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Narrative, literacy and the quest for self: Tango through the dark Dunlop, Rishma 1994-02-24

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NARRATIVE, LITERACY AND THE QUEST FOR SELFTANGO THROUGH THE DARKbyRISHMA DUNLOPB. A. The University of Alberta, 1982A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OFTHE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OFMASTER OF ARTSinTHE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES(Department of Language Education)We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standardTHE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIAFebruary, 1994© Rishma Dunlop, 1994In presenting thisthesis in partial fulfilmentof the requirements for anadvanceddegree at the Universityof British Columbia,I agree that the Library shallmake itfreely available for referenceand study. I furtheragree that permission forextensivecopying of this thesisfor scholarly purposes maybe granted by the head ofmydepartment or by hisor her representatives.It is understood thatcopying orpublication of this thesisfor financial gainshall not be allowed withoutmy writtenpermission.(Signature)Department of /4gThe University of BritishColumbiaVancouver, CanadaDate7. /7;VIfDE-6 (2/88)Abstract (ii)This research explores the development of a manuscript of poetry (a creative textwithin text) titled Tango Through the Dark, considering lived experiences throughqualitative, autobiographical methodology. The manuscript’s autobiographicalapproach is based on the conviction that the understanding of self is a precondition ofand essential to the understanding of others. Therefore, the process of education liesnot in the observer, but in the articulation of lived experience. As teacher and writer,the process of divestment or self-reflection allows an enrichment of experience in thereconstruction of the writer’s world. It is my conviction that pedagogical endeavours, inparticular the teaching of literature and the quest for literacy, need to be grounded inthe personal as a starting point in the reconstructing process that is essential betweenstudents, teachers and written texts.The discourses in this text, post-modern in their play with traditional scholarly writing,are informed by and interwoven with imaginative writings of authors in the fields ofliterature, curriculum and literary theory, post-structuralism, phenomenology,existentialism, and feminist thought. The narrative constructions become modes ofwriting that challenge established classifications and separations of disciplines anddiscourses, enhancing the understanding of the texture of lived experience. Textscreate meaning in the world, not fixed meaning but new meanings, responding toBarthes’ challenge: “étonne-moi.” The interconnection of texts becomes a passage tothe teaching self as the particularities of writing, teaching, and knowing the self, andthe tensions between public and private persona are explored. In my writing and in myconsiderations of texts, I am inspired by Barthes’ comparisons of “teaching to play,reading to eros, writing to seduction” (quoted in Sontag, 1982,pp.xvi - xvii). Thequest is to discover scholarship that exemplifies difference, emerging from “an ethosof eros and empathy” (Christ, 1987, p.58).(iii)Table of ContentsAbstract iiTable of Contents iiiAcknowledgements vIntroduction 1Writing the Self and the Quest for Voice 2Discourses: Writing Autobiographically 4Tango Through the Dark: A Book of Poetiy 18Part One: The Waltzes of Eros 20Tango Through the Dark 21Isolde 23Carrefour 26Lady Murasaki 29Interlude 31Part Two: Bodyreading: Mapping the Heart33Bodyreading 34Lunar Eros 36Elegy for Sarajevo 199338Part Three: Dancing Girls: Mothers and Daughters 40Aubade to a Newborn 41Child44Sanctuary 46Nocturne 49Cradlesong 51Slow Dancing 1972 53Sofa, Raf Kumari, Sofa 55Part Four: The Choreography of Marriage 57The Wedding 59Ornaments of the Heart 64Sweet Talk 66You andl 69Part Five: Socratic Caesura 71On Teaching Poetty 72Business English I 12: Revolutionaty Blues 75The Professor 77The Claim of Philia 79Writing Life as Teacher and Poet 84References 97(iv)(v)AcknowledgementsI would like to acknowledge the contributions of the following individuals whosesupport and encouragement have enriched my discourses and strengthened thewriting and the autobiographical explorations in this work:Dr. Stephen Carey, an invaluable advisor who has guided, supported and encouragedme throughout my program of studies and this research, enabling me to explore thewriting voice and the teaching self.Dr. Carl Leggo, poet, writer, teacher, whose voice encourages, accepts and welcomesparadoxes and the written expression of lived experience in ways that challengetraditional boundaries of scholarship--an adventurer who shares my writer’s heart.Dr. Wendy Sutton, who also shared enthusiastically in the adventure of writing theself, who conveyed to me the vast possibilities inherent in qualitative research andwho expressed her conviction that I would discover a voice of my own.To Stephen, Carl and Wendy, I am deeply grateful.Dr. Ted Aoki and Dr. William Pinar, whose research and teaching voices haveinspired and informed my work.Nancy Holmes, who commented on many of these poems and contributed greatly tothe refining and editing process of the poetry text.Narinder and Kartar Singh, my parents, and Catherine Dunlop, my mother-in-law,integral to my narratives, who have supported my endeavours.Jim Dunlop, my husband, and our daughters, Cara and Rachel, whose love, supportand unfailing enthusiasm have sustained me in the writing of this text.INarrative, Literacy and the Quest for SelfTango Through the DarkAll my writing--and yours--is autobiographical.Donald M. MurrayIntroductionThis research explores the development of a manuscript of poetry (a creativetext within text) titled Tango Through the Dark, which considers lived experiencesthrough qualitative, autobiographical methodology. The manuscript’s autobiographicalapproach is based on the conviction that the understanding of self is a precondition ofand essential to the understanding of others. Therefore, the process of education liesnot in the observer, but in the articulation of the lived experience. As teacher andwriter, the process of divestment or self-reflection allows an enrichment of experiencein the reconstruction of the writer’s world. Similarly, it is my conviction thatpedagogical endeavours, in particular, the teaching of literature and the quest forliteracy, need to be grounded in the personal as a starting point inthe reconstructingprocess that is essential between students, teachers and written texts.This research seeks to address curriculum in the sense of the expressioncurrere, the Latin root referred to in the research of William Pinar (1992). Pinar haswritten extensively about the role of the self in educational experience. Currerebecomes a method for the study of curriculum which explores the role of the self ineducational experience. In this method, students and teachers engage simultaneously2in developing their individual selves through autobiography. In the development ofthis method, Pinar explores the stages of currere: the regressive, the progressive, theanalytical and the synthetical (1976). The race, or course, as metaphor forcurriculum/lifeworld asks us to consider the runners, how the race is run, and thenature of the race itself. Informed by phenomenology and existentialism, the effort toexplore an authentic self, on the part of the educator or the student, requires theinvestigation of lived experience, of educational experience through autobiography.As an example of qualitative research, this manuscript, through the genre ofpoetry, will attempt to demonstrate an epistemological approach that searches forunderstanding of human experience by cultivating the specificity of self and theparticularity of situation. Autobiographical work allows for increased understandingthrough the stopping of moments lifted from life. In this way, the meta-focus slowsdown movement and history, making the self more visible and discernible in detail.Writing the Self and the Quest for VoiceCarolyn Heilbrun (1988) in her book, Writing a Woman’s Life, discussespatriarchal culture that has defined the limits of women’s lives over the centuries,determining the narratives that are told about women. In so many cases, the “writtenlife” conforms to society’s perceptions of what this life should be. In discussions withcolleagues and students, I am constantly struck by the comments of female studentswho attempt to write from a personal perspective, in particular in the genre of poetry;these students are constantly questioning whether or not they dare write the truth;whether they will offend someone; should they avoid using “I” in order to distancethemselves from the speaker? This tension between public and private persona is aparticularly strong concern of female students. It is interesting to note that our male3students do not seem to be conditioned to agonize over this question of voice andsocial acceptability. In my roles as woman, scholar and educator, I have struggledwith these same questions. My response to my students is that they must have thecourage and the convictions to write their own narratives, to find the words toarticulate experience in as true a representation and evocation of feeling as possible.We must be willing to take risks in order to learn and to teach.The central questions to be addressed in this autobiographical research are: What arethe difficulties inherent in autobiographical writing? Is it possible to discover andexpress an authentic self through written language? Are there particular difficultiesinvolved with the attempt to express the female voice and its various facets ofexperience? How is it possible to render the immediacy of lived experience throughwriting? What determines the choices of words and language to express experience?How is autobiographical writing epistemologically sound as an approach tounderstanding curriculum and how does it affect my teaching world? How is it linkedto educational experience and the teaching of language and literature?4Discourses: Writing AutobiographicallyIn “Existential and Phenomenological Foundations of Autobiographical Writing”Madeleine Grumet (1992) discusses autobiography as a way to reconceptualize theways in which we know the world, asserting Sartre’s conviction that to namesomething is to change the world. In this sense, the use of language toreconceptualize becomes an act of reforming the world.When ascribing to the post-structuralist view of Jacques Daignault, curriculumis envisioned as pedagogy itself: the quest for a dialogue or common languageamong researchers, teachers, students, all participants in the educational processwho may have different modes of discourse. Curriculum itself becomes that dialogue,aiming at unleashing thinking. Daignault states: “I am writing at Neitzsche’s dictation:to translate life in joyful wisdom, gay knowledge. Thinking, maybe” (Daignault, 1992,p.202).Merleau Ponty’s view is that the ways in which we construct knowledge are notbased on an object of perception but on our worldviews and physical realities that arebrought into play in the perception (1962). Therefore, education itself becomes aperson’s experience in the world. Despite this unique specificity of individualperspective that always exists in different contexts, educators must seek ways todiminish the distance between public persona and private experience. Educationalexperience is found through the dialogues of individual persons with the world,dialogues that include perceptions of specific histories/narratives and discourses.5Julia Kristeva (1981) responds in her writing to the dichotomy inherent in thefemale voice, expressing an ever-present tension between the private and the publicself. Despite her advocacy of free voice about sensuality and intimacy, she warnsfeminists of the danger of diminishing or ignoring public and political convictions infavour of the private and familial voice.Also of interest to the exploration of the writing voice is Kristeva’s discussion oftwo elements of the signifying process, the semiotic and the symbolic, how we attachmeaning to our world. The symbolic is predominantly evident in everyday discourse,therefore associated with the masculine (phallic), and the semiotic is found in theunderlayers of human experience. The semiotic is pre-oedipal, associated with primaldrives, pulses and rhythms. These drives are energy charges orienting the humanbody towards the mother, continually seeking a replacement of her. The semiotic ispredominantly repressed as a consequence of socio-symbolic order.The symbolic is a superimposed order, regulating,ordering, and stabilising the fragmentary energies ofsemiotic flows in order to produce meaning,coherence, identity in language.