puzzle of not only who I saw myself to be, but how I negotiated my pre-determined role in a family culture. This study further claims that identity building is a personal and individual type of activism in writing.
English Language and Literature | Linguistics
Button, Nancy, "Journal Writing as Identity Formation and Counter Story" (2015). 2015 IPFW Student Research and Creative Endeavor Symposium. 12.