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Iris touching iris : praxis as an alternate paradigm in the writing classroom Johnson, Lesley 2006

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IRIS TOUCHING IRIS: PRAXIS AS AN ALTERNATE PARADIGM IN THE WRITING CLASSROOM B y Lesley Johnson B . A . , University College of the Cariboo, 2001 B.Ed . , University of British Columbia, 2001 A THESIS S U B M I T T E D I N P A R T I A L F U L F I L L M E N T OF T H E R E Q U I R E M E N T S F O R T H E D E G R E E OF M A S T E R OF A R T S I N T H E F A C U L T Y OF G R A D U A T E S T U D I E S ( P H I L O S O P H Y O F E D U C A T I O N ) T H E U N I V E R S I T Y OF B R I T I S H C O L U M B I A December, 2005 © Lesley Johnson, 2005 \ Abstract: The following paper outlines a response to a perceived need for an alternate paradigm than the one that currently dominates the field of writing pedagogy. The current paradigm, according to the author, operates on assumptions allied with technical rationality, assumptions which are problematic in light of the fundamental values that underpin the very act of writing itself. The paper also explores a possible alternate paradigm, described by the Aristotelian term, praxis, using a creative narrative style in the form of an ongoing dialogue between two sisters over the course of several months. The interaction between the two sisters frames the conceptual inquiry portion found in the five chapters. Through dialogue, the sisters explore issues of value in key aspects of their lives. These emotionally and intellectually charged conversations serve to underscore the author's belief that an alternate paradigm would open new doors in the composition classroom. Engaging in narrative, explains the author, provides a wealth of possible ways to sidestep the predominant action-reaction framework of technical rationality In telling and listening to stories, the author argues that it is possible to realize a different approach to teaching and researching writing. ii Table of Contents Abstract i i Table of Contents i i i Chapter I Introduction 1 Dialogue with Lynn: Part One 12 Chapter II Foundations and Assumptions 27 Dialogue with Lynn: Part Two 33 Chapter III Problems with the Current-Traditional Paradigm 45 Dialogue with Lynn: Part Three 55 Chapter I V A n Alternate Paradigm 69 Dialogue with Lynn: Part Four 90 Chapter V Implications for the Fie ld Of Writing Pedagogy 98 Dialogue with Lynn: Part Five '. 108 Epilogue 115 References 118 iii Chapter One: Introduction I wandered lonely as a cloud That floats on high o'er vales and hills, When all at once I saw a crowd, A host, of golden daffodils; Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze. Continuous as the stars that shine And twinkle on the milky way, They stretched in never-ending line Along the margin of a bay: Ten thousand saw I at a glance, Tossing their heads in sprightly dance. The waves beside them danced; but they Out-did the sparkling waves in glee: A poet could not but be gay, In such a jocund company: I gazed—and gazed—but little thought What wealth the show to me had brought: For oft, when on my couch I lie In vacant or in pensive mood, They flash upon that inward eye Which is the bliss of solitude; And then my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the daffodils. Wil l iam Wordsworth, 1804 The poem, "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" by Wordsworth represents one of the major reasons I became a teacher of English and of writing. The poet's passion for nature and, ultimately, for expression, resonates in every syllable with an authenticity rarely matched in literature. It is Wordsworth's simple honesty and joyful exuberance in the use of creative language that I wanted to inspire in my students and to encourage in myself as a writer and a researcher. M y early experience as a teacher of writing and as a researcher of writing practice seemed to take me further and further away from this early vision. The enthusiastic delight and sense of connectedness that I so enjoyed as a writer were a far cry from the way in which I was being encouraged to teach writing, and an even further step away as I attempted to research the field of writing pedagogy. It seemed that, even with all the focus on process over product, the value of writing as an activity and as a subject still seemed to rest on productivity rather than on connectivity, on language as artifact rather than on language as communicative tool. Even when I read the work of theorists who argue against the 'isolationist' tendencies of process theory and expressivist theory, championing writing as a communicative activity that should bring people into closer contact with others and themselves, the form this research takes still closely mimics that of the expressivist and process theorists whose attitudes and approaches are being criticized. What I was searching for, I realized, as I waded through reams of articles on everything from multiculturalism to gender bias to second language writing to technology in the classroom to genre theory, was an approach to writing research and to writing pedagogy that would inspire an authentic contact, a dynamic, living relationship between teacher, student, researcher, and the act of writing. Wordsworth speaks of an 'inward eye' that reflects back to his mind experiences that have touched him, filling his heart with music and inspiration. This 'inward eye', the eye of the reflective, sees beyond the physical qualities of things into their spirit, making connections that last a lifetime, that teach the heart to dance. 2 If this approach can be experienced, by a writer and by a teacher/researcher, can it also be taught? This is the question I wrestled with in approaching this paper, discovering as I did so that, i f it could be taught, it would not be taught in the way that much writing is currently taught. Could it be researched? Again, I thought that, i f it could, it would not conform to the current model of academic writing involving thesis -antithesis - synthesis. The dialogue would have to be much more organic, springing up like a daffodil on a hillside, or a conversation between friends. So how does a writer approach writing a thesis about writing? Even more to the point, how does a writer present an approach to writing that falls outside of the assumptions that underlie most of the current research on the teaching of writing? This question became the impetus behind my research into the teaching of writing and my approach to the writing represented here. Current research paradigms present the written word as singular, as lonely, and as motionless. In contrast, I am researching an approach to writing and the teaching of writing that is polyphonous, engaged, and constantly in motion. A thesis, when written in a manner that assumes a singular, objective, unified voice, serves only to reify a belief that truth is singular, objective, and unified. This belief, when applied to writing and the teaching of writing, lacks life and authenticity. If research into the teaching of writing is to be 'real ' , then it must excavate the soul of writing itself, both as an activity and as an artifact. This paper, then, is really a ruminative piece, reflecting on the act of writing even as it attempts to look at the way we use writing as a research tool, as a teachable subject, as a way to connect with others, and as a way to understand our world. 3 Towards an Alternate Paradigm: Transferring Allegiances A) Kuhn's Definition of a 'Paradigm Shift' Thomas Kuhn makes the following claim in his famous text, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, "The man who embraces a new paradigm at an early stage must often do so in defiance of the evidence provided by problem-solving. He must, in other words, have faith that the new paradigm wi l l succeed with the many large problems that confront it, knowing only that the older paradigm has failed with a few. A decision of that kind can only be made on faith" (1962, p.158). Kuhn's statement is striking for two reasons. First, he is using religious language to explain actions and choices taken in the scientific community that have a direct impact on the practice of science. In other words, though Kuhn does not go so far as to say that science itself is a faith practice, he is saying that scientific communities operate within structures of belief, ways of thinking, acting, communicating, and practicing that require a 'buy in ' from individuals before they even begin to engage in scientific inquiry. The second reason his statement is so startling arises from the idea that this faith, the faith to leap from one paradigm to another, is made " in defiance of the evidence provided by problem-solving". The very step that may be necessary to move forward, out of a possibly stultifying and oppressive structure of scientific practice, is a step that seemingly takes the participant backward, away from that most trusted factor in scientific inquiry, the evidence. Instead, the participant relies on a faith, or a hope, that there is a better way, even i f it is relatively unknown and untried. B) Kuhn's 'Paradigm Shift' and Writing Pedagogy Kuhn's development of the terms "paradigm" and "paradigm shift" have already had a profound impact on the study of other disciplinary practices, education included. Generally, the focus in various disciplines has tended toward understanding the steps taken between the emergence of a new paradigm and its subsequent rise to dominance over the old paradigm. Kuhn's theory is often used to display how a "new paradigm" somehow answers questions or solves problems more effectively than the current-traditional paradigm in a particular field. In the study of writing process, for example, Maxine Hairston (1982) attempts to display how the emergence of a process-centered program for teaching writing has begun a paradigm shift in the field. Where at one time the teaching of writing focused on the composed product and the definitive analysis of discourse into discrete categories (description, narration, exposition, argumentation, to name just a few), as well as an overwrought concern with style and usage, the new paradigm, according to Hairston, focuses on process over product, the fluidity of categories in writing, and minimizes attention on style and grammar usage (pp. 122-123). Her argument is that the teaching of writing wi l l become more effective and beneficial for all participants, students and teachers, as the new process-centered paradigm is embraced. What is missing in Hairston's and others' approaches to the use of Kuhn's theory in educative disciplines is manifold. Firstly, Kuhn's 'paradigm shift', as Joseph Dunne carefully reminds us, involves a change so fundamental that it has the capacity to shake the foundational assumptions surrounding a discipline: "The existence of such a framework of commitments [a paradigm] virtually defines a scientific field and makes 5 possible the steady, cumulative refinement of its concepts and laws that characterizes its 'normal' development" (1993, p.47). Second, a shift from one 'framework of commitments' to another is comparable to, as Kuhn calls it, "a conversion experience" (1962, p. 151). In other words, this shift is more than a logical assent to a particular method or approach, but rather a "transfer of allegiance" (Dunne, p. 48) from one set of values and assumptions to another, utterly incommensurable, set of values and assumptions. Thirdly, Kuhn clearly points out the impossibility of using logical argumentation to bring about this 'transfer of allegiance' from one paradigm to another: "something must make at least a few scientists feel that the new proposal is on the right track, and sometimes it is only personal and inarticulable aesthetic considerations that can do that. Men have been converted by them when most of the articulable technical arguments pointed the other way" (1963, p.158). Because of this great divide between one paradigm and another, "the competition between paradigms is not the sort of battle that can be resolved by proofs" (p. 148). It would seem, then, that making a shift from one paradigm to another involves three conditions or elements. The first is an event or series of events that somehow undermine confidence in the foundational assumptions of a system of practices. The second is a new, alternative set of assumptions different enough that deciding between the two frameworks involves a high-stakes choice comparable to switching from one faith or belief system to another. The third condition is the impossibility of solidly proving the value or effectuality of one's choice of the new over the other, older paradigm. On this understanding of Kuhn's notion, a paradigm is not simply an approach to practice among other competing approaches, but a fundamental worldview, a way of perceiving problems and their possible solutions, a perception-action framework which helps to define the nature of the discipline itself. Any move from a framework of this kind to another way of perceiving the world would indeed require a leap of 'faith', a drastic immersion in another language and culture. When it comes to the study of writing process, then, Hairston's definition of a paradigm falls short of Kuhn's in a number of respects. Comparing process writing approaches to what she defines as "the traditional paradigm", Hairston attempts to show how the traditional approach has failed in its effectuality on a number of points. The problem with her thesis is that she does not point out the fundamental differences in values between the two approaches, how they differ in perspective, goals, and orientation. She doesn't do this, I argue, because these two approaches do not in fact differ so much as to be competing paradigms. These are different approaches to the teaching of writing, granted, but they do not differ so much in the fundamental commitments that Kuhn uses to define a 'paradigm'. In fact, as Steven Schreiner (1997) points out, process writing as a movement shares a number of the same fundamental values as the "traditional paradigm" that Hairston describes. Schreiner explains that the proponents of the process movement remained, like their predecessors, largely individualistic in their approach to writing, assuming the "isolation of the writer at work" (p. 87). Secondly, the role of the writer is stressed over the role of the reader, privileging an approach to writing which places the 'author' at the center of discourse (p. 87). Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, in process writing there tends to continue to be what Schreiner calls an "elitist impulse" preserved at the heart of process writing and inherited from traditional 7 literary education (p. 100). What Hairston describes as a "paradigm shift" may in fact be simply a different variation on an old theme in the teaching of writing. C) Defining the Problem I have argued that a paradigm shift (in Kuhn's sense of the term) in the teaching of writing would require a radical change in the very foundations and assumptions of modern rhetoric. Additionally, this shift would require—at least at first—a faith and acceptance of the new framework of assumptions "in defiance of the evidence provided by problem-solving" and so represents something like "a conversion experience" for those who embrace it. Four questions emerge at this point in the discussion. First, what are the foundations and assumptions of modern research and theory in the teaching of written composition? Second, what are the possible difficulties inherent in these assumptions? Third, what would a theory and a pattern of research incommensurable with these assumptions look like? Fourth - and the key question for the purpose of my inquiry - can a convincing case be made for a new paradigm of composition pedagogy? It is clear in these four questions that the first three are concerned with paradigm definition in writing pedagogy. The last question is more concerned with the value of such a paradigm shift. Where the first three questions concern themselves with "what", the last concerns itself with "why". At the same time, all four questions are intimately connected in terms of necessity and value. It is necessary to define current and emerging paradigms in a particular field if we are to discover why individuals may desire to move from one to another, and how their perception of knowledge itself might change in the process. 8 The last question is most central to the nature of my inquiry in that it embodies the purpose, or telos, for the research and informs its method. Even as my paper attempts to answer this question conceptually, it engages in exploring the possibilities inherent to the question itself. If, as Kuhn suggests, the shift from one paradigm to another involves a "transfer of allegiances" akin to a conversion experience, such a shift cannot and wi l l not take place merely as a result of or in response to mere rational argumentation. This paper attempts to take into account numerous aspects of the human experience of value that may precipitate the perceived necessity for a paradigm shift. My Method A key concept in Martha Nussbaum's (1986) seminal foray into the world of Greek tragedy and philosophy is eudemonia, a word often translated as "happiness," but more accurately rendered by Nussbaum as "human flourishing" (p. 6). The significance of Nussbaum's use of this term lies more in what it chooses not to do rather than in what it does: instead of creating a dividing line between questions of morality and questions of aesthetics, it presents the two as part and parcel of the same activity of living a worthwhile life. This is illustrated in the following introductory quotation: For the Greeks of the fifth and early fourth centuries B . C . E . , there were not two separate sets of questions in the area of human choice and action, aesthetic questions and moral-philosophical questions, to be studied and written about by mutually detached colleagues in different departments. Instead, dramatic poetry and what we now call philosophical 9 inquiry in ethics were both typically . . . seen as ways of pursuing a single and general question: namely, how human beings should live. (p. 12) A desire to situate the problem of defining human excellence somewhere between human choice and contingency (or luck) requires that Nussbaum remain faithful to the contextual basis for such conversations in ancient Greece. In order to do this, she explains to the reader that Plato would have seen the playwrights and poets of his own generation as rival ethical thinkers, and not merely as detached and frivolous 'aesthetes'. The modern tendency to favour "speculative prose treatises" (p. 12) and analytical philosophy over more artistic modes of expression as means to grapple with difficult philosophical and moral questions was not the way of the ancient Greeks. Instead, Plato treats his poetic and dramatic literary contemporaries as serious contemplatives on issues of truth, justice, and equality. This explains his strong attacks on aesthetic modes of contemplation, like poetry. What is significant for a modern audience is not so much the comparative value of Plato's rational arguments against the aesthetes, but his belief that these assaults are necessary in establishing the validity of his argument. Because we live in a time period in which his assumptions seem strange and unnecessary, it behooves us to question our own assumptions about the 'proper' modes of philosophical argument and debate. If, as Plato seems to automatically assume, poets, dramatists, and storytellers have a valid claim on our attention regarding matters of right and wrong, truth and falsity, good and evil, perhaps engaging with such questions through and in aesthetic forms is a fundamental and necessary aspect of all philosophical inquiry. The values, symbols, 10 messages, and language of a Shakespeare, Eliot, or Austen become just as important to settling issues of human value and experience as those of a Nietzsche, Kant, or Heidegger. A s well , merely reading literary texts may not suffice as a method of such engagement. Rather, as Socrates illustrates in The Republic, the doing of philosophy requires some kind of dialogical connection beyond mere personal reflection and observation. If this is so, the philosopher who wishes to know whether or not the aesthetic has any claim on our moral and ethical reasoning must also engage herself in aesthetic exploration through the reading and writing of literature, poetry, and drama. This, then, becomes the 'doing' of philosophy in that it involves true contact, not merely cerebral, but also visceral, with the questions themselves. I have chosen to explore the nature of current paradigms in writing pedagogy and the possible value of a paradigm shift in this field through the use of two methods, namely speculative theory and narrative dialogue. M y reason for this choice is due to the exploratory nature of my research question and the belief that the 'doing' of philosophy, indeed, of learning, is properly a visceral experience, and not merely the activity of a detached mind. Mind and body, research and story, prose and poetry are all part of the process of inquiry, as my approach to the questions 'embodied' in this paper attempts to display. The reader is invited to engage with the dialogue represented here between the i fictional characters and between the narrative and speculative 'forms' of writing. Writing itself, the experience of writing this paper and the experience of reading it, form another dialogical contact between writer, message, reader, and context. M y hope is that engagement with this text w i l l provide sites for meaning-making in the gaps and connections between all of these elements. II Dialogue with Lynn: Part One "So, why did you stop writing that transcription?" "What? Which one?" She's moving furiously around the room, pulling out plastic bags. I think she is trying to find the cat food. " Y o u know. The one. The one you were doing on Song of Songs, you know the love thing?" "I stopped a long time ago." She's found it, the cat food, and is spooning it into the cat dish. Chloe is mewling and rubbing herself against my sister's legs. At least she knows which side her bread is buttered on, as Dad used to say. "Why?" "I came to a point, you know, a point where I couldn't do it anymore. I just couldn't believe it anymore. What I was writing, I mean." She's standing now, rubbing an itchy spot on her forehead with the back of her hand, still holding the kitty scoop. "Mmmhmm. Like where was it? A t what point?" "Wel l , I was doing fine with the love part. I really was. I got the whole agony of it, and the need. Everything was so symbolic and beautiful. There is such a reciprocal agony about it, too. It's the ultimate desire, the most overwhelming emotion humans can feel. That was why it is so suggestive of divine love. It's such a focal point. Everything in the Bible seems to hinge on that divine Passion. Bu t . . " "Okay. We talked about this already. What got me about it was how you had really hit on something. Any theology needs this, this contact and this love. What is a "belief in God" without it? Y o u know like Eliot says, 'What are the roots that clutch, what 12 branches grow/Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,/You cannot say, or guess, for you know only/A heap of broken images.' The theology which grows out of this half-truth can only be a lie because it was born from a lie - right? That's the fundamental paradox you were wrestling with. Y o u were trying to find, show, the nature of the miracle. It seemed like you were just so inspired as you were in the midst of your study. I was impressed by the stuff you were coming up with, like that thing about the tents of Kedar. 'Black as the tents of Kedar.' I loved that!" "Wel l , maybe it got a bit personal for me." She sticks in her chin, that way she does, and laughs. "Not that it was a bad thing. I guess getting personal with it was the whole point. But .. . when I got to that point, you know the part." She gets up to fumble on her bookshelf, finding the Bible, she opens it quickly. The book falls open to the spot. I find myself thinking that it all hinges on this for her. This is the essential point - the place where she wi l l have to make a choice. Finding it, she reads, "Okay, this is the part. The beloved - the woman - she's sleeping and she has a dream. I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night. I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them? M y beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him. I rose up to open to my beloved; and my hands dropped with myrrh, and my fingers with sweet smelling myrrh, upon the handles of the lock. I opened to my beloved; but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone: my soul failed when he spake: I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer." 13 Lynn stops at this point, looking up at me. "Yes?" "That's it. That's the spot I had to stop." "Why? Why there?" "Because of those words - T sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer.' I just .. . I just couldn't take it. That part, I mean. I know what that is like. That's where I feel I am right now. I sought him, but he gave me no answer. He is silent. He is nowhere to be found. When you've been in love like that, relying every day on that Voice, on that sure knowledge of who you are and what you believe. That innocent love, that longing and daily provision. And then, one day, it's gone - he's gone. Y o u know?" Her eyes are an open door, wide and moist. "I just couldn't repeat her words, when she has to rely on her memory of him and her hope for the future. When all she has in the present is her memory and her longing. I feel that way, only I don't believe like she does. I don't have that faith that he wi l l return." "But he does, doesn't he? He returns?" "Yes, in the story, yes. But - but she doesn't know that, see? She doesn't know how the story is going to end. She doesn't know when or i f he wi l l come back, or even how he wi l l return when and i f he does. She doesn't know why he left; she doesn't understand. She's just suddenly left all alone and somehow - somehow keeps her faith in him even in the midst of that pain. I jus t . . . can't. I feel like I tried, but I can't." She lifts up her hands in a gesture of mock surrender, but there is still the pain in her eyes. " Y o u know, I've been thinking about something as you were talking. I used to think the most powerful word in the English language was the word ' love ' , but I've changed my mind." 14 "Oh?" "Yeah. I've decided that the most powerful word in the English language is the word 'maybe'. To be able to say 'maybe' requires something deeper than hope or faith in the future. It requires something like the ability to just be here, right now. Knowing that the past hurts and the future hurts even more, but to be able to have the strength to say, 'maybe, I don't know yet, but maybe'. There's a strength in that, I think. It is a way of letting go and of giving up, but not in a suicidal way. It's not like you're canceling the possibility of a future, or trying to wipe out the past, but you're just admitting that you don't know, that you're not sure. That kind of humility in love, and that letting go, are the most difficult ways to be in this world. We want to own love, to have it and to control it. We want to know that it is 'ours'. I don't know that many of us, including me, know how to love in the 'maybe' of life. Basically, I guess that means loving in the moment - right now in the 'misty flats' of the present." I can feel my eyes unwillingly f i l l up as I am speaking. I know Lynn sees this, too. We sit for a moment, transfixed. Then Lynn stirs, quietly turning a page in the Bible. "It's funny, you know, you saying that. When you read this chapter, it sounds a lot like a 'maybe'. The Beloved, she doesn't really know whether her lover wi l l return, not really. Instead, she tells her friends about him. She talks about his features, his characteristics, what his mouth looks and tastes like, what is body feels like against her skin. It's as if, through speaking, she is reincarnating him to herself. She's speaking him into existence in order to keep him in her heart. 'His mouth is sweetness itself; he is altogether lovely. This is my lover, this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.' I guess I can hear the 'maybe' being whispered here in every line, between the vulnerability of these pronouncements. Every time she invokes him she is saying, 15 'maybe, O maybe'. I never thought of it that way before." Lynn frowns, her eyes down as she holds the book between her knees. "Look at the words of Christ on the cross, ' M y God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' That anguish sounds very much the same, doesn't it? Something which goes beyond the words, a spirit behind the words. The agony of love, I guess you could call it. It's the agony which only knows separation." "Yes, but this agony, i f you call it that, knows something else, too." "What's that?" "The character of the beloved One. There is this deep knowledge in the lover that the passion is something beyond themselves, and bigger than themselves. There is an eternal character to this love which transcends the T in the statement T love . . . ' . The love is powerful because it is ' in the air' so to speak, and not possessed or owned by the person experiencing it. It's as i f the lover senses that they are privy to a greater reality when they love, and that creates something like humility in them." "It's weird you should say that because I've been thinking about some of the phrases associated with love. Let me think for a sec Okay, for example, the difference between the ideas of 'desire' and ' love' . It seems to me that the idea of desire is based on the sense of lack within an individual. Desire is a form of longing, like love, but it is primarily for something to fulfil the self - the individual experiencing the desire. Love, on the other hand, is also a form of longing, but it is a longing for connection and relation. It is just as much a longing to give as it is a longing to receive. That would make sense with what you are saying, about love being ' in the air' between people, wouldn't it?" "Yeah. Love is a spirit, I guess. Do you want a cup of coffee?" Lynn stretches and pulls her legs out from beneath her with something between a sigh and a groan. 