(Gross, 1986a,p.130)This tension between the symbolic and the semiotic seems to me to beparticularly relevant to the paradoxical nature of human existence and to the socialconditioning of women to suppress expression and clear articulation of the semiotic.The inherent tensions and the variable relationships between semiotic and symbolicimply the fluidity, changeability and constant process of human life and theattachment of meaning to that lifeworld.6Kristeva’s theory denies identity of any kind, even sexual identity. She insistsupon initial bi-sexuality, concentrating on the pre-oedipal (1981,P.138). AlthoughKristeva does not categorize I’ecriture feminine as writing specific to women, she doessee it as writing in which the pleasure of the semiotic shines through, a jouissance(1987b,p.112).In a marvellous essay, Me and My Shadow, Jane Tompkins (1987) eloquentlyexpresses her struggle against the public-private dichotomy, or the public-privatehierarchy. Her thoughts on the expectations and conditioning of women, especially inthe academic professional world, speak to the tension and fear that women oftenencounter within themselves in the effort to express the true nature of theirexperiences. Tompkins sees this as “a founding condition of female oppression”. Shecontinues, “I say to hell with it. The reason I feel embarrassed at my own attempts tospeak personally in a professional context is that I have been conditioned to feel thatway” (p. 169).Tompkins also laments this inability to explore personal experience in thecontext of readers and writers. Indeed, in the educational process, the most significantexperiences for readers may be found in texts of writers who allow an entering into,eliciting pleasure and dialogue through a matching of experience or a recognition offeeling.Yet, Tompkins’ questions seem particularly urgent in my mind as teacher andwriter and to my students : “How can we speak personally to each other and yet notbe self-centred? How can we be part of the great world and yet remain loyal toourselves?...How can I talk about such things in public? How can I not?” (p. 176)7In her essay, Bodyreading, Grumet (1988) comments on autobiographicalreflection as a concept that can convey reading as embodied activity. I would extendthis definition to writing, given its inextricable link with the response of the reader.Grumet talks of reading as “contingent, tangled up with world...The act of readingrequires...both what we know and how we live” (Grumet, 1988,p.453).This idea of the body subject, Merleau-Ponty’s term for human consciousness,is the idea that we can capture our politics, literature, science, history and idealism,bringing them all into a central place, a place where we live (Merleau-Ponty, 1962).This body reading, although not traditionally the focus of educational endeavours,seems to me to be a relevant approach to writing and reading and expressing livedexperience.I would concur with Grumet (1988,p.455) who applauds contemporaryfeminist theories linked to textual response and literary criticismwithin the realms ofpoststructuralism and deconstruction. These theories have challenged the idealismthat imposes meaning upon words and texts that may be distinct and apart from the“actual and possible worlds of their readers”(p.455). Grumet refreshingly advocatesthe seeking of ways to establish dialogue between teachers and students that “honorthem,” permitting “the sorrow and celebration that Yeats seeks in thepoetry of themortal condition” (p.455). The encounter with the world, therefore true education,becomes a generative act and education becomes a metaphor for a person’s dialoguewith the world of experience (Grumet, 1992,p.29). From my perspective, thismovement represents the quest for literacy in our classrooms.In the attempt to encourage teachers to explore and investigateunderstandings and experiences in their relationships to texts, the image of text as8fabric is especially meaningful to me. The idea of text/world as living fabric has ofteninformed my own writing:We touch the text instead of each other and makeour marks on it, rather than each other. The text ismaterial, it is woven, we pull and tug at it, it windsaround us, we are tangled up in it.(Grumet,1988,p.466)The writing and research in this manuscript, and also my approach to teachinglanguage and literature, seem to be aligned with the deconstructionist approach totext. For example, Derrida advocates the search to find where text says what it doesnot mean, means what it does not say. I have encountered this often in the writing ofpoetry, searching for the proper irony or reference to allow the writer and readermultiple possibilities of meaning. Similarly, this approach is especially vital inencouraging our students to respond to texts and to find richness and significance.This view is also supported by Lacan and the French feminists in their supportfor deconstructionism which exposes imposed meaning as a false identity, disguisingall the possible meanings of text. Therefore, the provisional nature of text implies thatmeaning is constantly changing and provisional. This is what allows us as readers,writers, students and teachers to transform text into multiple meanings. This act oftransformation becomes, to me, essential to the educational process.In the search for transformation, it seems possible to take our cue fromcurriculum theorists whose vast store of commingled and constantly convergingapproaches attempt to link notions from philosophy, educational theory and practice,human science, literary theory and even physics and the traditional pure sciences. In9his essay “Curriculum Beyond Stability: Schon, Prigogine, Piaget,” curriculum theoristWilliam Doll, Jr., links Schwab’s idea of the practical with Donald Schon’s concept ofthe reflective professional who regards practice as an art (Doll, 1988, p. 114).Doll considers Schon’s reflection-in-action model, which calls for a curriculummodel which moves away from the traditional Newtonian paradigm. This model wouldacknowledge that human reality contains “zones of uncertainty and irrationalprocesses,” more closely resembling our modern reality. In Schon’s model, theeducator creates knowledge of how one works in practice, not solely by applyingknowledge that has been generalized and formalized by others. This knowledge doesnot stem from prior intellectual activity but is created by problems at hand--createdknowing” which occurs continually in practice. Just as life is not a copy orgeneralization of textbooks or generalized theories, this model would reflect life/realityas a series of existential situations linked by personal associations.In the Piagetian sense, this model does not view knowledge as a copy ormirroring of reality; rather, it is a personal and active construction of reality. Schoncalls for the educator to look intuitively, metaphorically, personally at the situation athand, searching for anomalies and reflecting on actions in process. In addition,areflective practitioner needs to recognize, accept, and perhaps appreciate that realityis chaotic, without pre-determined order.William Doll also advocates a rejection of the Newtonian paradigm, replacingthe “measured curriculum with a transformative curriculum.” This curriculum is notdefined as a preset order which precedes instruction, but as the process we engagein when we teach and learn with our students. Essentially, a transformative curriculumis based on change, focusing on qualitative changes in the participants--educators10and students--as they engage in the curriculum. Curriculum is not simply a course tobe delivered. Unlike the traditional, stable, linear model, a transformative curriculum isconsidered as an active process of change, moving from one structure to another.This curriculum is also informed by the Piagetian concept of life as auto-regulation; that is, that a living organism does not simply submit to exchanges with theenvironment; rather, it channels and directs it. Doll links this with transformation asinspiration for the concepts of self-regulation and finding directions for development.In addition, the structural reorganization that is central to transformation can occurthrough internal or external forces.In order to achieve transformation in the curriculum field, movement beyond theNewtonian model which has dominated curriculum thought is needed. Doll posits thatmajor attitudinal changes are required. At the practical level, this would imply awillingness to open curriculum to public scrutiny and critical debate. The curriculummust undergo change in its active processes; ends must be envisioned ends, notabsolutes. Most importantly, teacher-student relationships must undergo majorchanges. Participants must move towards increased understanding of each other andthe educator’s role needs to move towards Schon’s vision of the reflective practitioner.This goal seems well served by the self-reflective process of autobiographical writing.A further consideration of autobiographical method as a means to acknowledgeand explore the paradoxes inherent to human experience is explored in WilliamPinar’s (1988c,pp.134-153) discussion of issues in qualitative research which takesits title, “Whole, Bright, Deep With Understanding” from Virginia Woolf’s The Years:11There must be another life, here and now, sherepeated. This is too short, too broken. We knownothing, even about ourselves. We’re only justbeginning, she thought, to understand, here andthere... .She held her hands hollowed; she felt thatshe wanted to enclose the present moment; . . .to fillit fuller and fuller, with the past, the present and thefuture, until it shone, whole, bright, deep withunderstanding.(Woolf, 1937,pp.427 - 428)With this aim for understanding in mind, Pinar acknowledges the value ofqualitative research as a means of achieving human understanding. The qualitativeperspective, which includes Pinar’s advocacy of autobiographical method, isdescribed as “epistemologically sound and politically progressive,” understanding that“human life is movement, conflict, resolution, each thesis and anti-thesis opposingeach other in ways which give birth to a new order of understanding” (Pinar, 1988c, p.151).Autobiographical method may result in a common language for pedagogyfound between educational research and teachers. The constant tension andquestions of subjectivity and objectivity are central to those of us involved ineducational endeavours. Autobiographical method acknowledges the paradoxicnature of human existence, and this concept was central to Edmund Husserl’s idea ofthe époche to explore experience. This method requires that we distance ourselvesfrom the experience in order to come closer to it. Simone de Beauvoir uses theépoche, or phenomenological reduction, to advocate the necessity of close scrutiny inthe reading of our own autobiographical explorations of educational experience. DeBeauvoir praises the existence of paradox:12The antimonies that exist between means and ends,present and future, they must be lived in apermanent tension... .ln setting up its ends, freedommust put them in parentheses, confront them ateach moment with that absolute end which itselfconstitutes and contests in its name and means towin itself.