Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Growing crystals

How does the way we record and recollect an event shape not only others’ experience of it, but our own?
How does narrative capture experience? Does it matter if what is captured in words differs from the reality of the experience?
How can subjectivity be a productive source for research?

Imagine this: a darkened lecture theatre, filled with year 10 English students, a flickering projection screen and a teacher: me. Z stands at the front, her short film fills the room. A house creaks. A mother dies inside as her daughter leaves home. A forlorn music box tinkles. The walls of the house peel away, piece by piece. The mother is left alone in a vacant field. Her home disappears, like her daughter.
Inside: my heart rushes. Blood flows. Beauty. Emotion. Connection. Wonder.

How do you share emotional experiences like these in ways that are meaningful and productive?

I want to write a piece about research and narrative, focusing particularly on my teaching and learning experiences that have involved/been shaped by unconventional/multimodal narratives. The questions that I find myself asking about narrative and meaning have both led to, and stem from, my and my students’ explorations into narrative during the past eighteen months or so in particular. I want to write about, and share, my students’ Blake hypertexts, their multimodal poems, their creative re-visions. But this is not the end: this is a means. I know that narrative, and writing in particular, will continue to shape the way I think about and make sense of my teaching experiences. So, I want to keep getting better at it. But more than this: I want to make a contribution to my profession through this. This is what I want to write about. What constitutes practitioner research that is self-reflexive, self-critical, self-devised? How can it be framed, assessed, shaped, directed? What is its value, its worth? For the practitioner and/or for wider audiences?

I’ve written about these issues before in other ways and places but I think I need to revisit them. I’m not there yet. I am keen to do this by exploring and applying the writing of Laurel Richardson, who I have admired and wanted to draw on for some time. I went to lecture of hers some time back and it was fantastic, and I’m eagerly awaiting a couple of her texts from Amazon: ‘Writing Strategies’ and ‘Fields of Play’.

In her lecture, she described writing as not a ‘mopping up’ activity at the end of the research process, but a research activity in itself. Which isn’t really anything new of course, but the way that she explored the place of narrative in research was particularly appealing to me. Now, I’m looking back over my jottings that I recorded while I was listening:

Simplistic fiction/non-fiction divide no longer exists: there is only narrative.

New ways of knowing are opening up the ‘academy’ to others (good!)

Five postmodern writing strategies: Contextualisation, personal narration (‘self’ is active, thinking, linked to the research process), reflexivity, alternative writing formats (poetry, finger-painting!), collaboration (yep)…

Demystify authority planes (this includes YOU)

Writing against the current put me against the wall. I should have been writing in my current. Making my own way, rather than simply writing against what is already there.

Group of people writing on the pages of a text. Burning, painting, annotating, etc. Becoming not just a reader of the book, but a creator of it.

Artistic, aesthetic ways of thinking and knowing.

I will never reach a destination.

Genre: found poetry

Whenever you are attempting to do something different, it has to be aesthetically worthy, as well as research worthy.

The personal narrative has to connect with a larger sociocultural frame.

Creative synthesis

The crystal metaphor: a growing, physical form. Multiple facets. What you see is how you look. Different ways of knowing, the same material.

Once you can speak another ‘language’, it doesn’t stop you from knowing the first one. It only makes it richer.

Anyway, hopefully I’ll be able to start growing crystals out of these fragments soon. I’d be keen to hear from anyone who can offer any other suggested readings about narrative and research, particularly unconventional narrative, before I move much further along the meaning making process.

No comments: