Implications of ‘Success Narratives’ on Writer Identity

Author: Lelania Sperrazza (American University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates)
Speaker: Lelania Sperrazza
Topic: Narrative and Metanarrative
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2020 General Session


This post-structural study explores how multilingual students at an American-style university in the UAE construct their narrative identities as academic writers in English. I use a case-study approach on three first-year writing students by examining written narratives about their past, present, and imagined-future experiences as writers. The study uses McAdams’ (1985, 1993, 1996) life story model and Goffman’s (1959) theory of self-presentation to explore the participants’ writer identities based on specific narrative forms reflected in the past-present-future story arcs of their narrative identity constructions, such as the hero narrative form, the rebel narrative form, and the victim narrative form. The participants perceived a compulsion to present themselves as ‘successful’ in their narratives, thus highlighting the thematic significance of ‘fear of failure’ throughout all three participants’ narrative responses. The study reveals the challenges that can arise when educational practices in the UAE demand mastery of academic discourse in English without considering the potential impact on their perceptions of self-competence. Therefore, the study suggests a need for more work that examines the complexity of ‘success’ on writer identity in the UAE.

Keywords: Narrative identity, writer identity,success narratives, multilingual students