(1948,pp.133-1 34)Focusing on Pinar’s notion of wholeness as deep understanding, we mightexplore the paradoxical possibilities of achieving “whole sight” within the context of apost-modern world. In his essay, “Imaginary Homelands,” Salman Rushdie claims thathuman beings do not perceive things whole. Rather, meaning is perceived throughfractured lenses, broken mirrors, and fragmented perceptions/ fragmented selves andidentities (Rushdie, 1991,p.12).Expanding on this view, I would suggest that perhaps it is more valuable tohave the multiple lenses, responding to multiple selves; perhaps, the inability to lookat the world as it is, in its realness/fragmentation, leads to paralysis and loss ofmeaning. Just as we may consider the provisional nature of all truths and certaintiesas signals of modernism, we must also accept the fragmented, paradoxical nature ofour world. Perhaps the acceptance of vision through these fragments, these bits andpieces of human life, are what move us towards the light of understanding. Perhapsthis is our paradoxical hope; that by seeing through the multitude of lenses that arethe fabric of human life, we may become “whole, bright, deep with understanding.”13Bodywriting: Creating Dialogue Through Narrative• .. writing should become music and penetrate thesenses directly. For this poetiy is necessary... it isnot the writing of emotion and the senses, which Iseek. I want meaning to enter the body by someother route, not the mind....! like it best when I amsubmerged in symphony, and when the world in myhead becomes a world of images and music. Writinghas for too long been without magical power. In me,everything was married, love and body, heaven andhell, dream and action... .As a woman, I shall puttogether all that was divided and give birth toeverything that was killed.(Nm, 1971, pp. 40-41)This example of autobiographical, action research is written in the genre ofpoetry, a genre that seems to challenge and respond to the difficulties oftenencountered in the expression of an authentic female voice. I define this work asaction research, applying the premises of Clermont Gauthier in his essay “BetweenCrystal and Smoke: Or, How to Miss the Point in the Debate About Action Research”(1992). Among his “Ten Daring Statements Concerning Action Research” are twowhich seem particularly relevant: “Action research is not in the least concerned witha physical place in particular. It can take place anywhere--in one’s office, in one’smind.... “and secondly, “Action research is above all a matter of language” (p. 193).As an educator striving to make sense of my teaching world and my world ofhuman experience, it seems essential to remember that phenomenological reflectionis a process that both discovers and constructs meaning. “Meaning does not lie inexperience. Rather, those experiences are meaningful which are grasped reflectively”(Schutz, quoted in Chamberlin, 1974,p.131).14Autobiographical writing provides the space for critical reflection, learning andtransformation of experience, the re-invention of the self. The validity of personalwriting as research is supported by my belief that in order to teach well, we need tostart the understanding and “knowing” process within ourselves in order to be able toparticipate in “indwellings,” the term used by Aoki to describe meaningful dialoguebetween people. As Peter Abbs states: “we can only teach from our own being, thereis nowhere else to teach from” (1981,p.495).Aoki (1992) speaks eloquently of the necessity to uncover the layers ofteaching. The first layer is the “black box,” primarily concerned with the outcomes ofteaching rather than understanding teaching itself. Here, teaching is understood asbehavior. In this first layer, the lived world is “willfully ignored” (p. 18).The middle layer, according to Aoki, can be perceived as understandingteaching theoretically and scientifically. Ethnography, anthropological, andpsychological studies fall into this layer. Although these approaches have a “seductiveappeal” in their pragmatism, they still largely ignore “the preconceptual, pretheoreticalfleshy, familiar, very concrete world of teachers and students” (Aoki, 1992,p.19).The innermost layer is perceived as understanding teaching techniques,strategies, and skills, the idea of “effective” teaching that we are often promised as anability easily absorbed at teaching workshops. Aoki advocates the peeling back ofthese three layers of understanding teaching,” all uncannily correct” in their own ways.Aoki calls for a moving away from mere correctness, reorienting ourselves towardsthe finding of the “essence” or true nature of teaching. “This search calls for a breakfrom the orientation that may blind us” (Aoki, 1992,p.20).15Aoki’s phenomenological approach seems inextricably linked with autobiographical approaches that seek to explore lived experience through narrative texts.The “storying” and reflection that may be encountered in the writing process seemintegral to the discovery of the “essence” of teaching and of the world of lived, feltexperience, allowing “the unsaid to shine through the said” (Aoki, 1992,p.27).In the collection of poetry Tango Through the Dark, the moments stopped arelifted from my life or multiple lives. The stopping and recognition of moments arefound in my multiple lives as a woman: mother, lover, wife, daughter, sister, friend andteacher/scholar. The conflicts of the inner self are reflected in the struggles betweencreation and maternal love; between realism and romanticism; between past, presentand future; in the Socratic dialogues and tensions between teacher and students;between educators and colleagues, and through the attemptto find significancethrough the articulation and reconstruction of the writer’s world. It is an attempt to let“the unsaid shine through the said.”Through this exploration and evolution, the physical is perceived, in a sense,as symbolic of a spiritual world. The poems attempt to convey the immediacy of feltexperience, using imagery that writes through the body, implying the constant,inextricable force of the sensual that informs human experience, specifically thefemale experience.Throughout the manuscript, the metaphors of dance and music, particularlymeaningful and evocative to the writer, represent bindings of language, sound , poetryand memory in ways that resonate, evoking recognition of the strength and powerofmusic and sensuality to define and colour the reliving of experience. In the writing of16this manuscript, my currere is symbolized by the metaphor of the dance as signifyingthe course of life and educational process.As a reader, writer and educator, my work is informed not only by music anddance, feminist writers, post-structuralism, literature and curriculum theory, but also bywomen writers and educators, some of whom took great risks to express theirconvictions within the constraints of their social frameworks.Echoing Barthes’ idea of the “radical exploration of writing” as a tenet ofmodernism (Sontag, 1982,p.xxi), Robert Kroetsch refers to literary history as “radically storymaking” (1982,p.196). In considering literary texts, fictions and narrativesare forms of storymaking which may provide means to make sense of our world.Narratives may help us construct meaning. Similarly, if we consider curriculum and lifeitself as texts, our self-reflective attempts at autobiography or reflective, thoughtfulliving and practice in the phenomenological sense, provide other forms ofstorymaking. The engagement in self-reference that uses the past within selfreference seems crucial to this post-modern sense-making. By situating ourselveswithin a particular history, we may engage in discourses which are meaningful.In his book of essays titled Hopes and Impediments, Chinua Achebe expressesthe liberating power of literature:The fiction which imaginative literature offersus.. .does not enslave us; it liberates the mind ofman. Its truth is not like the canons of an orthodoxyor the irrationality of prejudice and superstition, Itbegins as an adventure in self-discovery and endsin wisdom and humane conscience.(Achebe, 1988,p.153)17Consequently, this manuscript is a personal attempt to create imaginativeliterature in narratives of self-discovery which respond to the problem of expressingthe feminine voice in a true written representation of experience. By taking this riskand meeting the challenge myself, as a teacher of writing, I hope that the disclosing ofmy world will enrich my teaching of students who attempt to script their own worldsthrough narratives.In writing autobiographically, creating links between my world of experienceand language through imaginative writing, the considerations of texts include Barthes’notion of subverting established classifications and the separation of genres (Sontag,1982,p.xi). This research moves back and forth between creative texts of poetry andother forms of scholarly discourse in ways that perceive text and textuality as placingmeaning into the world. This does not imply any fixed meaning;rather, it is the searchfor new meanings that may astonish us: étonne-moi, as Barthes expresses it (quotedin Sontag, 1982,p.xi).My quest is to discover and exemplify scholarship with a difference, as C.Christ defines it, scholarship that “ emerges from an ethos of eros and empathy”(1987, p.58). The quest to develop this essence of scholarship is explored through mywritten text, a text that attempts to voice Barthes’ comparisons of “teaching to play,reading to eros, writing to seduction” (quoted in Sontag, 1982, pp. xvi-xvii).18TANGO THROUGH THE DARKPoetrybyRishma Dunlop19Tango Through the DarkAnd she danced; she danced with the music andwith the rhythm of earth’s circles; she turned withthe earth turning, like a disk, turning all faces to lightand to darkness evenly, dancing toward daylight.Anaïs Mn, Cities of the Interior20Tango Through the DarkPART ONE:THE WALTZES OF EROSthe mind dances with itself,taking you by the hand,your lover followsthere are always two,William Carlos Williams, “The Dance”21Tango Through the DarkTango Through the DarkOur dance draws breath,as we seek the gasp of light.It sustains us, pulsing inthe bent neck of history.It leans intothe curved arm of life,shouldered on ourdark tangoed embrace.It anchors me throughthe small of my back,as we clench our faithbetween our teeth.22Tango Through the DarkNotes: “Tango Through the Dark”Since movement is basic to men and women, itsartistic expression is a ready-made vehicle for thepoetic mind, and particularly for the mind escapinginto a world of imagina!y reality, the most privateprovince of the self.