16 "Sure. Do you have brown sugar?" " M m m , yep. I do. Do you want some?" She's standing on tippy-toes, reaching for the filters. Something in me wishes I could stop. Freeze this moment. Maybe it's part of the grace of life that we are always moving to other moments, because we invariably want to stay with the joy we already know. "Yes ." One of my feet has gone to sleep. I move it, gingerly, and place it on the coffee table. "Lynnie?" "Yeah. What?" "This whole ' in the air' thing about love has got me thinking about something. Y o u remember when I was telling you about Michel Foucault's idea about power and sexuality?" "Remind me." "Okay, well , his idea was that the function of power is to multiply itself. Power is constantly forming new sites of operation. In order to do this, power must find ways to categorize and form 'centers' or locations which it can operate upon. This means relentlessly labeling things and people, creating 'norms' of behaviour and misbehaviour, and inciting reactions or resistance to itself. Y o u can't get outside the 'power cycle' by resisting it, either, because power also manifests itself as resistance. Ultimately, power reproduces itself in such a way that its site of concentration is constantly shifting and changing. Foucault says that power doesn't 'belong' to one person or site of operation. Instead, it is ' in the air', constantly shifting and moving from center to center. Power relations are just the way of being in the world, according to Foucault." 17 "Oh, wow." Lynn turns to look at me, her eyebrows raised. " Y o u get it? Y o u see what I 'm saying?" I am leaning forward, a little. She's so quick with this stuff. "I think so. We have a choice, then. Power or love. Right?" She's pouring an inordinate amount of cream into my coffee cup. "Exactly! Power and love both operate ' in the air', outside of ourselves. They are ways of relating and interrelating in the world. It's like Martin Buber says - " I 'm searching through my suitcase, now. Here it is. "Okay, ummm, I think it's on page 80 ... yes. Okay, here it is. 'The man who has acquired an I and says I-It assumes a position before things but does not confront them in the current of reciprocity. He bends down to examine particulars under the objectifying telescope of distant vision to arrange them as mere scenery. In his contemplation he isolates them without any feeling for the exclusive or joins them without any world feeling.' So Foucault would say he was operating in a perpetual spiral of power relations in conjunction to objects and people with whom he came in contact. Okay, and later Buber says, 'The Y o u also appears in space, but only in an exclusive confrontation in which everything else can only be background from which it emerges, not its boundary and measure. The Y o u appears in time, but in that of a process that is fulfilled in itself - a process lived through not as a piece that is a part of a constant and organized sequence but in a "duration" whose purely intensive dimension can be determined only by starting from the You . It appears simultaneously as acting on and as acted upon, but not as i f it had been fitted into a causal chain; rather as, in its reciprocity with the I, the beginning 18 and end of the event. This is part of the basic truth of the human world: only It can be put in order. Only as things cease to be our Y o u and become our It do they become subject to coordination. The Y o u knows no system of coordinates.'" "Wow. I love that. 'Exclusive confrontation'. That is amazing. So what you're trying to say is that the I-It relation is the power relation which Foucault is talking about. I-You is the love relation." The percolating hiss of the coffee-maker and the drip-drip sound in the background fills the air with expectation. I know Lynn loves the fresh coffee-smell, too. "Bingo. Buber says that the two words, I-It and I-You, are mutually irreconcilable - at least in time. We cannot speak them both at the same time. It's kind of like that picture that you saw in your psychology 101 course. Y o u know the one that shows how our perceptions can be different? It's the picture of a vase, or the picture of two identical faces looking at each other. The interesting thing about it is that you can't see both of them at the same time. Your perception 'chooses' to see only one at a time. Y o u can switch back-and-forth between the two images, but you can't see the faces and the vase at once, because each is a background for the other. The eye needs a background." "Okay, .. . so let me get this straight. In the I-It way of being, the relation between two things serves as a background for the object or characteristics being observed. In the I-Y o u way of being, the background is the observation or perception of characteristics and the focus is on the relation or reciprocity between two beings." Lynn gives me the coffee, which would be piping hot i f it weren't for all that cream. I wi l l have to drink this quickly. 19 "You're amazing." "Yeah, 'maybe ' . Just kidding. No , I was just thinking about something, though." Lynn arranges herself in front of the chesterfield, feet stretched under the coffee table. She rarely sits on couches. I 'm not really sure why. She likes to place things on them -pillows, clothing, textbooks - but rarely herself. "What's that?" "The first time I saw the picture, I could only see the vase. I couldn't see the faces at all. It wasn't until someone actually told me that there were two faces in the picture that I could adjust my perception to that fact. When someone told me there was more to the picture than what I was seeing, I could look for it. Then I finally saw the faces." "Mmmhmmm. I 'm listening." This is good coffee. Sometimes a little too much cream is just right. "Wouldn't it be the same with I-It and I-You? Maybe a lot of people operate only in the power relation with others and the world because they don't know any other way of being in the world. Maybe what is needed is someone to point out the fact that there is another way of operating in relation to others. I just can't shake the sense that the issue with the vase and the faces is not what you are seeing, but the ability to choose between the two possibilities. If you have the ability to choose, you have the freedom to perceive the world in different ways." "Yeah, but there's a problem with that." "What?" "Wel l , the person who showed you the faces, they weren't in the same space as you were when they did it. They were able to show you the faces because they could see the faces. 20 They were speaking out of a place of choice themselves. As a result, they could show you what was missing in your perception of the picture." "Where's the problem?" "In the fact that your teacher needed to be someone who was operating out of a different mental space than you. This is really significant. If your teacher had only the ability to perceive what you perceived, they couldn't have shown you how to see otherwise. It's the same with I-It and I-You. People can only show others how to perceive the world in the way that they perceive it themselves. If I can only speak I-It, and you can only speak I-It, than neither one of us can show the other a new way of relating." "The blind leading the blind." "Exactly. M y concern is that there are not a lot of people who know how to speak I-You, It's a dangerous place, living in the 'maybe' of life. Even i f some people can speak it, they aren't encouraged to do so and success is measured in this society by how well we can speak I-It. Power relations are the order of the day. It's safer all around, because it offers the opportunity to protect myself from the pain of separation." "The fewer people who speak I-You, the more pain involved for those who do speak it. So then even fewer people wi l l want to speak it, meaning less people who wi l l learn how to speak it through listening and watching others. I guess it's a downward spiral, then." Lynn has her face in her hands. She's sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of the coffee table. A t the word, 'spiral ' , I see the thin wisp of coffee smoke trailing up from her mug. "It could be. It seems to be. I don't know. I feel like being depressed by it, but at the same time, life surprises us sometimes by someone who speaks the word so profoundly and so loudly that everyone has to listen. Like, like Ghandi - or Mother Theresa." 21 "Yeah. I love the way Mother Theresa says, 'The essential thing is not what we say, but what God says to us and through us. A l l our words wi l l be useless unless they come from within. ' She knew this - all this stuff we are talking about. That's what so cool about some of these great teachers. Y o u get the sense that they are 'inside' something really huge and amazing. They are telling us what it looks like inside, but we are trying to look through foggy windows and we only get a glimpse every now and again." "Who else gives you that sense? Y o u know, that they are ' inside'?" " A few years ago I would have said John Donne. But now I 'm thinking of someone like George Herbert. Donne knew the struggle; I think that's how I connected to him at first. He knew what it was like to stand outside and know that you are standing outside. But Herbert is speaking out of this centeredness, this peace and trust that I can't find in Donne. I love reading Donne because he identifies with the struggle in all o f us; his cry is full of longing and 'desire' for God. But Herbert just rings out, clear and untrammeled. He is ' in love' and you can sense it in every line." Lynn has spilled some coffee and is drawing circles through it on the coffee table. It is aptly named -'coffee table', I 'm thinking. "Yeah. I know what.you mean with Herbert. It's almost frustrating reading him sometimes. Y o u wonder i f they really were in that place, or i f they were just faking it. But they must have been, their words wouldn't have that ring - that reverberation - i f it wasn't an authentic knowledge." "That goes back to what you were saying about authentic experience being the only way to teach someone." "I said that? When?" "Just now. Y o u were saying that you can only teach someone to perceive the world differently i f you are able to choose to perceive the world differently yourself." 22 "Oh, right. That reminds me of something you suggested. About freedom." "Freedom to choose between the power relation or the love relation." "Yes. Freedom is only experienced in the knowledge of choice, right? Like, I don't feel free i f I only have one option. The experience of choice is linked to the experience of freedom. There's this frustration in people who don't believe they have a choice. It promotes a form of resistance, but, as Foucault shows us, resistance only entrenches existing power relations. The big lie with resistance is that it can somehow take you out of the power struggle. That's based on another lie that power is localized, that it 'belongs' to certain people and not to others. Power doesn't inhere in identities, but rather is propagated ' in the air' between identities. Since power is actually fluid, it is the nature of the relation which people are trying to resist, but can't. The problem with fighting fire with fire is that you only end up with more fire." "So you're saying the frustration in our society doesn't have anything to do with where power is localized, but rather with the whole way in which power operates in people's associations with each other." "Yeah. A n d people can't get out of it because they don't perceive examples of 'other' ways of relating in society. They can only see the vase because nobody has shown them the faces." "So freedom is actually an issue of perception. That's what you're saying, isn't it?" "Ultimately, yes. I think. I mean, maybe it's better to say that freedom is an issue of what you choose to perceive. What you see determines how you wi l l act in relation. Like, i f I see a chair, I wi l l utilize my prior knowledge of chairs and respond to the chair in a manner which suits that relation - the relation between a person and a chair. I may or may not sit in it, but that isn't the point. M y choices are limited by the nature of the 23 thing I perceive. I only perceive myself as capable of operating within a certain set of relations between the chair and myself. In other words, I w i l l not attempt to eat the chair, nor wi l l I talk to it and expect a response." I look at Lynnie, sitting on the floor in front of her couch, and smile to myself. "So, I can imagine only a set of responses to the chair which wi l l make sense to me. I wi l l only operate out of this set of responses. I am limited by the set of relations which I can imagine between myself and the chair." Lynn's brow is furrowed. She is concentrating very hard. "You 've got what I'm saying. There's this book I've had to read for class, called Modern Social Imaginaries which talks about this very thing. A 'social imaginary' is a set of responses which make sense to me in the world I live in. People in a society share these assumptions about which ways of relating make sense and which don't." "Wel l , then, how do people change? How do societies change?" "It's an interesting thing. Change only happens through a series of dynamic relations taking small, incremental steps in a different direction. People only act in the set of associations they can imagine, but new ideas can be introduced - new ways of relating. The shift has to be large enough to effect new possibilities in linkages between people, but small enough that it doesn't deviate too much from the ways that people have related in the past. I kind of like to think about it as a little bit of irritation, like a bit of sand entering into an oyster shell. It's not large enough to do damage to the oyster, but enough to make the oyster act. In order to make the sand more 'comfortable' to live with, the oyster utilizes the tools at its disposal in order to make the piece of sand like the shell it inhabits. The thing is, without realizing it, the oyster is making something entirely different from its shell, but also entirely different from a piece of sand. The thing which emerges is a pearl, not like sand, but equally unlike the shell." "So what is needed, then, is a bit of sand?" 24 "Maybe. Hah! There you go, that word again!" Chloe is now nuzzling under my armpit. She can't be hungry already. I think she wants to go outside. "Resistance isn't the sand, then, because resistance is part of what is already inside the shell - power relations, right?" "Yeah, that's one way of looking at it." If I rub Chloe's fur backwards, she'll leave. I know I 'm allergic to her dander, but I like the way she feels on my lap. I let her stay. She forms a perfect circle on my lap. "If we