Texts are contextualized¡Xtied to times, tied to places, and tied to the people who live in those times and places. This dissertation is based on a study of writing and identity set at Catholic High School in Pointe Coupee, Louisiana. For their senior English class, the six young women participating in the study produced a number of pieces of writing of various types, contrasting in genre, length, content, and register. These kinds of writing represent varying discourse practices, and it was within these practices that the young women positioned themselves or were positioned by influences in their social context.
The genres produced by the young women in my study were, for the most part, associated with the familiar school genre, the essay, which is common in English classes and in academic discourse. Essay types were the analytical literary essay, the problem-solution essay (or argument), the process essay, the descriptive essay, and the informative report. The genres also included creative writing, comprising stories and fables for all as well as poetry for some individuals. There were two kinds of writing explicitly addressing experiences and events in individuals' lives: personal narratives, which are a common form in school, and autobiographies, which are less common. One student wrote meditations. In addition, students kept journals, but these had few similarities to journals that people keep in the world outside of school.
The inquiry revealed convergence as well as tension among various positions associated with gender, race, class, place, and religion and also showed evidence of recurring themes and conflicts in writers¡¦ bodies of work. Also apparent, through the analyses, was an influence from genre, writers assuming a particular position when writing in a particular genre and not in others. In addition, there was some evidence of intertextual history„odirect connections of texts with prior texts a writer had written. Most interestingly, the various writings showed the students to be dealing with future ¡§possibilities¡¨ as well as present and past ¡§realities¡¨ in their own lives, not only in writing that is considered to be focused on the self, such as personal narrative, autobiography, and poetry, but also in writing that is not considered to be self-focused, such as literary essays. To summarize, the study shows the multiplicity and flexibility of writing identity even in bodies of work produced for school.