(Sorell, 1981, p. 342)The dance, the tango, provides me with an aptly sensual metaphor for thecourse of life, my currere. For my voice, the sensual, the love relationship, andthesemiotic are known entities of my experience, providing me with an anchoring neededthrough the uncertainties and unknowns that form my reality.This poem begins my exploration and questioning of what expresses thefeminine voice in writing that attempts to write thebody as text. Like the Frenchfeminist writing of Luce Irigaray, I am convinced of the integral link between languageand sexuality, opposed to the traditional psychoanalytic discourse. “In oppositiontothe logic of ‘phallic’ discourse--characterized by linearity, self-possession,theaffirmation of mastery, authority, and above all unity--feminine discourse muststruggle to speak otherwise” (Sulieman, 1985,p.49).In terms of educational experience, moving forward in the dance towardsknowledge and self, towards light, demands courage and the willingness to take risks;often, it is the ‘clenching of faith between teeth” that opens us to experience andlearning.23Tango Through the DarkIsoldeShe is scripted, aloof,composedin a properly bridled score,but the aria begins andhe kisses the napeof her neck,the hollow of her back,the inner curves of her kneesand she is undone.24Tango Through the DarkNotes: “Isolde”In “Isolde” the metaphor of adultery is also analogous to the seductive power ofnewness of experience, the acquisition of new knowledge. It is the excitement of theunfamiliar that can weaken us at the knees, stunning us with the recognition of theparadoxes of desire. This is the sensation of étonnement that Barthes seeks.Acknowledged here is the strength of eros as desire that has an astonishing power toappear to the self with urgency and force. Often, it has the fearsome power to remainbeyond the reach of social order and conventional morality.This poem also explores the idea of the social roles of women, their scripted,written score, metaphorically placed notes set into place on the musical manuscript.Ultimately, the music of seduction, the promise of new knowledge of the opera,provides the “undoing” in a departure from the written life.25Tango Through the DarkLove--bittersweet, irrepressible--loosens my limbs and I tremble.Sappho26Tango Through the DarkCarrefourHis touch makes her bones electric,infusing her bodywith a slow-brandied heat.She is loosened by the imagining,the aesthetic knowingof new hands on her skin.Suddenly, she is jolted,muscles and limbs numb.She detaches herself, warm-lipped, from the web.Fingerprints freeze her fleshas she drives home,hands white-knuckledon the wheel.She undresses in the dark,peeling silken layers,wedding her body into his familiar curve.In the alchemic moonlight,she is cool-faceted glint,diamond-banded, love-knotted,and warmed to the difficult knowing,of patterned heart and nerve.She is laced through with duplicity;she is pulled, tendon-tight.The night is sinewed and scentedby dreams of another.27Tango Through the DarkNotes: “Carrefour”In this poem, the human dilemma of the carrefour, reaching the crossroads, isrepresented within the metaphorical framework of adulterous temptation. Theparadoxical nature of desire, indeed the acknowledgement of the ever-presentexistence of desire; social constructs of male-female relationships; the concepts of willand conscious choice, and the seductive appeal of the unfamiliar are explored. Theseare the forces of eros that shake our careful constructions of familial life and themarriage bed, the tests of desire to the endurance of love.The perspectives of three major French feminist writers, Irigaray, Cixous, andKristeva, differ widely in specific theoretical approaches to the body and the notion ofdesire. However, their shared intellectual bond lies in their exploration of thepsychoanalytic basis in Lacan’s rewriting of Freud and their interest in the work ofDerrida. All three writers agree that I’écriture feminine is closely connected to thebody, its rhythms and drives. In the emancipatory process that is writing, the bodyceases to remain purely biological; it is written and socially constructed from an earlyage:[Kristeva and Irigaray] have shown that someconcept of the body is essential to understandingsocial production, oppression and resistance; andthat the body need not, indeed must not beconsidered merely a biological entity, but can beseen as a socially inscribed, historically marked,psychically and interpersonally significant product.(Gross, 1986a,p.140)28Tango Through the DarkThe term crossroads appears also in Taubman’s consideration of Lacanian andSocratic discourse:The teacher who takes a position at the midpointat the point between Plato’s Socrates and Lacan, ata point where he or she is the midwife or engages inmidspeak, where she or he subverts her or his ownposition as the one who knows, assumes an identitythat is at the crossroads. The teacher who takes aposition at the midpoint assumes an identity thatcan always be drawn in one of two directions-uptoward the eidoi from which the master returns ordown to the unconscious from which it returns asthe master or in another profession... .The pull isalways there. And yet it is the midpoint that seemsmost attractive, most rich. How, then, can wemaintain it without being pulled irrevocably indirections that are dangerous?...I suspect theanswer lies in moving in both directions at once, in adialectical operation that takes into account the veryreal world that we teachers inhabit.(Taubman, 1992,p.230)Barthes uses the term crossroads in his definition of the writer as “the watcherwho stands at the crossroads of all other discourses” (quoted inSontag, 1982,p.xxi).This still leaves us, of course, with the promise of the eternal dilemma, the constantcrossroads and the ongoing search for the midpoint among the multiple contradictionsand pulls in different directions in our lives.29Tango Through the DarkLady MurasakiShe offers him the scrollof her disquiet heart andthey drumthe intricate rhythmsof a thousand disparate truths.They unmask the faces of hunger,soaring throughsalted pools of gold epiphaniesto the light-hot shudder of being.30Tango Through the DarkNotes: “Lady Murasaki”The title of this poem alludes to Murasaki Shikibu (b. 978?) author of GenjiMonogatari (The Tale of GenIi). Lady Murasaki’s novel was written in the earlyeleventh century in Heian Buddhist Japan. The narrative explores ancient court life,love, marriage and desire with a subtle eroticism, clothed in poetic language. In thestories of Murasaki and her clansman Genji, the quest for self and fixed identity isultimately illusory.This poem is the narrative of a post-modern Lady Murasaki, writing self-reflectivelyabout her life, informed by an acceptance of her “disparate truths” with their variousrhythms, desires, and satisfactions.31Tango Through the DarkInterludeTonight, you made teaand we sip slowly,dipping biscuitsthrough the strains of opera.I trace the skin of your handand our fingers tangle together,savouring the soft, sweettaste of dusk.32Tango Through the DarkNotes: “Interlude”We write to heighten our awareness of life.... Wewrite to serenade our lovers. We write to taste lifetwice, in the moment and in the retrospection.(Nm, 1966, p. 13)This is a moment captured, remembered, tasted, never forgotten. It is written andfelt through the sensuality of the body and through the ever-present beauty of musicthat colours and evokes memories in my life. It is an acknowledgement of humanexperience that is felt and remembered in a multiplicity of ways, registered through thesenses.33Tango Through the DarkPART TWO:BODYREADING: MAPPING THE HEARTI’ve stitched my dress with continents,bound to the equator round my waist.I waltz to a steady rhythm, bending slightly.Nina Cassian, ‘Knowledge”34Tango Through the DarkBodyreadingYour hands are a giftto me.They have mapped me,explored in bookswith terrainsof luminous manuscripts,honeyed narratives,pages turned in my lap.35Tango Through the DarkNotes: “Bodyreading’Eveiything is language, and the body is always awritten, never a “natural body.”(Conley, 1984, p. 57)This poem takes its title from an essay by Madeleine Grumet (1988,pp.453-472). The writing in this poem expresses its narrative through the imagery of body ascountry, terrain to be charted and mapped, and body envisioned as book, a text oflived experience. During the history of human experience between youth and death,we search for a geography of the soul, an internal landscape that will slip us into placein its contours.This poem is my expression of Merleau-Ponty’s concept of the body subject: allthe elements of historical, social, political influences contained in the self are broughttogether into the body, a country or place where we live in felt experience. Thesemetaphors express the acquisition of knowledge in all its multi-hued facets as pagesof the book are turned. It is an experience of pleasure, felt through the body of thewoman-scholar.36Tango Through the DarkLunar ErosHer heartjolts againstthe bony cage of her ribson the long nightswet with the moon.Her locked soulis keyed in his mouthin the cadence of breath.37Tango Through the DarkNotes: “Lunar Eros”This poem provides a metaphor, through the sexual body imagery, for theacquisition of knowledge. The ribcage becomes analogous to prison, imprisoning theheart and the mind. The search for the internal geography to house the soul issatisfied by the imprint of another. The speaker is released by the lover or teacher infinding the key to new knowledge. This learning is erotic, seductive, capturing thebreath in the unlocking and the slipping into place.38Tango Through the DarkElegy for Sarajevo 1993Your land dismembers itself,limb by limb.Your maimed childrenstare at mefrom the late night newson the television screen.I am hauntedby the dim lightsof their gouged eyes.I am saltedby the blistering tearsof the sightlessin your decaying realm,longing to soothe their woundswith my touch.May you taste the bitter stainin the place that cradled you.May your carnage heal your dust,cleanse the skin of your earth.May your breath be resurrectedby the human cantos of radiance.39Tango Through the DarkNotes: “Elegy for Sarajevo 1993”In the desert of the heartLet the healing fountain start.W. H. Auden, “In Memory of W. B. Yeats”This poem is a prayer for the finding of mercy in the midst of the horrors of“ethnic cleansing” that rage between the people of Bosnia. It is an expression of thehelplessness and powerlessness that I feel as I watch the misery as a NorthAmerican, distantly connected by the media.The poem expresses my need to mother, to hold those children, as if somehowmy mother’s touch could provide a magic healing. It is a poem of anguish that usesthe metaphor of the dismembered body to stand for country and maimed land.It is anappropriately powerful metaphor for the embodiment of horror and senselessbloodshed that manifests itself to me through images of limbless children.Hope lies in the discovery of mercy, the capacity for feeling in the human heart,the promise of a new generation of newborn hope, unjaded by the past of unthinkingviolence, in the music of hope, luminous songs of rebirth.40Tango Through the DarkPART THREE:DANCING GIRLS: MOTHERS AND DAUGHTERSThe institution of motherhood cannot be touched orseen: in art only Kathe Kollwitz has come close toevoking it. It must go on being evoked, so thatwomen never again forget that our many fragmentsof lived experience belong to a whole which is notour creation.Adrienne Rich, Of Woman Born, p. 276MotherI write homeI am alone andgive me my body back,Susan Griffin, Epigraph, “Mother and Child”41Tango Through the DarkAubade to a Newbornfor CaraI hold you close,trying to inhale the pink gleam of dawnin your sweet flesh.You are tender-grasped, yet bruisedby my intensity.I strain to absorb you.Where is the linkof the twist of sheets,mouth-kissed skin,to this glimmer of genes?Through chasms of painthe unseeing eye has labouredto whole sight.You are sensuous, strange,cradled in the shininggolden embrace of new morning.42Tango Through the DarkNotes: “Aubade to a Newborn”My poem “Aubade to a Newborn” was written as a response to the birth of myfirst child, my daughter Cara, in 1982. The intentional play on the traditional aubade,or morning song to a lover, provides inspiration for the paradoxical elements ofchildbirth which seem some of life’s most intriguing, gripping mysteries to me. Thesometimes contradictory perceptions of sexual life, conception, birth, tenderness, yetfierceness of new motherhood and the separateness and strangeness of the newinfant are all explored. The poem attempts to convey the often overwhelmingmultiplicity of tensions and voices that assail a mother after childbirth.In “Stabat Mater; The Paradox: Mother or Primary Narcissism,” Kristeva’s textacknowledges the experience of the mother. Kristeva reflects the continuingexploration with forms and representations of language in text, exposing new kinds ofdiscourse and possibilities for articulation of the woman’s experience. Kristeva writesher text in columns, with personal, associative writing on one side, and moretraditional academic discourse on the other, creating an interplay oftexts that acceptsthe paradoxes of the mother’s felt experiences:FLASH-instant of time orof dream without time; inordinately swollen atoms of abond, a vision, a shiver, a yetformless, unnamable embryo.Epiphanies. Photos of whatis not yet visible, and that language necessarily skims overfrom afar, allusively. Wordsthat are always too distant,Tango Through the Darktoo abstract for this underground swarming of seconds, folding in unimaginable spaces. Writing themdown is an ordeal of discourse, like love. What is loving for a woman, the samething as writing.