look at it the way you're suggesting, any real change is going to be irritating for the 'oyster of society' anyway. The oyster doesn't perceive what it is doing as a creative act at all. Nor does it perceive the sand as a form of freedom from the world it is familiar with." "When you think about it, though, when is freedom - true freedom - really welcomed by society? More often than not it is an irritant. Something which gets in the way of the smooth operation of the status quo. Even resistance is more acceptable than relating in an utterly different way. Resistance is part of the communications which we already understand." "The problem with the sand, though, is that you don't know what 'pearl' w i l l emerge. Y o u said yourself the pearl is utterly different from the sand and from the oyster shell." "Yeah, that's where the power of the word 'maybe' really comes in. We have no idea what wi l l happen when we say the word I-You. How wi l l society deal with the irritant of reciprocal relation? How wi l l it deal with authentic, loving connections between people? I don't know. That's the power of it. The thing is, though, that once I know I am free enough to speak a different word, even i f I.continue to be in the world in the same way as 25 before, I am doing so as a choice. I am exercising my freedom to say I-It, rather than saying it because it is the only word I know." "But your freedom is only really displayed when you say I-You, right?" "Yes. Ultimately, yes, you're right. The freedom is not merely in the choice between, but ultimately in the choice which frees us up to truly be in the world. Ultimately, that freedom can only be found in saying I-You, I believe." B y now, my coffee is cold. I set it down. Somewhere in this conversation I stopped drinking it. I wish I hadn't talked so much. "Yeah. Y o u don't find George Herbert longing to be outside, where Donne is, do you? These people who are speaking from the 'inside', these teachers, they may have the choice to be outside with the rest of us, but they don't think of it as a choice to leave. They think of it as a choice to stay." Lynn's coffee is sitting in front of her. I realize she hasn't touched it at all , really. She must have been more focused even than I was. I stir Chloe out of my lap. She jumps down, forming a perfect arc with her body. "Like the Beloved in the Song of Songs, I guess. Who would choose to be 'out' of love when they can be ' i n ' love? Even the pain of separation, coupled with the experience of love, is preferable to no sense of separation at all and no experience of love." Lynn smiles and shakes her head. " A h , but it's still a choice. That's what I discovered. Sometimes it can be very tantalizing to not feel anything at all . Especially when feelings can hurt so much." "Saying 'maybe' hurts." "Yes, it does hurt. It hurts a lot." 26 Chapter 2: Foundations and Assumptions Metadisciplinary Inquiry The process of uncovering the identity, historical development, and methodologies of an institutionalized field of research is defined by Paul K e i Matsuda (2003) as "metadisciplinary inquiry" (p. 171). Metadisciplinary inquiry "does not signify a particular methodology; it uses various modes of inquiry - philosophical, historical, and empirical - and considers a wide range of issues, including the definition and historical development of the field as well as its methodological orientations" (p. 171). In excavating the foundations of modern research and theory in the teaching of written composition, we are engaging in a form of metadisciplinary inquiry, much as Thomas Kuhn contributed to the philosophy of science in his Structure of Scientific Revolutions. In the field of composition studies, a number of scholars have engaged in metadisciplinary inquiry, tracing the development of the field and changes in purpose, practice, and methodology. Notable among them are Steven Schreiner (1997), Ken Hyland (2003), Wi l l iam Irmscher (1987), and Lester Faigley (1986). A) The Chronological Approach: Lester Faigley Lester Faigley wrote an article in 1986 outlining the development of process theories in the field of writing pedagogy from the early 1960s to the mid-80s. He traces the paths of three dominant perspectives in the field, their contextual bases and their presuppositions. He attempts to take a broad chronological perspective in explaining the 27 background behind, not only the work of major researchers like Janet Emig (1971), but that of her predecessors and her contemporaries. Faigley divides writing process researchers/theorists into three categories or viewpoints. These are: the expressive view, the cognitive view, and the social view. Interestingly, the dominance of these perspectives seems to cluster chronologically into three different eras: the early sixties to late sixties (expressive view), the late sixties to late seventies (cognitive view), and the late seventies to mid-eighties (social view) (pp. 149-150). Although they overlap in influence, the popularity of each viewpoint on writing process seems to peak in chronological succession. According to Faigley, the expressive view followed the line of thinking that is often called neo-Romantic, that the good writer possesses internal moral qualities such as integrity, spontaneity, and originality (p. 151). The purpose of writing for expressivists was to 'find your own inner voice'. Theorists such as Peter Elbow (1973) and Rohman and Wlecke (1964) were known for an approach to writing that envisioned it as an organic process. Free writing was a much-vaunted practice among such theorists. Good writing doesn't follow the rules, they contended, it breaks and transcends them. Writing, in this formulation, is a means of self-expression and self-actualization (p. 153). In contrast, the cognitive view of writing was more scientific in its approach. Instead of starting from a preconceived notion of how "good" writing operates, researchers such as Flower and Hayes (1980), Emig (1971), and James Britton (1975) were interested in actually studying how writers operated while in the writing process. This more inductive model proved extraordinarily useful in displaying the falsity of a number of previously-held assumptions relating to how good writers operated. Emig 28 showed that writers were more recursive than was initially supposed, not moving in a left-to-right linear fashion, but circularly reading and re-reading their writing while in the process of composing. Finally, Faigley offers up an emerging perspective he calls the "social view", coming out of reader-response theory and post-structuralism. Faigley admits that this view is new and developing as he writes in 1986, but he outlines some of what he believes to be the contingent characteristics of this viewpoint. The first is the idea that writing is not (as was previously believed) a highly personal activity, emerging out of a private consciousness. Instead, the writer is a "constituent of a culture" (p. 157) and is not only recursively operating in relation to a text, but to a world as well . Theorists such as Patricia Bizzel l (1982) and David Bartholomae (1985) show through their research that reading and writing are not about ascribing fixed meanings to a text, or even about separating such elements as "words" and "ideas". Instead, the sign/signifier/signified is impossible to differentiate and attempts to do this, like those of cognitive theorists, are essentially flawed. Social theorists also criticize the artificial and contrived nature of studies that contrast 'expert' and 'novice', writers, claiming that expertise can only be identified within specific communities of writers (p. 158). B) The Emergence of Genre Pedagogies Emerging out of the social view of writing, and following up on Faigley's analysis of the current direction of the discipline in the mid-80s, genre-based pedagogies have recently risen to prominence. This perspective draws on the work of Mikhai l 29 Bakhtin, who in 1952 wrote a seminal text entitled The Problem of Speech Genres in which he attempted to show that genre is social in nature and that all language is essentially dialogic (involving dialogue). Bakhtin (1979/1986) argues that there are two different types of genre, which he differentiates as primary and secondary. Primary genres are acts of communication that arise in particular locations for very particular reasons (i.e., a shopping list or phone message). Secondary genres are different from primary genres in that they are often divorced from direct and immediate dialogue, and in this way they are often more complicated and more easily codified. A n example of a secondary genre would be a dissertation or an epic poem. However, even secondary genres, Bakhtin explains, are located in particular times and places and involve a communicative relationship. Through discourse analysis (Hyland, 2003), genre approaches to the teaching of writing attempt to situate discourse according to the purposes, identities, and contexts that frame the individual writing task. Genre pedagogies operate according to similar goals as those of the social approach to writing defined by Faigley by conceptualizing writing and discourse as social practices. Genre-based pedagogies also go a step beyond the social perspective by promoting critical discourse practices. Hyland (2003) explains, "writers must be able to control the genres they use before they can exploit them ... to fail to provide learners with what we know about how language works as communication denies them both the means of communicating effectively in writing and of analysing texts critically" (p. 25). Vygotsky (1978) pointed out connections between child development and language learning by explaining that genre works to scaffold students to deeper 30 understandings of language construction. Students operate within a particular linguistic cultural milieu in the classroom that propels them onto a higher and more complex understanding of the genre in which they operate. In this way, students move from primary to elementary to secondary and finally to post-secondary language constructions. Genres at each level form stepping stones to more complex systems of dialogue and discussion. Genre-based pedagogies are gaining credence in the study of writing process. This approach has qualities that in some ways subsume the social view of writing process explained by Faigley in 1986. Focus on genre allows for the encouragement of multiple forms of dialogue and writing style, as well as a new emphasis on the teacher as he/she becomes a necessary facilitator of genre learning. Genre pedagogy has changed from a focus on rule acquisition to an understanding of the fluidity and changeability of genres over time and in different social settings (Chapman, 1999). C) A Word of Caution The attempt to create or write a chronology of dominant perspectives in a particular field, especially one so varied and vast as that of composition pedagogy, wi l l necessarily be problematic. Chronologies tend to oversimplify competing elements in a field that are difficult to resolve. Expressivist approaches are currently used in numerous classrooms and still enjoy a great deal of success, as do cognitive approaches. Instead of seeing Faigley's work, and that of other metadisciplinary analysts, as a uniform definition of the field as it stands, it is important to note that these writers/researchers are merely 31 noting general tendencies in a large and varied discipline, a discipline that has sprouted numerous branches and offshoots over the last thirty to forty years. It is also important to note that the purpose of this paper is not to tout the value of one of these particular approaches to research and practice, but to question whether their theoretical underpinnings are not really very similar in nature and purpose. With the emergence of new approaches to writing pedagogy, has the current paradigm merely put on a new face and a new name, or have there been significant enough changes to warrant the appellation of 'paradigm shift' as Kuhn describes it? 32 Dialogue with Lynn: Part Two "What are you ordering?" We are sitting in a restaurant, one of our favourites, a little mom-and-pop shop on the corner of Fort and Cook street. They serve delicious "oaten toast" and the eggs are fluffy. I 'm already on my second cup of coffee and we haven't even ordered yet. I love this place. "No, I 'm not going to share with you this time. Y o u always eat most of it and we never order anything I really want. Y o u don't like food with flavour." "I didn't say I wanted to share with you. I was just asking what you were ordering!" "None of your business. What are you ordering?" Lynn looks at me quizzically over the rim of her leopard-print rims. She decided not to put in her contacts this morning. She reminds me of a grandmother peering over her spectacles, trying to figure out whether you are telling the truth or not. "Eggs Benny on oaten toast. With a side of fruit. Have you ever wondered what the 'Benedict' in 'Eggs Benedict' stands for?" Lynn has stolen all the cream. Again. I should have grabbed two when the waitress gave them to us and hid them behind my plate. "No. Benedict Arnold maybe?" Lynn takes another sip of her coffee. "What would eggs or breakfast have to do with political intrigue? There are probably far better things to name after him - like a battle strategy: 'Operation Benedict Arnold ' . That sounds great." "Okay - St. Benedict. Y o u know, the monk." 33 "That's more likely. Contemplative mystic meets hearty breakfast. It makes sense that one would create the other. I heard someone say once that the truly happy person always has a full stomach and an empty head. I wonder i f that's true. I always feel very expansive and thoughtful after a good meal." "Is that why you leave such big tips?" Lynn is smiling. 1 can't tell whether she is being sarcastic or not. I assume not. This is her second cup of coffee, too. "Maybe. Why not pass on the good feeling? People who work in restaurants rarely get to enjoy the atmosphere they are trying to create. I remember from serving how much work and stress and anxiety it takes to create a sense of peace and tranquility in a place where so many people are eating together." "It's weird how that is. Y o u can be sitting in one of these places and the waitress has just lost her father or some other horrible event has just happened and she wi l l still ask you i f you want brown toast or white. There's no way of knowing what is really going on inside. So much of our lives are ordered in this way. Our security is based in the assumptions we have about the way people communicate and what they communicate." Lynn looks over my shoulder. She's hungry. Unlike me, she's not a snacker." I've already eaten some yogourt this morning. "Yeah. A n d so much of that is grounded in the places where these conversations take place. Y o u wouldn't expect a bank teller to ask you i f you want brown toast or white. We expect certain forms of communication in certain places, and vice-versa. These public spaces have identities, just like we do. In that way, they are restricted by those identities. Only certain kinds of communication are acceptable in these places because of the way we have constructed the system of identities." "That's an interesting concept, a 'system of identities'. Are you saying that identities rely upon other identities in order to be themselves?" 