An exploration of identity construction processes in relation to gender and race
Autobiographical narrative is “a selective reconstruction of the ruminative past” and an account that serves to explain, for the self and others, how the person came to be whom s/he is at present (McAdams, 2011) and thus can provide a rich source of data for sociolinguistic analysis and a speculation in the studies of identity construction processes and narrative combined. The present paper aims to investigate how narrators — through the subtle exploitation of tense patterns manage to reflect an integrated vision of their identity and evaluate these identity construction processes. To do this, I will a) develop a model of identity construction and evaluation processes in autobiographical narrative that is based upon the writings of McAdams (1985 & 2011) and Luyckx et al. (2011)’s identity model; b) closely examine how narrators subtly use tense patterns to combine the acts of narrative with moments of reflection and finally, c) relate these linguistic features of autobiographical narrative to the process of identity construction and evaluation. For this purpose, I use as data two speeches by two females each representing a different socio-cultural background: an ex-female slave from pre-civil war America and a Lebanese author in which both reflect upon their ruminative past and how they became who they are at present. The model and the analysis give empirical evidence that a close investigation of tense patterns in autobiographical narratives is an effective analytical and explanatory tool that shows how narrators reflect their evolving self, display, and evaluate identity on its individual, relational and collective levels and make a stance on social constructs such as race and gender.
Keywords: autobiographical narrative, identity construction and evaluation processes, critical discourse analysis, evolving self, stance-making
Published online: 30 June 2016
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