(Kristeva, 1987a,pp.234-235)4344Tango Through the DarkChildIn my baby’s eyes,I am lockedin self-extension.I do not knowwhere I finishand she begins;she is my pactwith life and deathand I must dance for her,so she will know the uncommonsteps.45Tango Through the DarkNotes: “Child”“Child” expresses Lacan’s idea, in the rewriting of Freud’s psychoanalyticdiscourses, of identity established in the mirror of the other. Here, the child is mirroredin the gaze of the mother, from whom she begins to form her identity. As mother, I amlocked in the prisms of her eyes, inextricable from her gaze.The teaching of the dance, the uncommon steps, becomes analogous with myteaching self, extending to my students. I want them to step innew directions,estranging the familiar in order to dance towards knowledge and richness ofexperience in their lives. This notion of estrangement from the familiar calls to mindKristeva’s idea of the link between exile and intellectual work: “Writingis impossiblewithout some kind of exile.” Exile, in this sense, represents a dépaysement enabling“a ruthless and irreverent dismantling of the workings of discourse, thought, andexistence...”(Kristeva, quoted in Lechte, 1990,p.299). In this way, exile becomes ameans to open up to possibilities and challenges, “coming to terms with differenceand the other--not destroying them...”(Lechte, 1990,p.80).Kristeva’s expression, “etrangers a nous-mêmes,” strangers to ourselves,becomes synonomous with foreigners, others, the unconscious, difference, feminine,becoming a dynamic of innovative intellectual thought (Lechte, p.81).Tango Through the DarkSanctuaryMy children smile,encircling me with their laughtera pealing sonic radiance,and the jaded mantle of my dayfalls asI gather them to me likearmfuls of flowers.4647Tango Through the DarkNotes: “Sanctuary”“Sanctuary” is a poem that acknowledges the sudden, astonishing moments inthe relationships between parents and children. It explores the genuine moments ofrefuge from the contradictions and pressures of everyday life that exist and are keenlyfelt within the recognition of the unconditional love of a child. The moments when I amstruck by these realizations are moments of purity and pleasure, fragrant flowersamidst complex, hectic days. These moments are my sanctuary.“Sanctuary” is also a recognition of the spontaneity of joy in a child’s laughter,that Wordsworthian “spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling” that can cut throughthe often conventional sang-froid of our adult world. Childrens’ laughter has the powerto open up the universe, reminding us in our quests for knowledge, to remain seekersof innocence and joy (Dault, 1990,p.70).Tango Through the DarkEveiy lip against my lipsconceived a starand floated on the night river of my memories.Forugh Farrokhzad , “On Earth”4849Tango Through the DarkNocturneDarkness, darkness, be my pillowTake my hand and let me sleep.In the coolness of your shadow,in the silence of your deep.Jesse Cohn YoungI nurse the baby,her body tightly curled between us.In the pillowed warmth of our bed,we breathe to the seething rhythmsof summer-scented night.I escape into the cool of midnightto the water’s edge.I bathe in the music, whispersof grasses and trees,and the sighing fragrance of lilies.I invite the blackness in,sucking pleasure,mouth to velvet sky.I am seeded by whole, deep night.50Tango Through the DarkNotes: “Nocturne”Poetry is... the language of our night-self, in whichare imbedded the seeds of all we do and are in theday.Anaïs NmNocturne is a return to the primal, the semiotic and the sensual in theframework of womblike imagery. The nursing mother welcomes the night as a loverwho satisfies the needs for primal intimacy, for constantly converging multiple selves,and in the bodywriting process, for beauty and creativity..The seeds of many lives, places, of many womenin herself were fecundated by the moonraysbecause they came from that limitless night lifewhich we usually perceive only in our dreams,containing roots reaching for all the magnificence ofthe past, transmitting the rich sediments into thepresent, projecting them into the future.(Nm, 1966,p.44)51Tango Through the DarkCradlesongfor RachelHer easy smilenever needs coaxing;it is everpresenton her child-woman’s face.I drift backthrough the ebb of time,to the rocking of the cradle,smooth pine against my thigh.Her eyes, shining black crystals,are incandescent truths,loomed across thearticulate white silenceof moonlit nursery.I give her to the tidal pullsof sleep and dreams,my hand curved beneath her heart.I wonder at her seamlessness,searching for the blue-skinned gripsof iron handsin the tearing out.52Tango Through the DarkNotes: “Cradlesong”This poem marvels at the easygoing nature of my youngest daughter. Hersteadfast pleasantness and the smile that rarely leaves her face are constant sourcesof amazement to me.In the writing of this poem, I express the wonder at the sweetness of this childand compare it to the paradoxical contrast of her birth. It is a mother’s reflection on thepain and violence of childbirth, and on the nature of the child created, who isuntouched by this “tearing out.”Flash on the unnamable, weavings of abstractions to be torn. Let abody venture at last out of itsshelter, take a chance withmeaning under a veil ofwords. WORD FLESH.From one to the other, eternally, broken up visions,metaphors of the invisible.(Kristeva, 1987a, pp. 234-235)53Tango Through the DarkSlow Dancing 1972Layla, you’ve got me on my knees, LaylaI beg you darling please, LaylaEric ClaptonThe basement party is permeatedwith smoke and beer.Sweet sixteens slow danceto “Colour My World”coupled and cleavedto each other inmoist sweat.We wear angora sweatersin pastel shades of infants,fingernail pinks, powder blues and sweet creams.We are scented with innocence, musk and fruitLove’s Baby Soft, Eau de Love, Love’s Fresh Lemon.“Stairway to Heaven” sendsthrill notes down our spinesinto our tight blue Levis.Suburbia fades into lush oblivionas the electric guitar strokesus into desperate need.54Tango Through the DarkNotes: “Slow Dancing 1972”This poem returns to adolescence, memories of the parties in suburban, West IslandMontreal. It is a return to the body of youth, of the female adolescent, nowremembered with clarity and a sense of reconciliation with that youth, unclouded bythe inner conflicts, uncertainties, torments of adolescent emotion. It is a recognition ofwhat this time was, shaded and coloured by the influences of popular culture and thepervasive music of the day which constantly revive memory.Any text that may teach us something about ourpedagogic nature is bound to aim for a certainhermeneutic: restoring a forgotten or brokenwholeness by recollecting something lost, past, oreroded by reconciling it in our experience of thepresent with a vision of what should be. This kind oftext cannot be summarized. To present research byway of narrative text is not to present findings, but todo a reading (as a poet would) of a text that showswhat it teaches. One must meet with it, go throughit, encounter it, suffer it, consume it and, as well, beconsumed by it.(Van Manen, 1992, p. 451)55Tango Through the DarkSofa, Raj Kumari, Sofafor Kartar Singh (1928 - 1990)“Sleep, princess, sleep.”My father’s voice is hushedand my mother stepsfrom the ashesthrough the wreckage.From the flames,his voice flows intothe sirdar’s daughter.I am his liquid narrative,tongued in our lullabies.I am cradled bymemories and words,silk and saffron threadslove-woven, tangledthrough the burnished sheen.56Tango Through the DarkNotes: “Soja, Raj Kumari, Soja”.the greatest confluence of all is that which makesup human memory--the individual humanmemory... .The memory is a living thing--it too is intransit. But during its moment, all that isremembered joins, and lives--the old and the young,the past and the present, the living and the dead.(Welty, 1984,pp.113-114)This poem is an elegy for my father, Kartar Singh, who died suddenly in 1990.Inever imagined being without him.This poem represents a pedagogy of death, a finding of a dialogue with myselfand others that looks through deathand sorrow, discovering that in the journeythrough, I find life. I find my father living in me throughhis words, his song that ispassed on to my children, through a living, rich tapestry ofmemories that forms thefabric of my life.57Tango Through the DarkPART FOUR:THE CHOREOGRAPHY OF MARRIAGEFifty years he has devoted his brainto this one designand his body to hers.She wants to know,when did marriage begin, then?He cannot answer.Nancy Holmes, “Changing Your Profession, 1882”And in his heart my heart is locked,And in his life my life.Christina Rossetti58Tango Through the DarkWill he always love me?I cannot read his heart.This morning my thoughtsAre as disorderedAs my black hair.Lady Horikawa (12th century Japanese poet)59Tango Through the DarkThe WeddingI am submissive today,swathed in a sari of shimmered pinkwith borders of deepest purpledipped in gold brocade.Not the usual bridal red.I am submissive today.I could not even dress myselfnot knowing how to wrap the milesof silk around me.My “aunties” dress me, pleating andtucking me into an illusionof exotic grace.Auntie Leena and Auntie Sarla kiss me,telling me that I am beautifulbut the reflection in the mirrorseems a stranger.I am submissive today.My hands have been painted,decorated by women who have the art,in paisley swirls of hennathat have dried, orange-redon my palms.I am encased in necklace and braceletsof gold and I wear violet orchidsagainst the black of my hair.I am submissive today,searching desperately for you.I cannot see your white face,incongruousfor the sake of my parents.You were submissive today andin that moment, I loved you for it.I am submissive today.I cannot see your face becausethe ceremony has begun and60Tango Through the Darkmy head is covered and bowedbefore the book.And I must follow you as youlead me, around the book.I must follow you, paced, guidedand directed by men: father, uncle, cousin,Paul,held and moved lightly by the elbowsas if, fragile,I might not find my wayto you.I am submissive today.I am married the first time in a languageI cannot understand.Ifind your face andthe book is replaced by another scripture.We are married again by the United Churchand I can feel the ease in your mother’sheart at the Christian ministry.I find your eyes as we are double-ringedin gold and our hands entwine,relaxing into the familiar language.Down the aisle, we are garlandedin neck-ropes of marigoldsby my mother, my Aunty Jit, Kaye,in a blur of embraces.We emerge through kisses to sunbeams,air fragrant with showers of rose-petalsblinding us.My parents sweep the petals from my faceand in your eyestheir smiles are mirrored.Later, in my gossamer-flesh dressmy father twirls me, laughing, on the dance floor.I toss the clutch of orchids and freesiaribbons streaming across a sea of virginsinto my sister’s uplifted hand.And I spin into your arms.61Tango Through the DarkNotes: “The Wedding”“The Wedding” tells the story of my wedding as a retrospective memory. I cameto Canada at the age of one and a half. My father, a Sikh from Punjab, was abiochemist who came to this country in 1958 on a post-doctoral research fellowshipwith the National Research Council. In those early years in Ottawa, my mother, aformer school teacher, and my father and I lived in an intellectual community, anatmosphere of international, multilingual friends of many different faiths. In thosedays, as a child, I never thought much about race or difference.Later, we moved to Montreal, to the West Island suburb of Beaconsfield. Atthat