In the entirety of my writing, I had never given much thought toward the process of writing as anything more than an assignment. That was up until my sophomore year of high school when I was struggling to determine my strong points in terms of academia and areas that I needed to work at the most. I had always been creative and enjoyed bringing information together to formulate a nice thesis and prove points; however, none of this enjoyment landed on the writing aspect of things. During my sophomore year my mind started to change when I was introduced to satire, Rogerian arguments, and the concept of human nature.
As a curious child with an identity conflict, I had always been curious as to what makes humans tick and what drives them to enact certain mannerisms. I always looked at the world from an outside perspective because, in essence, I didn’t even know who I was. At the same time, I saw society as a lack luster guideline on how to conform to everyone else. It annoyed me when people exploited difference among individuals as a negative aspect. For example, I had always felt a part of me bothered when I saw news reports of murder, genocide and war all because of differing views on religion or ideals in general. It wasn’t really until English that I was able to pull all my thoughts and emotions together to put a finger on the functioning of the world and understanding of my own human species. In reading, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Martian Chronicles, and The Watchmen, my whole view on writing started to change. As high school progressed into college, I began to think of writing assignments as detective work and a chance to voice my opinion as well as compile discrete truth about certain topics to see what others apart from myself thought of my ideas. As I began to think of writing as more of a hobby rather than busy work, my work ethic dramatically increased. My biggest progressions however, came to me this year as a part of an English 112 course at Miami University. The theme of the course was perfect for my progression as a writer, as the theme focused on gender, identity and social construction. As I wrote the Inquiries throughout the semester, I effectively shaped my own identity and enjoyed challenging myself. In doing so, I looked to seek acceptance from the teacher for my hard work and to be finally recognized for something that I put a thorough amount of effort into, unlike that of science or mathematics.
The first Inquiry that we had to write in the class was a close reading of a text that helped to shape our understanding of identity and character in society. I immediately had to think back to what made me into who I am today and why that specific text I chose would accurately reflect my shaping of identity. This sparked my interest since I have been asking the very same question to myself for years. In essence, this assignment really challenged me to dig deep and to figure out who I really was. After much deliberation, I finally found a movie script that accurately depicted who I grew up to be, as well as exploiting gender roles as simply a concept followed by society rather than personal opinions. The film script from the movie, What Women Want, featuring Mel Gibson effectively reflects a man who grew up conforming to society until he realizes that he doesn’t have to conform; rather he can function based upon what he thinks the right way to act is. Through this script and assignment, I explain how the characters self realization reflects my own in the sense:
In relation to my identity prior to viewing this film, I followed much of that attitude as that of an alpha male. I wasn’t necessarily as much of a jerk, as I was unaware. I was so ignorant in thinking that men were supposed to be dominant to females, that I often forgot their opinions mattered; as morbid as that sounds. However, as a young boy I still had a lot to learn about females as well as other people including what it really means to be the “knight”.
Then I realized that “I finally understood both what society sees and creates gender to be through stereotypes and what the reality of ‘gender’ is.” In the portion of the film that helped shape who I am now, I learned that there is a difference between “gender” and sex. In order to treat women as equal and respect them not just as “females”, but as human-beings who deserve nothing less than common ground with said, “males”. Of all the assignments, I’d have to say that this one started to get me thinking critically about what I as actually doing in college. My writing shows my progression as a viewer of a film realizing my own identity by accepting my outside influences as I grew up and matured. Before I had seen the movie and began to perform a close reading, I had gained all my moral values from my parents and the surrounding atmosphere. Based on the way society treated me and my own response, my identity was ultimately transformed into a conformer. When I started to look at the world from an outside perspective, however, it became apparent to me that it is not necessary to conform, but to understand that our identities will shape based upon how we want them to be shaped through choice and free-will. It was through the realization of Mel Gibson’s character in the film that I, too, made the choice not to conform to society but fight it and shape my own identity.
The second inquiry was my personal favorite, as it allowed me to not only further explore my identity as a person and identity of others, but it allowed me to pool together information about identity that I had previously thought and effectively come up with an idea on why and how identities are shaped in the first place. In finding what shaped the identity of others, I think I had ultimately began to discover my own in this inquiry. Out of all the literary pieces that we had created this year, I believe this one to be the most important and revealing. In this assignment, we had to further perform another close reading on a text and identify how identity and gender is shaped throughout and in works of literature; however, at the same time, we had to come up with an argument based upon our findings as to what shaped identities. This project is one that I can honestly say that I went all out on. I truly felt the most challenged with this assignment and in effect went out of my way to design my “perfect” paper.
