A Modernist Aesthetic for Narratives of Research
In summary, the modernist aesthetic may be thought of as embodying a sort of cognitive modesty on the part of the writer, a recognition that the text is both incomplete and disunified, presenting a tentative set of possibilities, rather than an achieved and final understanding. My main argument, then, is that it is the modernist aesthetic (rather than the realistic aesthetic), which is helpful in making the link between reporting research and constructing a narrative, i.e. in addressing the political problem of the textual authority of researchers in relation to the supposedly authentic voices of those whose lives they describe, and thus formulating research as an emancipatory project.
Winter,R. Educational Action Research, Volume 10, Number 1, 2002, Truth or Fiction: problems of validity and authenticity in narratives of action research
Eve – ever the diligent researcher, found this for me. The whole paper is worth a read. The idea of the greater authenticity of modernist fiction in constructing narrative is one that makes total sense to me. It’s ages since I used fiction in my reflections and I was stunned yesterday by how powerful the insights it brought me were.
The story made sense of my choice of topic for my final year action research in a way that took me by surprise. By rediscovering my voice, or at least one of them :-), I felt energised and able to once more make progress. The feelings of being exhausted and overwhelmed by the task of defending and validating my research are clearing away.
Now I need to dig deeper, to draw out some of the learning from the reflection. I need to do this gently though, I’ve no desire to rip apart my carefully crafted story.
Maybe I’ll start with the story of the story…
Four nights in the past week I dreamed the same dream. I was making an embroidery, beatiful coloured threads sewn on fine white linen. Each time I woke up feeling awful, there was something wrong with my embroidery. It just wasn’t right. My stitches were clumsy or I couldn’t find the right colour. When I woke it was with a sense of dismay and panic.
Yesterday morning when I woke my panic was replaced by a feeling of energy and a single thought. “The Classroom Displays Blog is a quilt” I got up quickly and as I’m on holiday sat straight down at my computer. I took some screenshots of the blog and dragged them into Omnigraffle. I made them into something sort of close to a tumbling blocks quilt. Strangely satisfying.
Then I dragged my old JellyQuilts out of my FirstClass home page folder and put them at the top of a blog post. Then I started to write, sure where the story was going but not how it would get there.
I worked on it all morning oblivious to time. Andy called me up in a chat at just the right moment in the story to provide the link to the JellyArt Movie. I watched it and remembered how creative all that stuff had been. But this time instead of being grumpy about where it all went part of me just thought “OK, let’s take some of that back! It was really only me that was stopping me.”
So there it is – the story of the woman who made quilts. My authentic voice. In it I hear the echoes of Angela Carter and LeGuin, my heroines of old. It’s not great Art. It’s like the quilts, simple and effective, it will keep me warm on cold nights and protect my dreams.