Although writing plays a huge role in working through identity, identity can exist without writing; however, writing cannot exist without identity. Nonetheless, writing is a way that people can express and sort through their identities. In addition, having varying identities leads to versatile writers. Roozen states, “Through writing, writers come to develop and perform identities in relation to the interests, beliefs, and values of the communities they engage with” (50). With every new experience, people’s identities transform, as identity is fluid. Roozen goes on to say, “Our identities are the ongoing, continually under-construction product of our participation (51). Writing gives people a chance to grow into and reflect on these new aspects of their identity. Writers have been utilizing writing as a way to discuss fluidity in identity for years. Walt Whitman touches on identity in Leaves of Grass, specifically section 4 of “Song of Myself.” Whitman writes, ” These come to me days and nights and go from me again, / But they are not the Me myself” (194). This line emphasizes how there can be various versions or identities of him, but who he is displaying may not be who he truly is. Utilizing writing as form of working through identity is one of the most fascinating and underrated (in my opinion) about writing. It has the power to allow other people to see other sides of you, as well as allow you to grasp a better understanding of who you are.
Identity in writing is something that I plan on incorporating into the classroom. Just as prior blog posts have discussed the importance of understanding audience, it is important to understand who you are as a writer and the identity that you would like to incorporate into specific pieces of writing. It is important to remember that “each writer is a combination of the collective set of different dimensions and traits and features that make us human” (Yancey 52). Keeping the viewpoints of others is crucial when writing certain types of papers. Villanueva argues that “all writing is inflected by power dynamics shaped by ideologies, writers must become aware of the how and those identities and ideologies are represented in their writing (57). Not everyone agrees on topics, especially sensitive topics that argumentative papers are often written about. Although it is not necessary to censor yourself as a writer to please everyone, keeping in mind that not everyone agrees with your viewpoints is vital, especially as a professor. Scott discuses some tensions that could take place. Some of these”ideological tensions” include saying “climate change or global warming,” and “‘illegals’ or ‘undocumented'” (Scott 49). Additionally, varying viewpoints can be difficult to decipher because “there is a risk in identity politics of reducing cultures, races, ethnicities, genders, sexualities, or class relations to their ‘natures'” (Villanueva 57). In my World Literature class, we discussed books that had controversial subjects. One of these conversations led us to the topic of abortion. Needless to say, not everyone in the classroom agreed upon this topic, so there was a discussion. It was a way to get everyone communicating, rather than arguing. I have also had the opportunity to discuss controversial topics in my Literary Criticism class, or as everyone called it, “Lit Crit.” Through the various theories and frameworks, we covered topics in the classroom that not everyone was as comfortable discussing, such as queer theory. This turned into a learning opportunity and another chance for people to have an informed discussion. It is important to be considerate when writing in a way that involves identity types. “Why We Need Controversy in our Classrooms” by Rebecca Recco discusses the importance of covering uncomfortable topics with students.
Some of the greatest pieces of writing make people uncomfortable. Being uncomfortable while reading a text means that you are learning more and thinking beyond what you are use to. It is important as both readers and writers to challenge yourself. While keeping the audience in mind is important, is important to have an aspect of the audience and yourself in your writing. It doesn’t matter if you are writing about a personal topic or a common, controversial debate, stepping out of your comfort zone is a way to evoke a response and results in effective writing. Keith Horton discusses the importance of writing out of the comfort zone in his article, “Writing from a Place of Discomfort.” This type of writing also allows the writer to grow into who they are as a writer, person, and a multitude of other identities. Identity clearly plays a huge role in writing, from shaping who the person is, affecting how arguments are stated, and helping a person figure out their multitude of identities. While a person can have an identity without writing, writing plays a fundamental role in recognizing identity, and writing cannot exist without identity.
- Fleckstein, Wyatt. and Button Poetry.“Labels (CUPSI 2014)” YouTube, 24 June 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JWsId7od794 Accessed 12 September 2019.
- Horton, Keith. “Writing from a Place of Discomfort.” The Writing Cooperative, 12 March 2019, https://writingcooperative.com/writing-from-a-place-of-discomfort-f96c170c3871.