time, this was predominantly a white, Anglo-Saxon community. However,possessing the privilege of education and upper middle class economy, I lived the lifeof the suburban teenager, never brought up in strict observations of faith or culturaltradition, rarely concerned with the problematic considerations of race, culture or faith.In 1979, I married a man who came from a New Brunswickfamily, with amother of Scottish heritage and a United Church tradition. Myhusband and I triedhard to satisfy both families in the upholding of tradition,feeling that it wasappeasement for our untraditional living style and feeling that this was how thingsshould be done--for our parents.In the remembrance, these snapshots of the wedding provide me with arecognition of the submissiveness of the bride and the patriarchal nature of the Sikh62Tango Through the Darkwedding ceremony; indeed, this is true of most traditional wedding ceremonies acrosscultures. In this context, the irony is especially striking as the Sikh faith and scripturesclaim equality of the sexes.It is through the regressing back autobiographically and in the explorations ofacademic scholarship that the curious questions of language, culture, tradition,and aconsideration of life as racial and gendered textbecome more apparent andproblematic. Particularly vivid in these memories is thesense of how distant frommyself I felt-- as if watching another passive self, likean actor in a meta-cinematicfilm. Yet, in the end, there is reconciliation of these memoriesas the ceremonies wereencircled by enduring familial love and affection,forging rich unions in thedifferences..1 found the world out there revealing,because.. .memory had become attached to seeing,love had added itself to discovery, and because Irecognized in my own continuing longing to keepgoing, the need I carried inside myself to know--theapprehension, first, then the passion, to connectmyself to it.(Welty, 1965,p.52)Tango Through the DarkIf they grew now in a forbidden gardenPrinces would covet what they could not buy.Yu Hsu an-chi (Ca. 843-868)“Selling Ruined Peonies”6364Tango Through the DarkOrnaments of the HeartShe is more precious than rubies,And all the things you may desire cannotcompare with her.Proverbs 3:15He clasps the pearlsat her nape asshe drifts alongthe edges of truth.She unbuttons the sheathof artificeand the inner fleshis unveiled.She unpins the broochof destinyand steps awayfrom the sedate minuet.She unchains her ruby heart,cravingthe fierce gripof a dark erotic psalm.65Tango Through the DarkNotes: “Ornaments of the Heart”This poem explores the sometimes superficial surfaces, the outwardlyprojected personas and veils which represent social constraints and expected rolesfor women. The reflections are framed in the images of the gifts of love, adornmentsand jewels, as symbols of artifice that belie the living breathing desires and truevoices that simmer under the surface of social behaviours and conformity, obscuringtrue dialogue with the “other.”Irigaray urges a reconceptualization of male-female relationships in which thetensions accept attraction, difference, autonomy, but not the objectification of theother. This perception moves towards the validating of separateness of each sex aswell as its connectedness to the other (1987,p.124).Beyond the classic opposites of love and hate,liquid and ice lies this perpetually half-openthreshold, consisting of lips that are strangers todichotomy. Pressed against one another, butwithout any possibility of suture, at least of a realkind, they do not absorb the world either intothemselves or through themselves, provided theyare not abused or reduced to a mere consummatingor consuming structure. Instead their shapewelcomes without assimilating or reducing ordevouring.(Irigaray, 1987,p.128)66Tango Through the DarkSweet TalkMy voice cuts throughthe housewith the honed edgesof my words.You say nothing.I need a surface, elastic,passionate,to rage against,not your stolid, wordless wall.My venomous syllablesspill throughthe silence.I should kiss youtender-sweetin a familiar waltz,but I ache;my mouth is bitter,acid-tongued.67Tango Through the DarkNotes: “Sweet Talk”It is by knowing where you stand that you grow able tojudge where you are.Eudora WeltyThis poem explores the inability to converse, to find the “in-dwelling” (Aoki, 1988)of meaningful conversation with another. It also explores the expression of anger, theneed for language, for communication and response and it is a recognition of theability to use language with power.My anger is never manifested in physical, violent ways; those elements are alwaysfinely controlled, within the social constructs of accepted, calm behaviour. Rather, it ismanifested in an ability to use words with skill and strength, sometimes with the abilityto cut to the bone, to wound. It is a recognition of where I sometimes stand in relationto others.Tango Through the DarkUpon what instrument arewe two spanned?And what player has usin his hand?o sweet song.Rainier Marie Rilke, “Lovesong”6869Tango Through the DarkYou and IYou and Ihave known the chase,the blood’s wild feverto inhabit each other’s skinsin the hunt that seeds the soul.You and Ihave known this yetfaceless child,the third embodiedin our embrace.You and Iare makersand the made growsin reply against my bone,seeking light along the blade.This is the strengthof our tangle of flesh,you and I.Hold metightagainst the fear.70Tango Through the DarkNotes:” You and I”This poem is a dialogue, wife to husband, woman to man, that explores themysterious connections of sexual life, creation, and birth. The fear of parenthood, of“the third” in the embrace of the married couple, and the overwhelming feeling ofpowerlessness and fear of the forces of natural life are expressed.As with all pedagogical dialogue, in the learning through exploring livedexperience, I am constantly struck by the fact that it is the unknown, the feeling thatwe are somehow not in control of our bodies or our destinies that elicits the sensationof fear. The risk takings and explorations necessary for richness of educational andlived experience seem to challenge our instinctual pull towards the easier routes offamiliarity, comfort and security.71Tango Through the DarkPART FIVE:SOCRATIC CAESURAI want to learn the wayof writing poemsas a way to you.If you love me,come. The roadI live onis not forbidden by impetuous gods.Izumi Shikibu (10th-I Ith century) The Diaiy of Izumi Shikibu.there are ways of thinking that we don’t knowabout. Nothing could be more important or preciousthan that knowledge, however unborn. The sense ofurgency, the spiritual restlessness it engenders,cannot be appeased...Susan Sontag, Styles of Radical Will72Tango Through the DarkOn Teaching PoetryI am crisp,my voice staccatoagainst the walls of the classroom.Under my tailored flesh,the images of morningrattle in my brain--the chattering of children,the clatter of breakfast dishes,the winding drive along Highway 97to campus.I focus on my students,listen to the rustling and shuffling of papers.The Basketball Boys sprawl, lean-limbed,spilling out of their desks,their sneakers constantly fidgeting.There is an audible groanwhen I mention poetry.The 40 something woman in the second row says,“I can’t do poetry.”I take a long dragof my coffee,feel it flow warm,deep in my throat,filling the hollows of my body.And I begin.Teaching, I am calm,my voice soothed into lyric humas I try to do poetry, speaking oflanguage, passion, sorrow, love,moments keenly remembered and recorded,trying to uncover the breathing tissuein the walls of the classroom.I rivet them with my eyes,wrap them in my voice,willing them toTango Through the Darkpeel back their skins,pellucid over the paradoxes,the metaphors, the metaphysical,the rhythms and metersof transcribed heartbeats.And we begin, my students and I,the difficult taskof doing poetry,living with each other.7374Tango Through the DarkNotes: “On Teaching Poetry”Wit is the only wall between us and the dark.Mark Van Doren (quoted in Thomas,1993,p.875)It seems to me that the appeal of self-reflection in our texts lies in the opennessto irony, parody and the paradoxical use of self-conscious art or art-as-art as itengages with the historical, social and political, commenting on the aesthetic worldand the realm of experience. Laurie Ricou indicates this self-conscious humour whileacknowledging the critic’s need to situate him/herself in the subtitle of his essay,“Journal Entries from a Capitalist Bourgeois Patriarchal Anglo-saxon MainstreamCritic” (1986,pp.205-15). This sense of playfulness and the ability to challengeassumptions seem vital in order to engage our students as readers and writers toexperiment with language and with established constructs.In my poems about teaching, it becomes evident that I write in a post-modernvein from a perspective of wit and seif-parodying reflection. I see wit as invaluable toself-knowledge and it is a source of strength to me to be able to draw on humour andirony as support for my enthusiasm for teaching.In addition, what emerges in the writing is the desire to encourage students tofind the poetic, the aesthetically beautiful in their own worlds of experience, undertheir own human skins and in their hearts. This is the quest for celebration of themortal condition that Yeats seeks in poetry: “Soul clap its hands and sing, and loudersing/For every tatter in its mortal dress,” (Yeats, 1955,p.475).75Tango Through the DarkBusiness English 112: Revolutionary BluesThe classroom is buzzingin martial chorus.They are drafting a petition,indignant voices inform me,against some administrative evilthat offends their rights and sensibilities.I am pleased to see thempoliticized, mobilized intoarticulate expressionfor a cause.Often, it is so difficultto draw out the threads of enthusiasmand I exhaust myself in the pulling,unravelling.At last, I think,I can put theory into practice.Assign the collaborative writingof an authentic document, memo format,not some senseless example,imaginary drivel from the textbook.Next class, they proudly present mewith their document.It has been eagerly sent to the Dean.And my heart sinks at the misplaced modifiers,the sentence fragments and the spelling errors.The revolution has been lost in the proofing.We begin again.76Tango Through the DarkNotes: “Business English 112: Revolutionary Blues”This poem continues with the perspective of wit and self-parody, poking at myconstant search for teaching strategies that seem relevant and of the real world. Thewriting explores the teacher’s imposition of expectations on the students and theconstant “beginning again” from new perspectives that are a reality of teaching life.77Tango Through the DarkThe ProfessorHe produces a book a yearcultivating the intellect,trapped in rhythmsof restrained monotones,netted wordsand empty syllables.He wearsthe slightly rumpled lookthat has become his skin,spirit closing, shutting outthe disordered pleasures,the laughter of body and soul,locked inpatterns of falling language.But there are dayswhen I find him.I touch him with my eyes.As he turns the pagesof my manuscriptflickers of hands unveilsilver flashesof lost selves,moments of grace.78Tango Through the DarkNotes: “The Professor”The Professor explores the nature of university teaching life and the patterns ofexpectations that sometimes restrain and obliterate the very essence of the teachingself. In this poem the layers of teaching that perceive the profession as behavior andtheory need to be peeled away in order to find the world of lived experience, the“fleshy, familiar, very concrete world of teachers and students” (Aoki, 1992,p.19).The poem’s narrative also expresses the mysterious nature of aestheticperception. What we grow to love and recognize as beauty often has little connectionwith social perspectives of physical beauty. This poem explores the perception ofconnections with the mind, the senses, the heart, the increased understanding thatmakes us feel beauty in our relationships with another.79Tango Through the DarkThe Claim of PhiliaThose who write know the process.I thought of it as I was spitting out my heart.Anais NmIn the act,the sword scrawls of ink,dark pools of fluidstaining uncharted sheets,imprint the struggle,the tip prying openthe chambers of the heart,through the slant of tongue.80Tango Through the DarkNotes: ‘The Claim of Philia”Our teaching and our authority become transparentin the face of the claim of philia, a claim thatdemands that we let our language speak us even aswe speak it.