The text I decided to closely study was the graphic novel, The Watchmen, by Alan Moore. The argument that I came up with about the shaping of human identity for this inquiry was that identity in each individual is based upon both a “fake self” as created through society and an “original self” as one desires outside of what is expected of them. This topic was not clear to many as first and seemed confusing even to myself. However, I took on the project with the greatest of confidence and the biggest risk. I wasn’t completing this project for a grade; rather, I was completing it for myself. Even after completing the assignment I had felt that this piece of literature was my most meaningful and purposed paper that I had ever written. Everything that I had learned from the entirety of my life and everything I had thought to stand for and question comes to life in this assignment.
My thesis came into play when I had seen on campus how much Greek life transformed the people it won over. Even others had referred to the females who attended Miami University as “Miami Girls” when and if they joined a sorority. Then, once involved, those who conform to Greek life all walk and talk as a uniform voice and body—like a “family”. Those girls who join sororities start to act like their fellow sisters; however, the rest of the world acts in much of the same way. All military staff enacts a certain degree of similarity as their life becomes shaped by military tradition and customs. Their lifestyle changes as they are required to carry out their assigned duties regardless of personal desire. In civilian life, different family traditions and customs must be conformed to as a member of that caste, regardless of personal desire. In America for example, all youth are expected to attend college, get a degree, and support a family to keep alive the family name regardless of personal preference. Following customs simply “shapes” us. This project ultimately let me try and explain this idea to whoever would listen or was curious about my arguments.
Everything that I learned and every experience I had gained in writing English assignments throughout my schooling was reflected in this assignment in allowing me to research such a topic. It was through, The Watchmen, that I explained how I perceived the world. The characters that were not actually super heroes, but were merely ordinary individuals, shaped their identity based upon who they wanted to be and what they wanted to accomplish through the use of a costumed hero identity. The costumed identity reflected the individuals “original identity” before returning to their normal life or their “fake identity”. One of my well-defined arguments that reflected the defending of my thesis with support and that reflected my overall ability to effectively support my ideas can be seen in the following statements:
Through the assuming of costumed hero identities to, “protect them from themselves,” as The Comedian states, their identity is ultimately shaped around their desire to help save humanity. In our modern society, this can be seen through our nationalism and everyone’s sudden desire to help each other. This acquiring of a “fake” identity ultimately reflects our “original” identity as described by Filiciak and comes out in times of despair. Then our “fake” self essentially takes over once society pressures us to return to our current lives “. Again, this statement reflects both my maturation as a person as well as my growth as writer, being able to effectively state my arguments and effectively back them up with substantial thoughts and relevant works from other authors.
The third inquiry was a satirical multimodal project based upon a previously read work of literature. This portion of English class allowed me to further explore my abilities as a writer and to openly poke fun at society where I believed it to be imperfect. While the world works in separate portions of powers, checks and balances, I believe it fails to realize that individuality comes with a price and that should intelligence be taken advantage of there could be the creation of a better, more efficient system that could not only bring unity among people, but help save the world that we call our home. Unfortunately, human ignorance and lack of education prevents this from being accomplished. English and writing in general has shaped me to think in an outside manner and look at the world holistically. The satirical writing has especially taught me to look beyond simple texts for the meaning that authors may or may not have implied. For example, I performed a close reading on the film, Jurassic Park and discovered not only a story of dinosaurs, but the message that when humanity acts in self interest rather than for the benefit of all, perfection cannot exist in an imperfect world.
Writing all of these inquiries for this semester’s English class effectively opened my mind as both a writer and a student. I will forever view the world in a holistic manner and think critically about topics at hand before making one decision over the other. I realize that I myself cannot perform any action that alone will stand strong enough to change the actions and opinions of every human being on the planet. However, through my learning of being open-minded I can spread my voice and help others effectively discover the shaping of their own identity and hope to get others to unify in looking respectively upon the world rather than for self-interested mannerisms. My way of writing and approaches have definitely changed and can be seen in all my writing. A clear progression in ability to write can be seen through essays I’ve written in high school and those I have written in college. I greatly value my education here at Miami University for without it, I feel I could not be shaped into the person I am today as it has given me opportunity outside of traditional society to choose the paths and careers that I effectively want to follow, rather than what’s being asked of told of me to do.
An author’s reflection by,
Timothy Edward Enos
Editorial Team’s Note
One premises of ENG 112 is that the modes of inquiry taught through textual analysis are not just academic, but can be, and often are, applied throughout the public sphere and even in our personal lives. In Enos’ reflections, he shows how his composition courses in college have helped him develop a “holistic” sense of writing. Throughout his narrative, we see him using text and inquiry to think about issues import to him – not just writing about such issues. His ENG 112 class gave him tools to think and write about gender and identity in more complex ways, enabling him to connect back to issues and texts he had already engaged in his life. It is clear when reading Enos’ reflection that this thinking does not end with his ENG 112 portfolio; rather, his holistic view of writing allows him to continue his inquiry throughout college and beyond.