34 "That's exactly what I 'm saying. Like, for instance, the identity of this place as a restaurant is dependant upon people's relationships to the actual space itself as well as to their relationships to each other within that space. So, I rely on the waitress asking me what I want for breakfast in the same way that she relies on me to make appropriate references to the menu. I must also treat the space as i f it were a particular identity with particular attributes. I don't, upon walking in, see a dirty table and start to clean it. I recognize that my communication to the actual place must have a particular form and nature, just as it has to take a particular form in relationship to the waitress." "I like the idea that we can communicate with places in the same way that we communicate with people. Even i f the place cannot 'hear' us communicate with it, our own hearing of ourselves and of others relating to a place in the same way serves to entrench the sense of identity within places." "The 'sense of identity within places' is an interesting way of putting it, since it's not really a sense of identity which belongs entirely to the place, but it doesn't belong entirely to the individual either. I don't see myself differently upon leaving a particular place, but I am a particular identity while I am there. For instance, here, I am a customer. I am treated like a customer and I submit to that treatment by responding as i f that was who I am. I may retain the sense of identity which exists outside of that relationship, but while I am in this particular space I act accordingly." I 'm feeling a bit smug - or is it snug? We've got an excellent table near the fireplace, hidden a little bit near the corner of the room. The waitress comes by to take our order. I wonder i f she has heard any of our conversation. At least she doesn't ask me what kind of toast I want. They only serve oaten toast here, anyway. Lynn gives her the menus and settles back into the conversation, her head tilted on her right hand while her left hand nestles the warm coffee mug. 35 "I don't know, Lesley, I mean, I think that we don't entirely discard our identity from particular places. I think we carry those identities with us." "Explain." "Wel l , okay, you may leave this place as 'yourself, having a perspective of yourself outside of your identity within a particular place to a degree. But I don't think you entirely discard that identity upon leaving. I think we carry traces of all our identities with us all the time. I think that every place we go has the capacity to make changes or alterations within our being." "How would you explain someone who says they don't like being in a particular place because they don't feel like they can 'be themselves'?" "I think the idea of 'being ourselves' is really just a construct. I mean, I might have a reduced or limited picture of myself which I compare to the other 'selves' I portray in different environments, but that kind of separation is reductionist. A l l it does is give me the excuse to act in ways that I don't want to ally my self with. I want to have a perception of myself outside of how I act and interrelate with others, but that is just an illusion." I smile and push the coffee cup over to the edge of the table as the waitress fills it. "Thank-you. Okay, why do you think people want to delude themselves in this way? What's the payoff?" "It's difficult to say - and probably different for different people. I just know that this is the age-old problem of separating the mind from the body. We somehow think that i f we imagine ourselves differently from how we act, we are different from how we act. We compartmentalize ourselves such that we can 'be' different people in different sets of social relations. It is easier to do than to find holistic ways of imagining the self." 36 "I f we imagine ourselves holistically, we are forced to find ways to create interrelations between our various actions." The food comes out at this moment. The plates are too hot to touch, so our server carries them out on a tray. M y eggs swim in rich rivers of hollandaise sauce. Thick slices of honey ham lounge on the toast, provocatively peeking out from under the poached eggs. "This looks amazing." "Yeah." Lynn is engrossed in her French toast, slathered in a blueberry cream cheese sauce which makes you wonder i f the cook has ever heard the words ' l ow ' and 'fat' put together in a sentence. For a moment we allow ourselves to speak only to the food in a luxurious communion without words. I am always careful to put a little bit of everything on my fork - some toast, some ham, a bit of egg and a run through the sauce. M m m m , good. "I see what you're saying, Lynnie. I mean, this wouldn't be Eggs Benedict without each part corresponding to the whole. This flavour in my mouth I experience as a single essence, even i f it is made up of different 'separate' entities." "Yeah, well , i f I don't see myself as a 'whole person' and all of my actions as part of that whole, I can identify certain actions as more 'me' than others. It creates a hierarchy of representation. If I can represent myself to my mind in a particular way, there is a comfort in that stasis. I can imagine myself as an unchanging, non-dynamic entity who reflects certain static characteristics that I admire or appreciate. It allows me the cop-out of not having to learn and grow through a deeper understanding of myself." She carefully slices off an angle of French toast and punctures it with her fork. "There are some interesting political connections here. I was just thinking as you were talking about the way nations operate in relation to each other. It's easy for a dominant 37 nation to think of itself as having a particular 'identity' - for example the idea of 'democracy'. If a nation believes that it is fundamentally democratic, it finds it easier to write off certain actions which are blatantly non-democratic as either 'mistakes' or as a situation in which the 'ends justify the means'. The nation is not forced to re-interpret itself based on particular actions because it has already decided on an identity which exists outside of any particular actions which that nation may take. The idea of a static character or personality within individuals would feed into this larger sense of identity as wel l ." "Yeah - or it could be the opposite. It could be that the static identity of a nation helps to create the idea of static identities of individuals. Either way, we are looking at a loop. Each factor on the 'identity loop' helps to entrench the idea that all other factors on the loop are perceiving themselves in ways which reflect reality. The fact that this may not be the case is not introduced because the loop is self-contained. The nation only looks for affirmation from its citizens, and not from 'outsiders' who are 'different' from 'us'. The same goes for individuals. Each individual looks to the state apparatus or social apparatuses of which they are a part. They look to these institutions for affirmation or guidance in relation to their sense of 'selfhood'. They are not going to look to 'other' people groups or states for this same awareness of identity." "Are there ways of breaking the ' loop' as you put it?" "The only way I can imagine it is through an intersection." "What do you mean?" "Like another loop - a loop which intersects the other one, but runs in a completely different circle. It seems to me the only way to jump from one loop to another is through an intersection of some kind." Lynn rummages in her purse. Finding a pen, she pulls her napkin out from under her mug and draws something in the corner. 38 "I like it. It seems to be the best way to explain what I 'm trying to say. There are points of intersection, but not a direct correlation. The two loops occupy two different spaces." "Spaces - places. As places they have different identities, too." "Exactly. That means that they have different energies out of which they are operating. Like you were saying earlier about being at the bank or in the restaurant. The places we occupy have identities; the relations in those places operate in very particular ways. I think it is the same with mental places. When we are operating out of a particular sense or understanding of the world, we are in a loop. This loop has very particular relations which make it continue. It is a tautological reality that only those who are in the loop wi l l operate in such a way that it wi l l continue. Those who are outside the loop don't have any real impact on it, except. . ." "Except?" "Except for when the loops intersect. This is when things get interesting. When another loop, with a different set of relations and expectations and identities, intersects with the original loop, we have the opportunity for change." "I guess that has to do with meeting the 'other', the outsider." 39 "Yes. I think so." Lynn leans back, sizing up her plate with one eye. "But wi l l it be perceived as a true choice? I mean, when the intersection happens, can those in the one loop actually make the choice to shift to a different cycle of relations?" "That's the question. I think it all depends on the actual choice that is made. In terms of choices, all choices are pure in that their outcome is not utterly known in advance. Anything experienced as a choice is a choice. The way it is construed depends utterly on the choice that is actually made. Like, i f Ichoose to ignore the opportunity to jump to another cycle of relations, I probably won't remember the intersection as a choice at all, but rather as an interruption or a breakage in the 'normal' routines of life. On the other hand, i f I take advantage of the opportunity, and I do make the leap, then the moment can be life-changing and irrevocable. It is like being 'born' into a new way of life." "L ike the way alcoholics describe the 'moment' they realized that they have a problem." "Yes, like that. The weird thing is, the moment of intersection is constantly apparent to us. We are constantly in the present, the moment of choice." "Then, how do we know the difference between a choice which effects a change - like moving to a different cycle of relations, and a choice which continues the cycle already in place?" I realize that I am tearing at the corners of my napkin. M y hands are shaking. Could it be the coffee? "Hmm." Lynn takes another sip of her coffee, "I don't know. I guess you would know only in retrospect - looking back on the way your life has been and the way it is now. If there was a change, I 'm assuming you would know it. The other thing is, I think these choices are made a lot. I mean, I think we shift from one cycle to another a lot more than we think we do. And we shift back - to our old cycles. The thing is, knowing the cycle of relations which you tend to choose and more often than not are more comfortable with. 40 Y o u can see this much more clearly when you look at the larger reality, the series of choices made by people in the society as a whole." "Okay, let me try an example for this. I want to make sure I understand you. I might want to choose to stop driving my car because it emits noxious fumes into the atmosphere. However, in the greater society, very few people make that same choice, and even fewer make it for the same reasons. The thing is, too, that I can choose to begin driving my car again anytime and wi l l not suffer at the hands of society for doing so. The easiest cycle to operate within is the cycle of relations in which I am embedded. It is difficult to make choices which are utterly different from the choices of people around me." "Maybe that is how you would know." "Know what?" "Whether the change was shifting you to a different cycle. I mean, maybe you would know by the degree of resistance and misunderstanding it inspired among people who operate in your old cycle of relations." "Or . . . " an idea was dawning on me. "Or? What?" "Or you know by the leap." "The leap?" "The letting go - the feeling of panic, and then the fall. Y o u know, like cl i ff jumping into a small pool of water. Y o u jump - and that's it." 41 "Yes, I get you. I think you're right -1 think you would know by the leap." Lynn is gazing out past me, fingering her fork. A limp slice of French toast remains, forlorn and forgotten, on her plate. "That's the magic of it, then. The magic lies in the gap - the space between one circle and the next." I find myself grabbing Lynn's pen from the table. " A n empty space - but a place all the same. Ful l of meaning i f you can see it." "Fu l l and empty. A space and a place. It's a paradox. Like St. Benedict and the eggs, hey?" Lynn casts a sly glance in my direction. " H m m m - good one!" "There's another thing here, another reason I wanted to show you this picture." "Mmmhmm. I 'm listening." I 'm finishing my last bite of breakfast. I find if difficult to do two things at once, especially when they both require concentration. "Wel l , the first time I saw this image was in a baby book. It was somewhat like this, only under a microscope the colours are more vibrant." "What? A baby book?" I 'm confused. What is a baby book? And since when did Lynn start reading them? "Yeah. Y o u remember Tessa, from work? Wel l , when she was pregnant, she brought in this book, all about what the baby looks like at each stage, week one, week two, and all 42 that. Anyway, she showed us an enhanced image of what the fetus looks like at the moment of conception, and it was like this. One cell splitting into two, and at the center - that's the conception taking place, right there." Lynn taps the place where the two circles meet with her pen. "Wow." I 'm looking at the image even more closely than before. "So life takes place ... comes into being, at the intersection." I find my hands are still shaking. I grip my coffee mug a little tighter. "Yes. And , you're not going to believe this, just last week I saw a picture that looked almost exactly the same, but it was in a science textbook." "Biology?" "No, astronomy. It was a satellite photo, enhanced like a bill ion times over. It was the birth of a star. Two force fields, like rings of fire, splitting apart, and at the center, the star is being born. The weird thing was that it looked almost exactly the same as the image I saw in the baby book." Lynn is leaning in across the table, her eyes bright. "You're serious? The birth of a star and the conception of a child? That's just too much." "I know, isn't it? It just gets your mind going, you know? Thinking about how things are connected with each other, from the universal to the microscopic. A n d the symbolism of the image itself, too." "What gets me is the power of the meeting place. The miracle takes place there, and nowhere else." M y hands continue to grip my mug. I notice that my knuckles are white, so I release the cup. Coffee spills on my napkin. "What's wrong?" Lynn's eyebrows are querulous, a little concerned. 