(Pagano, 1992, p. 529)Tango through the Dark is a collection of my first poems. In the poem “TheClaim of Philia” I explore what it was like to write thepoetry and the process I wentthrough to find my voice as a writer. For me, the writing of the manuscript representsthe type of educational process that I hope to encourageand support in my students.The writing required autobiographical research as rigorous scholarship, self-reflectionand exploration of my world, the quest for articulate expression and refinement of text,and facing the “fear of the open heart.”“Fear of the open heart” is the expression used by Constance Rookein herbook of the same title, to express a condition that facesCanadian women writers.Rooke takes the phrase from Mavis Gallant’s short story,“The Image in the Mirror,”perceiving it as a female expression of Northrop Frye’s notion of garrison mentality:We come, then, to the question of what writing hasto do with the fear of the open heart. Writerscommunicate, by definition, and their perennialsubject is the human heart--so that it may seemthey ought, again by definition, to be on the side ofopen-heartedness. But writers often proceed byindirection.... woman’s long experience of indirectionand introspection and the need to consider thefeelings of others has, I suspect, been a significantfactor in fiction that tells the truth at a slant.(Rooke, 1989,pp.21-22)81The writing of this poetry has been a journey to increased self-knowledgethrough a determined effort to consider the open heart in the process, or at least torealize what determines the slants to truths or things left unsaid or unexpressed.Writing autobiographically increases my understanding of others and where I stand inrelation to others. It has been research and educational process that has enriched meand developed my pleasure in creating imaginative text.The creating of this manuscript has been a dialogue of pedagogy. The writinghas evoked an understanding of the feelings of my students as they undertake writingprojects. In particular, I have recognized in myself the same hesitancies andconditions that women students express in my classrooms. The fear of the open hearthas the power to constrain our voices.I have found that in order to truly write the self, finding the voice that articulatesclearly and most eloquently, I have had to overcome this fear of the open heart. Thediscoveries and articulations of voice have been encouraged by friends andcolleagues, especially by poets and teachers, Nancy Holmes and Tom Wayman. Inmy teaching world, my students need to be encouraged and inspired in the same wayif they are to become effective writers.82Tango Through the Darkin the woods of yourown nature whatevertwig interposes, and bare twigshave an actuality of their ownthis flurry of the stormthat holds us,plays with us and discards usdancing, dancing as may be credible.William Carlos Williams, “The Dance”83Tango Through the DarkIn this veiy curious age, when we are beginning torequire pictures of people, their minds and theircoats, a faithful outline...may possibly have somevalue.... For a study of histoty and biographyconvinces any right minded person that theseobscure figures occupy a place not unlike that of ashowman’s hand in the dance of the marionettes:and the finger is laid upon the heart. It is true thatour simple eyes believed for many ages that thefigures danced of their own accord, and cut whatsteps they chose; and the partial light whichnovelists and historians have begun to cast uponthat dark and crowded place behind the scenes hasdone little as yet but show us how many wires thereare, held in obscure hands, upon whose jerk or twistthe whole figure of the dance depends.Virginia Woolf, “Phyllis and Rosamond,”p.1784Writing Life as Teacher and PoetWhen teachers ask how close they should be tostudents they are not only asking “Who am I inrelation to these students or this student?” and“Who are these students or who is this student inrelation to me?” They are also asking questionsabout what they want from students and whatstudents want from them. These are questions ofidentity and intention...What does a teacher want? What is a teacher’sintention? However these questions are answered,they are answered in language. Foucault, havinglearned from Lacan, teaches us that words . . . areour intentions.(Taubman, 1988,P.216, 223)one keeps learning by teaching fiction or poetiybecause even,’ reader’s response to a writer’s callcan have its own startling, suggestive power...(Coles, 1989, p. xix)Where has the imaginative journeying through autobiographical text taken me?The creation of multiple texts, of text within text, has taken me to places where thepostmodernists--Foucault, Barthes, Derrida, Kristeva, and others, live within me, intothe textuality of text. This dialogic relationship with the world becomes, for me, a wayto create text in the form of my own narrative and understand it in terms of where Istand in life as an educator.85I have attempted to make my narrative texts rich in the sense of Max VanManen’s definition. Van Manen (1992,P.450) speaks of the need for text in thedialogue of pedagogy to achieve a richness, to be concrete in its exploration of life’sexperiences. This richness engages us and invites dialogue and response.In addition, Van Manen calls for text to be deep. Depth is seen as a notion thatorients text to meaning, requiring an openness to fields of experience. Research andtheorizing that simplify and reduce life can distort experience in shallowness, failing toreveal the “depthful nature” and “contours” that enrich human experience.Consequently, informed by Van Manen’s perspective, I have tried to create atext that reflects my lifeworid, imbued with deep experiences, fundamentalambiguities, delicious paradoxes, mysteries and richness. It is forme a text thatteaches in a hermeneutic sense, something about pedagogic naturein its restorationsand reconstructions of past experience and its reconciliationswith the present. It is, Ihope, poetry that invites dialogue and encounters witha recognition and enrichmentof experience within the reader.In searching to find the words and language to express my experiences as awoman, I realize that in the classroom and in the home, Iencounter others in waysthat move back and forth in the multiple tensions inherentto life: between public andprivate self, familial life, sensual and sexual life, and betweensocial, political andpedagogic discourses. As I write, I know that what enriches my exploration of self isthe conscious seeking out of language that is deeply centred in the sensual and thefamilial self. Primal intimacy seems inherent to the woman’s voice and it informs mydialogues with others, colouring my teaching world. This voice, for me, does notencourage or imply sentimentality; rather, it is grounded in rigorous scholarship, the86quest for increased understanding of the constant dialectic between public and privateexperience.The striving for language to express this reality becomes an educationalexperience for me, in the writing of poetry. The countless drafts, hundreds of hours ofediting, caffeine overdoses, refining, searching for the most expressive word, the“spitting out of my heart” have revealed to me that the initial quest to describe adefinitive, “authentic self” is not possible. I have multiple selves that are woventogether by common threads to create a multi-hued fabric of identity that is constantlyin transition.In considering the debate about “authentic self” William Pinar’s essay “Autobiography and the Architecture of Self” considers notions of authenticity, self, andautobiography itself through poststructuralist ideas. Pinar’s autobiographical work hasexplored the idea of reclaiming the self from the false or frozen forms acquired byindividuals through the process of schooling as they “educate” or are “educated.” Thisreclamation was accomplished through the process of currere, the autobiographicalmethod influenced by phenomenology, existentialism and psychoanalysis. Thisreclamation of the authentic self would require the investigation of educationalexperience through autobiography. Pinar’s conclusion meets my own in this autobiographical investigation: that is, there are only fictive selves in the Nietzscheansense. “Nietzsche envisages not the destruction of the conceptual world but ratherits deconstruction--that is, its transportation into a realm of aesthetic illusion andplay” (Megill, quoted in Pinar, 1988a,p.16).Therefore, it is not sufficient to simply relate our stories or our biographicalthemes which would amount to “a false stability and unity of self for a false unity of87text” (Pinar, I 988a,p.29). “We are not the stories we tell as much as we are themodes of relation to others our stories imply, modes of relation implied by what wedelete as much as what we include”(1988a, p. 28). If we can undertake this process,discovering in ourselves what is included and excluded, we may be able, as Nietzschestates to “experience the history of humanity as a whole as [our own] history” (Pinar,1988a,p.30).The struggle to express my woman’s voice has been fraught with the sameinarticulate fears of social conditioning that are expressed by my female writingstudents. If I write a poem that seems to have adultery as its central theme, will itadequately express multiple possibilities and openness to interpretation in the realmsof experience and desire? How will this poem be read by others who know or do notknow me? How will it be understood?Woolf (quoted in Eagleton, 1986,p.40) speaks of her fear of revealing “thetruth about my own experiences as a body.” Rich also states the anxiety of writing“about experiencing myself as a woman.” For Rich, the act of writing becomes anexpression of conflict between “traditional female functions” and the “subversivefunction of the imagination” (quoted in Eagleton, 1986,p.40). Similarly, I am facedwith these concerns. If I use the analogies of a woman’s sensual experience to reflectmy currere/lifeworld, how will these poems be understood? Given my calm exterior,the polished persona that I present to the public world and in my professional teachingworld, does the fact that I have expressed myself, exposed myself in a deeplypersonal way make a difference to those around me and our perceptions of eachother? Does it matter? Am I not compelled to write anyway?88Rebecca Martusewicz, in her essay, “Mapping the Terrain of the Post-ModernSubject”(1992) reviews poststructuralist theory and links her considerations to theFrench feminist poststructuralists and curriculum theorists. In discussing theperspectives of Saussure, Levi-Strauss, Barthes, Lacan, Foucault and Derrida,Martusewicz provides links to the views of the French feminists, Cixous, Irigaray andKristeva. In the context of the autobiographical text I have presented in this research,Martusewicz’s efforts to reclaim “woman” from male discourse, locating her in desireand difference, seem particularly relevant. The feminine is not the opposite of themasculine, rather, the concept of fixed identity (phallic principle) is denied in favour ofa multiple, indeterminate feminine subject:The interest in this work by the French feministwriters is to forge the ‘antilogos weapon,’ to takeapart the dominant male discourses that definewoman according to man’s image of himself, and toarticulate woman’s difference in and throughlanguage.