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Discoursal Identity and Subject

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This chapter provides a theoretical ground for a text-analytical model introduced in Chap. 5. It is necessary to bring in the idea of discoursal identity and negotiations of identity for an understanding of what learning takes place in the course of working with creative writing for critical thinking. In order to trace learning in texts, an analytical model inspired by activity theory has been constructed. It is a context theory originating in organizational psychology, used for the analysis and interpretation of human action. The way discoursal identity can play out in a text is illustrated in an extended example, which in turn forms a basis for the presentation of writers’ positions in Chap. 6.


  • Discoursal identity
  • Text-analytical model
  • Negotiation
  • Learning

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Fig. 4.1
Fig. 4.2
Fig. 4.3


  1. 1.

    Discoursal identity originates from Gee (1990) and Goffman (1959 in Ivanič 1998: 22f.). The concept emphasizes the agency of individual people. Individuals are not determined by fate or by repressive social structures to give in to submissiveness. Instead they can “[…] react to the alternatives available to them, what Billig calls ‘argumentation’ […]. It is essential to theorize the role of ‘the individual’ because of the existence of alternatives […].” It is thus the dynamic relationship between an individual person and the collective, such as an organization at group level, that is in focus in the quotation. This is precisely what I intend to describe in the textual analyses in the project. Therefore, it is useful to restrict the term “position” to writing processes and writing contexts (Ivanič 1998), which is how the term has been used here.

  2. 2.

    In a study of educational writing, the Norwegian writing researcher Jon Smidt (2002) uses the term “position” as a way to study negotiations about writing between pupils and the teacher. Smidt also defines “position” in a somewhat more restricted sense, as positions within someone’s discoursal self , that is to say, the signs of discoursal self that can be found in a text and that Smidt (424) calls discoursal role .

  3. 3.

    In Sects. 4.3 and 4.4, I draw from Ivanič’s enlightening article from 2006.

  4. 4.

    Linell’s definition of the term “agency ” reads: “No activity type [a term from Linell’ s conversation analysis ] entirely encompasses its own meaning; circumstances not immediately tied to the [conversational] activity at hand affect meaning. In particular, the specific interlocutors engaged in the conversation, and their agency , contribute to meaning making. Agency is defined as the capability to act independently, and on one’s own initiative, be it as an individual or at group level. It is a capability to choose what actions to take, and to assume responsibility for the choices. Even the most trivial and routine-like activities of everyday practices are actively reiterated, at given instances, always with some little variation that calls for agency ” (Linell 2011: 90, my translation).

  5. 5.

    Gee (2008: 3.f, 155ff.), Gee writes Discourse with a capital D to represent discourses that permeate visions and imagination at macrocultural levels.


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Edberg, H. (2018). Discoursal Identity and Subject . In: Creative Writing for Critical Thinking. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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