43 "Nothing . . . it's just that.. ." I find my mouth getting dry. "What?" Lynn is leaning across the table. "I think ... I 'm pregnant." 44 Chapter 3: Problems with the Current-Traditional Paradigm The Ancient vs. the Modern World S. M . Halloran writes in "On the End of Rhetoric, Classical and Modern", that "the assumptions about knowledge and the world that informed classical rhetoric are no longer tenable" (1975, p. 624). According to Halloran, the classical rhetorical model relied upon assumptions that the world "is knowable, that values are coherent, that wisdom is public and can be fully mastered by one man, who in turn can relate the accumulated wisdom of mankind to the particular case at hand in a clear and persuasive fashion" (p. 622). In contrast, the modern world does not proffer such discrete and clear visions of common values and communal wisdom. Halloran explains that "our values seem arbitrary, contradictory, and ultimately groundless" (p. 624). Later, he says, "In the absence of a world given by a stable and coherent cultural tradition, man is compelled to construct his own. To open one's own world to others is to run the risk of discovering its inadequacy or falsehood, and thus to be compelled to reconstruct it" (p. 625). Out of fear of loss, or discovery, rhetoric in the classical sense has all but disappeared out of the realm of possibility. This, according to Halloran, has taken place not only because the world and assumptions about the world have changed so much from classical times, but also because our motives in communicating with one another have also changed. What we hope to gain from the communicative act has altered so considerably that it is now impossible to engage in rhetorical argumentation as imagined by Aristotle, or Cicero, or Quintillian. 45 This shift, one may argue, from classical rhetoric to modern theory in written composition, definitely falls under the definition outlined by Kuhn of a "paradigm shift". In this example, the construction of the world and of human interaction has so shifted that it is impossible to find a common ground of understanding. By Halloran's argument, i f Aristotle were to try to create a rhetorical model based on modern assumptions about knowledge and the world, he would find it a near-impossible task not only because of the differences between his world and ours, but also because of the miscellanies inherent to our modern condition. But, even granting that our modern condition is replete with such diverse approaches and perspectives, we still find ourselves as researchers and practitioners involved in making and applying theoretical models to the writing situation. Granted, we allow for diversity and 'heterogeneity', but this is often an aside to the actual mandate of 'nailing down' an applicable theory to writing and writing pedagogy. These theories are embedded in some common assumptions regarding the practices of writing and of teaching that need to be unpacked before it is possible to outline an approach to the teaching of writing composition which transcends current goals in the field and opens up new possibilities in terms of language use for writing purposes. Common Traditional Assumptions of Writing Pedagogy One of the main foundations of current-traditional approaches to writing theory has to do with assumptions about the isolation of the writer-at-work. The work of researchers such as Ken Hyland (2003) who take exception to the idea that writing is an 46 ego-centred activity (p. 18) illustrate that the perceived social isolation of the writer is on the wane in pedagogies that stress writing as a contextually motivated, socially active process. Hyland and others are encouraged by critical approaches such as those outlined by Bakhtin (1981), who, using the development of novelistic discourse as an example, explains that the writer is in constant conversation with his work and his world, in what Bakhtin calls a "dialogical contact" (p. 128). In the traditional paradigm, the writer uses writing primarily as a form of self-expression and/or a process towards individual problem solving (Hyland, p. 18). In both of these examples, the social context of the writer-at-work is ignored in favour of a decontextualized authorial voice. Hyland also points out a second assumption inherent to current-traditional approaches in the teaching of written composition, the focus on personal growth and self-actualization in writing practices which "offers them little by way of the resources to participate in, understand, or challenge valued discourses" (p. 20) B y focusing on the individual writer, such pedagogical practices deflect attention from societal norms and mainstream culture and do not adequately prepare students for effective critical literacy. Schreiner's (1997) critique of Janet Emig and the process movement in composition pedagogy makes a similar claim about the way in which the process approach failed to challenge cultural norms about what qualified as 'acceptable' literary writing. Emig frequently compared student writing to that of established writers, like Eliot, Yeats, Hardy, and Rilke, and as a result her work tended to be "modeled on a type of composition that required a privileged level of preparedness and instruction in English" (p. 88). In process writing, just as in the current-traditional paradigm described by Hairston, the expectation is that students wi l l meet the standards of literary authorship, 47 even i f those standards are problematic in terms of their socio-political frameworks and cultural positioning. Common Current Assumptions of Writing Pedagogy There are larger concerns with the current paradigm than either Hyland or Schreiner outline in their respective texts. In these respects, Hyland particularly tends to fall victim to the common paradigm in terms of his pedagogical allegiances. Hyland's purpose in critiquing process writing pedagogies is to display the relative superiority of a genre-based approach to teaching writing. After clearly outlining the areas in which Hyland believes the process writing approaches have fallen short, he goes on to say, "I have simply tried to highlight the problems posed by an approach uninformed by an explicit theory of how language works or the ways that social context affects linguistic outcomes. These are areas where genre-based models have made their strongest impact" (p. 20). Hyland argues that genre-based approaches are more effective and useful because "genres are not overbearing structures which impose uniformity on users" (p. 23) and "genre theory seeks to (i) understand the ways individuals use language to orient to and interpret particular communicative situations, and (ii) employ this knowledge for literary education" (p. 22). It is interesting to note that, though Hyland argues that genres are not overbearing structures, he also claims that "our abstract, more-or-less shared knowledge of texts, intertextuality, audience, and standard purposes makes writing and reading efficient and contributes to mutual understanding" (p. 24). In other words, it is possible 4 8 to explicitly define and understand rhetorical situations before engaging in a communicative interaction. . Lester Faigley (1986) makes a similar contention in arguing for the "social view" of writing, which he privileges over the expressive and cognitive views of the rhetorical process. He says, "From a social perspective, a major shortcoming in studies that contrast expert and novice writers lies not so much in the artificiality of the experimental situation, but in the assumption that expertise can be defined outside of a specific community of writers. Since individual expertise varies across communities, there can be no one definition of an expert writer" (p. 158). Faigley does not argue here that the entire goal of defining some writing as "expert" and other writing as "novice" is problematic, only that these definitions must emerge from a contextual framework. The result is an insidious tendency to continue supposing that all writing is craft-based activity, with particular means designed to achieve particular ends. But is it? A n d could this not be another, albeit more culturally sensitive, method of selling the current traditional paradigm of writing as technique? Joseph Dunne, describing R. G . Collingwood's definition of the technicist approach to art, explains it has having the following elements: "(1) a distinction between ends and means, (2) a distinction between planning and execution, (3) a converse relationship between end and means in the respective processes of planning and of execution, (4) a distinction between form and matter, (5) a distinction between raw material and finished product or artifact and (6) a hierarchical relationship between various crafts (so that, e.g., the product of one provides the raw material or the tools for another)" (pp. 55-56). Clearly, a genre-based approach, though allowing for the fact that genres are not "fixed, monolithic, discrete and 4 9 unchanging" (Hyland, p. 24), continues to approach writing practices and the teaching of writing as a "technical craft". The Enculturation of Technical Rationality Collingwood (1938) explains the cultural embeddedness of the technicist approach to art by saying, "It is actually the way in which most people nowadays think about art; and especially economists and psychologists, the people to whom we look (sometimes vainly) for special guidance in the problems of modern life" (p. 19). Later, he continues his explanation of the limitations of a technicist approach to art in stating, "we are only frustrating our study of it in advance i f we approach it in the determination to treat it as i f it were the conscious working-out of means to the achievement of a conscious purpose, or in other words technique" (p. 29). When Hyland argues for the value of a genre-based approach to the teaching of writing in the E S L classroom, he focuses on its effectiveness as a means to a particular end: " B y providing learners with an explicit rhetorical understanding of texts and a metalanguage by which to analyse them, genre teachers can assist students to see texts as artifacts that can be explicitly questioned, compared, and deconstructed, thereby revealing their underlying assumptions and ideologies" (p. 25). Genre-based approaches to the teaching of writing are valuable, according to Hyland, because of their usefulness and effectiveness in meeting particular writing goals, an approach that definitively places writing and the teaching of writing in the realm of 'craft', as Collingwood describes it. 50 Instead, art, and the pursuit of artistic endeavour, is "not made by transforming a given raw material, nor by carrying out a preconceived plan, nor by way of realizing the means to a preconceived end." (p. 125) Certainly all writing cannot be defined as primarily 'artistic endeavour', but it is equally problematic to suppose that all writing should be approached as a technical craft. Writers write for many reasons that fall outside of the definition of craft-based activity and for many reasons that fall outside of simple means-end explanations. A s teachers of writing, as well , we want to engage our students with the infinite possibilities available to them when they take pen to paper, possibilities, which, i f writing is conceived and taught merely as a technical tool for achieving particular ends, could never be realized or even understood. Writing as Art Form If art, and the pursuit of art, is defined in such a way that disallows technicist explanations, what is the role of the teacher of art? More specifically, what is the role of the teacher of a particular art form, such as writing? Just as it would not make sense to expect a teacher of science to approach her curriculum in such a way that it undermined the nature and goals of the scientific method, or to explain the rules of scientific research while herself breaking them in her actual teaching practice, it does not make sense to expect the teacher of art, particularly the art of writing, to embrace a technicist approach to the teaching of a practice that is non-technical by its very definition. 51 It is also arguable whether the whole process of teaching itself is a technical pursuit or an exercise in practical judgement. Parker Palmer, a renowned teacher and facilitator in the field of educational practice and theory, says the following: Good teaching isn't about technique. I've asked students around the country to describe their good teachers to me. Some of them describe people who lecture all the time, some of them describe people who do little other than facilitate group process, and others describe everything in between. But all of them describe people who have some sort of connective capacity, who connect themselves to their students, their students to each other, and everyone to the subject being studied. (2004, p. 27) Palmer's understanding of the nature and function of education is aligned with Collingwood's understanding of the nature and function of artistic endeavour, as he iterates by stating, "Every utterance and every gesture that each one of us makes is a work of art" (p. 285). Nor does Collingwood allow that every speech act is an utterance and every physical movement a gesture. Utterances and gestures are by their very nature forms of "expression", a term which is individual and particular, not generalizable. Description is set up against expression in that description is not art. "Expression differs from description in that it is never a repetition or a rehearsal but always in itself a real actualization - both of a new meaning and of the person himself in a new way." (Dunne, p. 68). Later, Dunne further articulates Collingwood's view by saying, "description is 52 not art, since what one describes one already knows - it is something that one's previous knowledge can adequately meet, and so the latter is not challenged or extended through it" (p. 69). B y this definition, all practices that bring individuals together to extend their preexisting knowledge, practices involving the need for the "connective capacity" outlined by Palmer, are forms of artistic endeavour. The very definition of education is one that relies upon "expression" as Collingwood describes it, an activity involving exploration and discovery. Technical Rationality and Moral Engagement A second difficulty with the technicist paradigm in the teaching of writing has to do with its moral 'emptiness'. Although Hyland (2003) argues that genre approaches allow students to question and interrogate texts in order to reveal their underlying assumptions and biases, these abilities or skills do not guarantee that the process of engaging in 'critical inquiry' wi l l have any meaning for the students so engaged. In other words, providing students with the ability to involve themselves in a particular activity does not presuppose that this activity wi l l have any meaning for them unless they already are operating within a framework of commitments; that is, to justice, equality, community, freedom, and so forth. For example, i f we were to give a young person a tennis racket and work very diligently to help him or her hit and return the tennis ball at a high velocity, giving instructions on direction, spin, height, and distance, it would be possible to create a very skilled player. If, however, this same young person had never learned about the game of 53 tennis itself, its purpose, rules and goals, the meaning of the game is lost for this person. He or she possesses the skills to partake in a sport he or she does not understand or value. Hannah Arendt (1958) makes this clear in her attack on "the generalization of the fabrication experience in which usefulness and utility are established as the ultimate standards for life and the world of men" (p. 157). Dunne further articulates Arendt's position by saying, "What disappears in utilitarianism is the distinction (expressed idiomatically in the distinction between " in order to" and "for the sake o f ) between utility and meaning; or rather utility itself becomes the criterion of meaning, and this, in the end, leads to meaninglessness" (p. 97). If the teaching of writing, and engagement in the process of writing, is to have meaning for students in the moment of interaction, focusing on writing as a ' s k i l l ' or 'craft' w i l l not provide this dimension. What is needed is a sense of the activity's value and a commitment to its meaning or purpose. If, in fact, the practice of teaching, and particularly the practice of teaching written composition, is an art form, and i f we accept Collingwood's view that artistic endeavours are not technical in nature, then what is the alternative? How should the practice of teaching writing be approached differently i f we are to reject pervading technicist assumptions in the field? What does it look like to engage artistically in the practice of teaching writing? The only way to effectively answer these questions is by defining a paradigm based on an entirely different set of assumptions than those upon which technique is based. 