(Martusewicz, 1992,p.145)Much of the criticism of the French feminist poststructuralists has been aimedat the charges that the “focus on language as the foundation of woman’soppression.. .is not sufficiently grounded in material reality” and the claim that I’écriturefeminine is essentialist. However, as Martusewicz asserts, this criticism fails toacknowledge the neglect of the material reality of discursive systems and disregardsthe consideration of women’s bodies as a “source of metaphor for multiplicity anddifference”(1992,p.145). Martusewicz concludes her essay with a question that hasbeen explored in my research through autobiography and the reconstruction of self:What does it mean to be an educated woman?[T]o live as feminist educators is to live a tensionbetween a critical theoretical space and an89affirmative political space. It is within this in-between, this ‘elsewhere,’ that we must seek theeducated woman.(Martusewicz, 1992,p.155)In the end, after overcoming my own hesitancy to show drafts of my writing tocolleagues, I welcomed their invaluable assistance and their support and encouragement. I realized that I have been conditioned to write in a certain way, in a traditionalscholarly fashion, by professors who instilled this sense of the appropriate tone ofacademic writing. I was once told by an English professor that those who write wellacademically cannot write well in the creative fields of poetry or fiction writing. I wasadvised to refine one skill and to leave the other to “creative” writers, who were, byhis implication, a different breed.In July, 1992, I had the opportunity to take a wonderfully evocative course incontemporary curriculum theory at The University of British Columbia with WilliamPinar. Previously, I would never have dreamed of embarking on this autobiographicaladventure in scholarly writing. Pinar, who has written extensively on autobiographicalmethods, invited and encouraged possibility, showing us by example how his ownautobiographical writing was indeed an example of rigorous and epistemologicallysound scholarship. By writing with us, collaborating in the learning process, he taughtme to trust a deeply personal voice that informs my pedagogy and this confidenceopened up doors that had always seemed closed or not quite open to me as anacademic, as a teacher and as a woman.90By writing, by beginning from within, a recursive relationship with my ownwriting provides the space for re-invention of the self and for the transformationsnecessary for learning and teaching:The ultimate power of autobiography is that we gainnew insights or knowledge. By pulling us out ofsubjectivity a powerful story brings us to a new edgeof awareness and pushes us over it. Weacknowledge lived experience as complex,ambiguous, and contradictory.... Like the objectivistwho desires one truth, or the subjectivist whodesires an infinite number of truths, researchbecomes “relegated” when either view is adopted.But life is messy, educational life particularly so.And yet we need to keep close to the messiness sothat it doesn’t get forgotten.(Brandau, 1988,p.4)Similarly, Roland Barthes’ work explores autobiography and its reluctance to speak inthe first person. Writing reflects new forms of stress and self-referential tensions andthe writing itself becomes the record of impulses and the changing self (Sontag, 1982,p. xv). All my questions about how my writing would be perceived, in the end, wereanswered by my urgent drive to write, by the support and encouragement of writersand scholars whose work I respected and by a strongly evolving belief in the newdirections and movement in my own development as an academic.My paradoxes are plentiful. I bring this constantly changing self to theclassroom. My students bring their selves. My colleagues bring other selves to theirclassrooms. Their paradoxes are plentiful. We must all situate ourselves in relation toour realities and our texts, our world/words, attempting to find a country or animaginary homeland of common dialogue.91Linda Hutcheon, like others in the post-modern camp, states her increasingconviction in a post-modern view that in literary studies, perhaps the concept of theuniversal is only the creation of time, place, history, race, and gender. Therefore,there is an increasing need to situate the self in relation to text as perceived asreflective of the world. The post-modern impulse implies that meaning is created in theindividual human consciousness and that all text has duality and paradox or conflict.Therefore, the idea of unity or wholeness is a difficult notion. However, as I havediscovered through the process of writing text, I think that we might direct our thoughtin a phenomenological direction in considering world and self as inseparable, with theworld perceived as woven by language, world as word-woven text.What seems most appealing in the post-modern sensibility, as Hutcheondescribes it, is the meta-sensibility or self-reflection (1988b, p. x). For teachers andstudents, this means an approach to text which includes an awareness that ourunderstandings of reality are influenced by historical, social, political and humanconstructs. This movement towards an interrogative mode of open-ended questionswith no final answers, directs our reflection to accept the inevitable paradoxes of ourlives.My own text is post-modern in that it attempts to blur the traditional bordersbetween academic and creative writing and autobiographical writing, questioning theseparateness of ‘theory” and “art” (Goldberg, 1987/1988; Hutcheon, 1988a; Ulmer,1983).This post-modern.. .practice interrogates andproblematizes, leaving [the reader & writer] [reading& writing] position; it is in many ways a demanding[text]. It upsets learned notions of the relationsbetween [creative/scholarly, subjective/objective,92process/product] by installing conventions of both(which are often taken for granted) and then byinvestigating the borders along which each can beopened, subverted, altered by the other in newways.(Hutcheon, 1988a,p.299)My currereltext is also a text that moves through autobiography towardsliteracy as explored by Giroux (1987) and Freire (1987), a literacy that enables us tobe critical of our everyday lives and to recognize and accept difference in the humanexperience. John Willinsky, in his book The Triumph of Literature/The Fate of Literacy,eloquently calls for a movement in our energies as teachers to explore how literacy(as intimately connected with literature) reaches out to the world, rather thanregarding the notion of literacy simply as a testable cognitive skill to be practised.Rather, Willinsky defines this new literacy as one that approaches literary work asinherently contained within language, “a representation intent on reconstituting somepart of the world in its own images, and a source of pleasure in, and power over, theworld.” The word “pleasure” in reference to literary studies is a refreshing one; it is aword that is remarkably absent from most post-secondary literature course outlines.Willinsky continues:This approach to literacy and literature calls forteaching students not only the specific skills ofreading and writing but instructing them, as well,about how the social context of literacy operates,about how it continues to write a good part of theworld we live in. We exist in a sea of texts thatinform and govern our lives.... The social formationof our world/word is a matter of who writes and whois written, what counts as graffiti and what as a paidpolitical message, whose voices are heard and howthe scripts of a postliterate workplace and media arefashioned. The fate of literacy is still our future, ourtext, our life.(Willinsky, 1991, p.4)93In Professing Literature, Gerald Graff ends his account of the history of theprofessionalization of literary studies with a quote by James Kincaid:Abandoning coverage as an impoverished ideal, wemight begin by imagining an ideal course... .Wouldn’tit seek to define the subject matter, literature, and todiscuss the various and competing assumptionsabout texts, language, meaning, culture, readers,and so forth that we make? Wouldn’t it show theseassumptions are themselves constructions, thatthere is considerable debate about such things astexts, about where meaning resides, about theimportance of gender, about the relations of thesethings to historical situations? Wouldn’t it also showthat these assumptions were not themselvesinnocent, that they were value-laden, interested,ideological? You are starting to suspect that this is acourse in theory. And so it is. One either smuggles itin or goes through customs with it openly.... Weneed to teach not texts themselves but how wesituate ourselves in reference to those texts.(quoted in Graff, 1987,p.262)In considering contemporary curriculum discourses, efforts to understandcurriculum have ranged from divergent and sometimes convergent perspectives, aspolitical, phenomenological, aesthetic, autobiographical and gendered texts to namejust a few approaches. In addition, critical theoretical approaches to literature suchas: close-reading/formalism, structuralism, deconstruction, Marxist criticism, feministcriticism, and reader-response criticism, provide frameworks for the development ofteaching strategies which may provide linkings between discourse and livedexperience.94Consequently, the development of teaching practice which encourages culturaland practical literacy needs to be aimed at fostering social reflection andunderstanding of the social, historical and political forces that affect and influence theuse of language and textual practices in writing. This approach to curriculumadvocates the belief that students must recognize the connectedness between pastand present dilemmas and is therefore enhanced by perspectives explored inautobiographical writing.As writers and educators and learners, the belief that the process of becomingand knowing is continuously evolving should motivate us to write our experienceswithout distancing ourselves from the inconsistencies or contradictions that exist.Jelinek comments on this process in The Histo,y of Women’s Autobiography: FromAntiquity to the Present:Contemporary women are more likely to view [a]sense of being unfinished more positively thanearlier generations, who were more easilydemoralized by their ambivalence--their dividedloyalties between work and the expected femaleroles. Today, this struggle continues with less self-deprecation. Now it can be condoned as aconstructive process in becoming a self-affirmedhuman being.... Disjunctive narratives and discontinuous forms are more adequate for mirroring thefragmentation and multidimensionality of women’slives.(Jelinek, 1986.pp.187-188)Despite the sense of different realities which may exist in texts, as a teacher ofliterature, it remains my conviction that it is an identification with and a recognition ofself in the story of the “other” that makes a student’s experience with literature onethat touches, grips, resonates, holds tight to the sensory consciousness, urging a95return, a re-reading, offering a multiplicity of ways of seeing and knowing. Despite thedifferences in texts, in realities, and in the multitude of “imaginary homelands,” ouruniversal must still be within the realm of the human heart and its capacity for feeling.This quest for scholarship that embraces the heart in an understanding of the worldand selves is eloquently expressed by Christ:The ethos of eros and empathy reminds us that atthe root of our scholarship is eros, a passion toconnect, the desire to deepen our understanding ofourselves and our world, the passion to transform orpreserve the world as we understand it deeply. At itsbest, scholarship becomes a way of lovingourselves, others, and our world more deeply.(Christ, 1987,p.58)I am driven by the seeking to find language to express lived and feltexperience, trying to come close to Anaïs Nm’s idea of writing that enters not throughthe mind but the senses. This to me is fundamental to human experience, the“unsaid” shining through the “said” that Aoki speaks of, the shining through of feltexperience. 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