- Mambrol, Nasrullah. “Queer Theory.” Literary Criticism and Theory, 4 March 2019, https://literariness.org/2019/03/04/queer-theory/
- Recco, Rebecca. “Why We Need Controversy in Our Classrooms” EdSurge, 17 January 2018, https://www.edsurge.com/news/2018-01-17-why-we-need-controversy-in-our-classrooms.
- Roozen, Kevin. “Writing is Linked to Identity.” Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies, Classroom Edition. Ed. Linda Adler-Kassner and Elizabeth Wardle, Utah State University Press, 2016, 50-52.
- Scott, Tony. “Writing Enacts and Creates Identities and Ideologies” Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies, Classroom Edition. Ed. Linda Adler-Kassner and Elizabeth Wardle, Utah State University Press, 2016, 52-54.
- Villanueva, Victor. “Writing Provides a Representation of Ideologies and Identities” Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies, Classroom Edition. Ed. Linda Adler-Kassner and Elizabeth Wardle, Utah State University Press, 2016, 57-58
- Whitman, Walt. “Song of Myself.” Leaves of Grass, First and “Death Bed” Editions. Ed. George Stade and Karen Karbinger, Barnes and Noble Classics, 2004, 190-251.
- Yancey, Kathleen Blake. “Writers’ histories, Processes, and Identities Vary” Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies, Classroom Edition. Ed. Linda Adler-Kassner and Elizabeth Wardle, Utah State University Press, 2016, 35-37.
7 thoughts on “Find Yourself in Writing”
The idea of great writing being able to make you uncomfortable really resonated with me. Growth (both within writing itself and personally) can only be done when you are challenged and are able to critically think. I loved the idea of stepping out of your comfort zone and asking our students to do the same. What do you think is the best way to approach this? Clearly, there are boundaries (and rightfully so) when asking students to questions their own ideologies and values, but what exactly does that look like in the classroom?
Also, if you haven’t heard of them already, Yes Theory on youtube is all about seeking discomfort and growing from those experiences. Your post really reminded me of them: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3EjdcwDAqI Watch at your own risk; they’re addicting.
Conner, Maybe students could list some hotly debated topics then get paired up based on their preferred topics and views (gross, I know, but bare with me). The students would get paired with someone with an opposing view on the same topic. They could have a discussion on the topic with their viewpoint, then the student would have to write a paper based on the P.O.V. and argumentative points of their partner. This would give students the chance to explore a different point of view in addition to the challenge of writing a paper that goes against what they believe…double the challenge plus growth in writing and discussion! That is a rough idea, so I am very open for feedback.
Also, I have never heard of Yes, Theory, but they sound interesting, and I am in the middle of watching the one you linked right now! Thanks for sharing!
While I agree with you that identities are continually changing, and also that a person needs to be taken out of their comfort zones, don’t you think that a freshmen writing course may be too soon to ask students to “write from a place of discomfort?” This is only my opinion, but it seems to me that most of these students are just looking to get the fundamentals of what is going to be expected from them in their writing as they proceed through college and beyond. Have you considered becoming a professor in a higher course level so that you can begin to push these ideas of discomfort to those who are more ready to have those boundaries pushed. I do feel that this area of discomfort is necessary for identities to be fully formed, but are freshmen only beginning to find their voice?
Donna, while I can see your point, I think it would be great for freshman to begin this type of writing right away. Throughout high school, they are flooded with writing techniques that they are told to forget once they enter college (five-paragraph essay, “in conclusion,” restating the thesis exactly, etc”), so why should students learn to write one way in a comfort zone only to be pushed to the extreme a few years later. I think that students should be faced with the challenge immediately; plus, I think uncomfortable writing is more fun to write and interesting to read.
One idea that you touch on that really resonates with me is that teaching writing should embrace the concept of identity in its pedagogy. When you say, “various theories and frameworks [. . .] turned into a learning opportunity [for my class],” it speaks to the importance of exposure to different identities and ideologies in the learning process as a way to stimulate discussion, expression, and exploration beyond one’s comfort zone.
Thank you. At the time, it may have seemed frustrating, but looking back, I am glad that those conversations took place.