54 Dialogue with Lynn: Part Three "Uggggh! That dang cat!" She is standing at the far corner of the room, streaked blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail underneath a cotton handkerchief. She has a dishrag in one hand, furiously scrubbing the wall beneath the living room windowshelf. "You're the one who lets her go in and out of the window." "I know, I know. I just didn't think it was going to rain today. This morning it was sunny." "It's a habit, you know. If you want to break it, you're going to have to train her to enter and leave through the door." With my legs curled under me and a magazine on my lap, I am aware that I sound preachy. She looks at me from under her lids, still bent under the windowsill. I go back to my magazine. Happy Pregnancy. What a crock. "Okay, done." Lynn lifts her head, wiping a stray strand of hair away from her nose. "Maybe you're right. It couldn't hurt to have her entering and leaving through the door. At least I wouldn't have to clean the muddy pawprints from the wall every time it rains." "Mmmmhmmm." I am only half listening. In front of me is an advertisement. A before-and-after photo set. The 'before' picture is really disgusting. A woman with the most angry looking purple stretch marks I have ever seen. Then the 'after' frame - a smooth, sunkissed abdomen. It doesn't even look like the same stomach. Suddenly I feel a bit queasy. "Would you like some tea?" 55 "Ummm, yes, yes I 'd love some, thanks." The magazine gets snapped shut. Too many blissful mothers. Too many cherubic babies. M y head is spinning. Tea would be great. Lynn rummages around in her cupboards for mugs. On tippy-toes, she reaches to the highest shelf for the teapot. There is only one way to make tea, according to Lynn, and that is black. Very, very black - and tannic. If the tea makes the roof of your mouth feel like a rough carpet, then and only then is it 'good tea'. To this black syrup you then add a large dollop of cream and approximately half a pint of sugar. "Wait a minute." She stops, turns around. "Are you sure you should be drinking tea? Isn't caffeine supposed to be bad for the baby? Don't roll your eyes, I 'm serious." "I wasn't rolling my eyes. I just wish the entire world wasn't watching me like a hawk every time I put something in my mouth. One cup of tea is not going to cause a miscarriage ... or an extra head." "Be sarcastic all you want. I know how you are with caffeine. Alcohol - no problem. Y o u don't drink much anyway. But caffeine ... that's a habit you've never even tried to kick." "I've made a pact with myself. N o more than two cups a day." "Mmmmhmmm. When?" "When what?" "When did you make the pact? Yesterday?" "Ha ha. No. I decided last week, after I read the section on caffeine in the baby book." 56 "Hmmm. Wel l , I just remember that you had three cups of tea on Sunday at that restaurant." "It's a new pact, okay? I might have forgotten. And besides, you know I don't drink tea like you do, with a consistency of automotive o i l . " "Touchy, touchy. Fine, you do what you want. Here's your tea." Lynn places a steaming mug in front of me. She has been thoughtful enough to dilute my tea with a great deal of skim milk. I feel guilty for being so reactionary to her genuine concern for my welfare. Why am I so defensive? "What are you reading?" She leans forward over her tea to grab the magazine I have been thumbing through. "Happy Pregnancy. Hey, maybe they can give you a few pointers." "On what?" I hold the mug up to my chest, feeling the steam rise to my nostrils and tickle my chin. "On being happy." She smiles at me, all her teeth showing. If she was a gorilla, it would be arguable whether such a look, when given to another gorilla, is a sign of affection or extreme aggression. "Oh, come on. I know I've been just a wee bit grouchy lately, I 'm sorry. I just chalk it up to hormones, or . . . " M y voice trails off. I find my eyes travelling back to the picture of a very cheerful, pink-skinned infant on the front of the magazine Lynn is now thumbing through. I find the queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach has returned. I sip a bit more of my tea. Lynn ignores me. "Hey, guess what, listen to this: New studies show that babies whose mothers listen to classical music while they are pregnant tend to have a 30% higher IQ than those whose mothers don't listen to music at all. Maybe we should turn on the 57 Mozart, hey?" She looks up at me, then cocks her head to one side. "What's wrong? Y o u look a bit pasty - are you okay?" I wipe my hand over my forehead. It feels clammy. Is it my hand or my forehead? "I 'm fine. It's just : . . all these stats and figures and advice and . . . " M y voice trails off again. I honestly don't know why I feel so wound up, like a jack-in-the-box about to pop. " Y o u mean, about the baby and the pregnancy and all that?" "Yeah. I think so. I don't know. It's like there's this perfect way to be, you know, like what I should eat and how much I should weigh and how I should feel and how much time I should work out and how I should sleep. I 'm just overwhelmed with these 'shoulds' right now. I don't know how much of how I feel is an honest response to this pregnancy and how much is just a reaction against all the 'advice' out there. I don't even know my own body anymore. It doesn't seem to belong to me at all . It's like a pizza that everyone wants a slice out of." "Maybe you're just more susceptible to it, now that you're pregnant." "Susceptible to what?" "Wel l , the whole cultural fixation with 'the' way to do something, or to be something. It's kind of like what you were talking about before, with 'places' or spaces having identities. It's all created by cultural expectations and assumptions. When everybody has the same assumptions about what we are doing and why we are doing it, then we have no trouble with the roles and expectations that are placed on us." "Yeah, but . . . what about just being . . . " I am having trouble finishing my sentences. I ' feel like a typewriter that is running out of ink. "Just being . . . what?" 58 "Exactly. Why do I feel like I have to be something, that it's not enough just to be?" "Huhm." Lynn leans back on the couch, hands on both knees. Our tea sends a soft, bitter aroma through the room. "I mean, it's hard to hear my own heart in all this. I used to just know what I wanted. If I was hungry, I ate. If I was tired, I slept. If I felt lethargic, I went for a walk, or jumped on an exercise bike. Now, I find myself questioning everything. A l l the actions which came naturally to me before now seem to require so much thought and planning. And I feel guilty i f I don't spend all that time wrestling with choices, since everybody seems to affirm the fact that I should be worrying about the baby all the time. It's like, i f I 'm not worrying, or stressed out, then maybe I don't care enough, or I 'm not trying hard enough." "Trying hard enough? You're having a baby - not climbing Mount Everest. Trying won't get you there any faster, or 'better', than not trying." "I know this, but it's hard to shake the guilt, anyway." " Y o u sound like you did your first year of teaching, remember?" I remember. Chloe is scratching at the window again, whining to get in. Lynn looks at me, raises an eyebrow. Then she traverses the room and opens the front door. I smile at her. She smiles back. For a moment we are engaged in a wordless communication, gentle but piercing. Some phrase pops to mind, "Blessed is the man who has forgotten words . . . " I can't remember the rest. I take another sip of my tea, still cradled on my chest. "Okay, but how do you suggest I do it? How do I let it go?" 59 Lynn shrugs her shoulders. "Is there ever another answer to that question, other than 'let go'? Asking how is just another way of evading responsibility for doing it, in my opinion. A better question to ask yourself is 'why hold on to the guilt?' Why not let it go? A l l these worries and concerns you are talking about don't really exist. What I mean is, they're not really based in reality." "I know. It's just that sometimes it seems as i f they're more real than what is right in front of me. It's hard to focus on this moment, this cup, this warmth, this room. It's like they are in the background and my racing mind is in the foreground. I want to be able to switch things around, so that I can have real contact with what is in front of me, but it's difficult." Chloe mews and scratches on the window again. Lynn gets up and leans over the window to release the blinds, letting them fall. She flops back down on the couch opposite me. "Eventually she'll figure it out. It ' l l take some time though, she's stubborn. Okay, well , how did you learn to 'let go' when you were teaching? What was the trick?" I sigh, pulling out one leg from under me. "No trick. It was just one day, near the end of my first year of teaching, there was this one kid -1 think his name was Matt - anyway, Matt came to me to ask me about his mark during recess. I was listening to him asking me i f he could do anything to bring up his final grade, increase it, when suddenly it happened. I felt this warmth come over me, and I felt like I was looking at him for the first time. It was suddenly as i f this kid was the only person in the universe. Itwas such a potent feeling, so powerful.. That whole day was like that. I felt like I had just fallen in love with each of my students. I saw them, really saw who they were, just as i f scales had fallen off my eyes. It was amazing. After that, my whole experience of teaching changed. Everything had a new perspective." The tips of my fingers are tingling. I wrap them tighter around the mug. 60 "Then maybe it's just about being ready, and waiting for the moment to reveal itself to you again. I think it w i l l . " " Y o u know, I don't know i f I had ever really looked into the eyes of my students before that moment with Matt. When I did, the universe I had been operating in just exploded into a mill ion tiny fragments. What is that? What do you call that?" "I don't know. It's an Event, anyway. I think you described it really well when you said it was like falling in love." "Yeah. Like falling in love." The room closes its eyes for a moment. There is a gentle lul l , like a momentary cessation of rain on a drizzly afternoon. M y legs prickle as the breeze blows in from Lynn's open door. "Let me ask you something." She is wrapping her fingers around an unlit candle on the coffee table. Cross-legged on the floor, she looks as though she were making an offering in some foreign temple. Or praying. "Okay. Shoot." "Do you think it's possible to relate like that - have that experience - with something ... else? Something non-human, even non-sentient?" "L ike?" "Wel l , I was just thinking of my favourite part in that Annie Dillard book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek" " Y o u mean the part about the tree?" 61 "Yes! Exactly, 'the tree with the lights in it ' . Here, let me see i f I've got it." Lynn bounds to her bookcase, eagerly scanning the third shelf. "Here it is. 