Little research has been conducted on the professional identities of L2 writing scholars despite the increasing number of researchers, teachers, and graduate students identifying themselves as L2 writing specialists. While the (re)construction of L2 writing scholars’ professional identities have real consequences for their career, the challenges and opportunities resulting from their work, situated in several related disciplines, have neither been explicitly nor adequately discussed. Through an analytic autoethnography (Anderson, 2006), this study examines the cases of two L2 writing faculty as they (re)construct their professional identities within their institutions and broader academic communities. Using identity in practice as its theoretical framework, the study provides a rich, in-depth account of how the focal L2 writing scholars continue to negotiate and reconcile their professional identities among adjacent fields such as applied linguistics, TESOL, composition, and education. Results reveal that L2 writing scholars (re)construct their professional identities by negotiating their identity positions within their institutional and disciplinary contexts, by defining the boundaries of their professional identities through community membership, and by participating in multiple academic communities. Drawing on these results, the study considers how L2 writing scholars’ professional identity (re)construction reflects the development of L2 writing as a field/profession.
Results in L2 Journal Articles
L2 writers likely perceive “good academic writing” as impersonal (Hyland, 2002; Shen, 1989; Tang & John, 1999). Yet research has shown that every linguistic and rhetorical choice that a writer makes—including, the presence/absence and different forms of self-mention—potentially reveals the writer’s authorial identity (Ivanič, 1998). The dialogic nature of academic writing, as manifested in strategic self-mentions, has remained overshadowed in L2 writing pedagogy by other linguistic issues. This article draws attention to this gap in research: specifically, I report on the findings of a corpus-driven descriptive inquiry into authorial identity, operationalized as the use of first-person pronouns in a corpus of 126 argumentative research papers written by students enrolled in first-year L2 composition courses. The study examines how L2 writers practice self-mention, comparing the frequencies of first-person pronouns in the argumentative corpus with both a “parent” corpus, which contains other genres produced by the same group of writers, and published research analyzed by Hyland (2001). I also define and characterize the five qualitatively coded and quantitatively measured rhetorical functions of “I” used in the corpus (i.e., reporter, architect, narrator of personal experiences, conceder, and opinion-holder). L2 writers in this study were found to use self-mention more frequently than published authors. However, L2 writers employed self-reference less frequently in their argumentative essays than for other genres. Their argumentative texts reproduced a narrative tone, as indicated by the lower ratio of the subjective/objective case of the first-person singular pronoun. A comparison of rhetorical functions reveals that nearly 50% of “I”s in the corpus function as a “narrator of personal experiences.” In light of the findings, I propose pedagogical suggestions aimed at more effectively socializing college-level L2 composition students into academic discourse communities.