A language is everything you do : the reflective self in an autobiographical narrative

Kiriaki Massoura, M. Garner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article is the result of archival research that Massoura conducted in Toronto (April 2004) funded by both the British Association of Canadian Studies (a Molson Research Award) and Northumbria University. Atwood’s novel Surfacing (1972) has been a canonical text for Canadian Literature and attracted a number of different interpretations, such as environmentalist (the purity of the wilderness versus the corruption of the city), political (the USA-Canada relationship and its implications), and feminist (male-female power relationship). In this paper, Massoura employs a different approach to explicate this literary text, which takes the form of an autobiography by an unnamed female. The discussion combines literary approaches to autobiography (Massoura) with linguistic perspectives on first-person narratives (Garner). These two approaches are brought together to focus on the development of the self in narrative, using the social-psychological concept of Reflective Self Function (one’s capacity to understand the motives for and influences on his or her own behaviour and the behaviour of others). As the female narrator reflects on the experiences she has been through, she gradually discovers herself as a full human being who has attained reflective knowledge about herself, others, and her place in society. Both collaborators contributed equally to the article
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
JournalJournal of Language and Literature
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2005


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