Learning to Circumvent the Limitations of the Written-Self: The Rhetorical Benefits of Poetic Fragmentation and Internet ‘Catfishing’


  • Meghan Punschke Nolan St. John's University, USA




modern poets, fragmentation, catfish, self, poetics,


One of the most complex relationships we have to convey as humans is the written identification of that which we call the self. Despite the fact that we are multifaceted beings, contemporary lingual limitations often force the perception of the individual as a definitive entity through three fundamental normative communication standards: authority, authenticity and moral accountability. This essay examines the resulting paradoxes of writerly identity in relation to these constructs, and simultaneously proposes that the way to rectify such issues is to embrace disparate identity performances of writings past and present.

Using research from multiple disciplines, including sociolinguistics, literary theory, and composition studies, this essay asserts that there is a great deal to be learned from the practices of two unlikely genres of written communication— Specifically, it draws a parallel between current internet culture and poetics, as the phenomenon of “catfishing” (or creating and portraying complex fictional identities through online profiles) parallels earlier Modernist acts of fragmentation through poetry. Therefore, this paper argues that although their motives may differ considerably, both endeavours are useful rhetorical performances in that they provide a practical framework for circumventing common lingual identity traps. Ultimately, it suggests that these unconventional perspectives of the “impersonal” in and through writing can help us to (re)approach the methodology of lingual identification and those written performances of the self (professional and everyday) that may not properly serve us.


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Author Biography

  • Meghan Punschke Nolan, St. John's University, USA

    Meghan Punschke Nolan is a professor of composition and literature at St. John's University and Westchester Community College. She has an MA in English, an MFA in Creative Writing - Poetry, and is currently a doctoral candidate A.B.D. at St. John’s University. She has also been the editor of many literary and art journals throughout the years, including Oranges & Sardines, MiPoesias, Ocho, Shalom Neuman: 40 Years of Fusion Art and the 2013 edition of the St. John’s Humanities Review. Her poetry was nominated for a pushcart prize in 2007, and her first collection of poetry, Stratification, was published by BlazeVOX Books in 2008.


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Learning to Circumvent the Limitations of the Written-Self: The Rhetorical Benefits of Poetic Fragmentation and Internet ‘Catfishing’. (2015). Persona Studies, 1(1). https://doi.org/10.21153/ps2015vol1no1art431