'I saw the backyard cedar where the mourning doves roost charged and transfigured, each cell buzzing with flame. I stood on the grass with the lights in it, grass that was wholly fire, utterly focused and utterly dreamed. It was less like seeing than like being for the first time seen, knocked breathless by a powerful glance. The flood of fire abated, but I 'm still spending the power. Gradually the lights went out in the cedar, the colors died, the cells unflamed and disappeared. I was still ringing. I had been my whole life a bell, and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck.'" Lynn gently lowers the book. "It was less like seeing than like being for the first time seen . . . " Her words puff and expand like a thin trail of smoke, evaporating in the still room. "Wel l , that is what the experience was like for me. It was a gift, and I knew in that moment that there was nothing I could have done to make it happen. It was just a second or two of grace, like I was seeing things as they really were for the first time, but not because I was enlightened or anything. A veil was lifted for me and I saw something ... as it really was. But not in a Platonic way, i f you know what I mean." "I've experienced that too. Last week, I was making some entries in my journal - it could have been a poem, but I don't remember. Anyway, I felt the pen in my hand for the very first time - it was heavy, like a brick. And the sounds of the pen on the paper echoed in my ears. Every word I was writing seemed like a flash of light in front of my eyes, lit up from within by some profound mystery. Everything resonated - the sound, the weight, the light, the truth of it a l l . " "The truth of the writing, or the experience? Or the things, the ideas, you were writing?" " A l l of it. They all seemed to merge into a single truth. That was what was so beautiful about it. It wasn't just some mystical experience for no reason. I felt the meaning of it, 62 that this was really what it was all about. It was like, being an ocean, and feeling all at once the magnitude of all that water flowing into you and the water being released from you. Just knowing, feeling, experiencing the truth of your situation, your place in the ebb and flow of life." "I guess she's right, Annie Dillard, when she describes it like a 'transfiguration'. Things change, but really they don't. They just become more themselves, or ... or maybe it's us. We become more ourselves, we know who we are." A small face, black, with a white strip on the nose, rounds the curved edge of the doorway. Chloe looks affronted, and a little chagrined, by having lost the battle of wills. She skulks to her water dish and refuses to look at us. Lynn smiles. "I think we are being shunned. Her Royal Highness is not amused." "Yes. We've fallen into disfavour. She didn't like the change in her normal schedule." Chloe flicks her tail, as i f in sullen agreement. Lynn raises an eyebrow at me. "Yeah. But who does, really?" Her hand fingers the edges of the Happy Pregnancy magazine, still open on the coffee table. I feel myself swallow, as i f my throat is coated in peanut butter. "You're right, of course. Change doesn't happen easily, even i f it is a good change. It's still . . . hard." "Maybe it's like Jacob and the angel." "How do you mean?" "Wel l , you know the story. In the Old Testament, Jacob was a man plagued by regrets, by bad choices. His whole life he was running - from God, his brother, his uncle, 63 himself. It's like he didn't want to face the reality of his life, so he was always on the move. He had to keep one step ahead of self-realization." " A n d then there was the blessing of his father, Isaac." "Which, really, when you think about it, must have felt more like a curse than a blessing. Being followed around your whole life by the knowledge that you have a Purpose, a Call ing, but you don't really want it." "The Hound of Heaven. Right?" "Yeah. The cure seems worse than the disease when it means having to face yourself, the meaninglessness of your life. Much better to be restless, to imagine that what you are really seeking lies in the next curve of the highway." " A n d then?" " A n d then one day he stops running. He's too old, too tired. He has all these children and these two bickering wives and he just can't keep it up anymore. So he goes out into the wilderness and he meets the angel. The angel of life or the angel of death. He's not sure. He just knows that he has to do battle with this being, this creature, he's been running from his whole life." "But, why does he have to fight it? Why a battle? Why not a conversation, or a prayer?" "Because ... because he hasn't made any peace with himself; or with God. Because he knew that the only other option was letting go. And he couldn't let go, not yet. Not without a fight. That would make all his running, all his evasion, truly meaningless. His whole life would be a sham, a subterfuge. He couldn't just give up everything he had worked for, everything that had meant something to him in his life. It's the ultimate loss. 64 N o guarantee of a future, and no holding on to the past. Everything - pffffft, gone." Lynn's hand stretches out in a gesture of erasure. "Letting go . . . " I feel that the tea has gone cold in my hands, even though I am still cupping it for warmth. "So that's it, then. We run from the angel because we are afraid." " Y o u know what I think? I think when Jacob saw the angel, looked into his eyes, he saw himself as he really was. I think he fought the angel desperately, like someone who had seen his own death. And then when he had finished wrestling, when he finally believed that he had won the fight, the angel touched him. Listen to this," Lynn pulls out her Bible from under a stack of books on the floor. She flips silently for a few minutes. "Okay, here it is, 'When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, "Let me go, for it is daybreak." But Jacob replied, "I w i l l not let you go unless you bless me." The man asked him, "What is your name?" "Jacob," he answered. Then the man said, "Your name wi l l no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome." So, Jacob is changed. His fear, what he has been running from his whole life, finally happens. It's like a death, or .. . a rebirth. He has a new name." " A new identity. That's what a name was, back then, it expressed your deepest self. Who you really were. When your name was changed, it was like becoming a new person." I notice that my hand has fluttered, in a reflex, to my swelling abdomen. " A n d he does, you see? From this point on, Jacob becomes a different person. No more flights around the countryside, no more running from his own shadow, no more lying and tricks and narrow escapes. He just lets go and his whole life takes on a different tenor. It's like, suddenly, when you read about Jacob, now, after wrestling the angel, you're reading about a different person. He's this older, wiser, quieter man. He moves slower, and his words are more reflective, more thoughtful." 65 "So, the change did come fairly easily, after a l l . " "Yes and no. I mean, the change itself came easily, but not without that initial struggle. He had to face his own mortality, the possible death of everything he had lived for. The death of Jacob." " A n d the birth of Israel." "One never happens without the other. They go together. Once he had recognized and accepted that," Lynn leans back, her head nestling on the couch cushions, her legs stretched out beneath her, "it wasn't difficult to change. In fact, the change came on its own, I believe." Chloe has forgotten her initial disapprobation and is stretched out on Lynn's lap, head characteristically tucked in her chest and paws. "Death and birth," I muse, watching Lynn gently stroke Chloe's back. "Loss and recovery." "I honestly don't think anything good can be realized in a life where there is no allegiance to that very reality. It's like expecting an answer without asking a question. Loss defines discovery. Suffering gives joy meaning, and scope. But only i f you are wil l ing to see it." "So, then there is a way to prepare yourself for a discovery of the kind we were talking about earlier. Like the 'transfiguring' of the tree that Annie Dillard talks about, or your experience with writing. I mean, preparing yourself doesn't guarantee that you wi l l have such an experience, but it puts you in a place where you actually can have these kinds of moments, these brilliant flashes of connectedness." "Prepare yourself?" 66 "Like what you were saying about Jacob. If your heart is prepared for the possibility of loss, of death, it can open up more to the possibility of life and discovery. It's the allegiance to the reality of the dual nature of experience that prepares you. If you know, and are committed to the fact, that letting go is a necessary part of opening up to new experiences, then you won't be arming yourself against loss. Y o u wi l l accept it as a characteristic of learning and growth." "So much of the hard work in life is the learning how to let go. We are constantly learning in order to unlearn. Like snakes, we grow our skins to shed them." Lynn's fingers continue to draw streaks across Chloe's fur, along her neck, flanks, and back. Chloe is making a deep rumbling sound in her chest, like the grumbling of a mountain just before an avalanche. This is one of her 'good sounds'. Her eyes are only half open and her lower jaw is slack. "If it's so natural to grow by letting go, why are we so afraid of it? Why do we cling so desperately to our 'skins '?" "Maybe the primary role of education in our culture is the instilling of that fear. Maybe it is natural to let go. I don't know, but, it seems like you look at other cultures and not everyone is so afraid of loss and of death like we are. Some cultures embrace death. I don't mean they seek it out or enjoy it or anything, but there is a recognition that death has meaning and a glory of its own." "So, when you embrace suffering and loss, your life has more meaning?" "Yeah. Yes, I think so. A n d I don't mean some gothic 'celebration' of death, necessarily. There just needs to be more of a willingness to let suffering speak to us, speak through us is maybe a better way of putting it." " B y arming ourselves against suffering and loss, we arm ourselves against learning as wel l ." M y eyes travel back to the magazine on the coffee table. 67 " A n d the sad thing is, pain still happens, and suffering still takes place. Only, by refusing to let it speak to us, we strip it of all meaning. When we suffer, when we experience a death, we don't learn from it. We don't get to hear the voice that is offering hope, a rebirth." "That's interesting. It reminds me that Jacob walked for the rest of his life with a limp because of where the angel touched him. That touch burned into his bones, broke his hip. Yet, when you think about it, it was also a sign of blessing. For the rest of his life it would be a reminder of his new name and his new purpose. He had spent his whole life running, and now the angel had literally made it impossible for him to run. To Jacob, this could have been devastating, a death with no meaning. But his new name provided the hope that there was more still to be discovered." " Y o u know, when you think about it, his story - Jacob's story - is a story full of hope." "It's also a story full of suffering." "Suffering, yes, but that's okay. The suffering has shape and meaning because of the story, and that gives hope." "Hope for who? Jacob or the rest of us?" Lynn smiles. "Wel l , I guess it would be hope for anyone, that is, anyone who wants to find it." Chloe stretches her limbs, paws extended, then yawns and nestles back once again into the curve of Lynn's lap, descending into what looks to be a very deep, very restful, sleep. 68 Chapter 4: An Alternate Paradigm Technical Rationality and the Search for Security In analyzing a poem by the Greek poet Pindar, Martha Nussbaum makes the following reflections on the nature of humanity and the nature of human excellence: It [the poem] suggests that part of the peculiar beauty of human excellence just is its vulnerability. The tenderness of a plant is not the dazzling hardness of a gem. There seem to be two, and perhaps two incompatible, kinds of value here. Nor, perhaps, is the beauty of a true human love the same as that of the love of two immortal gods, only shorter. The liquid sky that covers these people and circumscribes their possibilities also lends to their environment a quick, gleaming splendor that would not, we suspect, be the climate of heaven. .. . Human excellence is seen, in Pindar's poem and pervasively in the Greek poetic tradition, as something whose very nature it is to be in need, a growing thing in the world that could not be made invulnerable and keep its own peculiar fineness. The contingencies that make praise problematic are also, in some as yet unclear way, constitutive of that which is there for praising. (1986, p. 2) 69 The primary purpose and goal of a technical approach is to provide some guarantee or security in contingent circumstances for the agent, actor, or participant. Joseph Dunne explains this succinctly when he says, "technical rationality can be seen as an attempt to extend the standpoint and the benefits - in terms of detachment, explanatory power, universality, and control - of a certain kind of theory to the agent who is involved in practical situations" (p. 9). However, as Martha Nussbaum very clearly articulates through Pindar's poem, human excellence may comprise values that are incommensurable in the sense that choosing one entails that other, equally viable, values wi l l be unrealized. Choosing security or safety in practical situations by approaching them in a technical manner places a barrier between the agent and the event, such that other experiences, connections, and knowledge may cease to become possibilities. Technical rationality, as an approach to circumstance and experience, renders a certain impermeability and hardness to such encounters. Phronesis and Praxis Contrasting with an approach to learning that places primary value on theoretical knowledge, then, is one that would embrace the moment of experience as the seminal point for knowledge and reflection. Aristotle names this form of knowing phronesis. David Coulter and John Wiens round out this definition still further: First, phronesis is not simply a form of knowledge, but an amalgam of knowledge, virtue, and reason that enables people to decide 70 what they should do. Aristotle contrasts two conceptions of practice that are often conflated in English: practice as craft (poiesis) and practice as moral-political action (praxis). Practice as poiesis is means-ends activity in which knowledge and skill (techne) are used to accomplish ends decided by the exercise of theoretical wisdom (sophia). Practice as praxis, however, aims at a different kind of end, a good and worthwhile life (eudaimonia), where the means are integral to the end (how we go about leading such a life cannot be separated from that life). Deciding what counts as a good life, acquiring the requisite knowledge and virtue, and matching that knowledge and virtue to particular situations correctly requires a different form of wisdom: phronesis. (2002, p. 16) Phronesis, then, manifestly is not simply the 'exercise of theoretical wisdom', but an approach to experience that values the particularity of each moment as the teacher of wisdom. Because the contingent factors involved in each moment in time are part of the scheme of value inherent to phronesis, it is impossible to limit its definition to simply another form of inductive reasoning. The goal of the inductive method is to move from the particular to the general, taking particular facts and examples from one's experience and drawing broad conclusions about truth and reality. With phronesis, however, one simply moves from the particular to the particular. In other words, arriving at general conclusions about the nature of truth and reality is not the goal of phronesis. Instead, the goal is circular, bound to the nature of phronesis itself. Phronesis is an approach to living that values the 'good and worthwhile life'. The goal and the approach are bound 71 together as a single entity in the moment of encounter. As an approach to knowledge, the spectator becomes the actor, the student becomes the text and the speaker becomes the spoken. A unique way to describe this radical shift from knowledge as cognition to knowledge as action is described by John in the Gospel of John 1:14, "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." (NIV) With phronesis as an approach to morality, the ideal becomes the reality, but not as its outcome. Rather, the reality is the truer and deeper soul of that which the ideal attempts to display. Phronesis in itself is primarily a perspective on reality. As action, phronesis becomes praxis, a way of thinking that converts into a way of being in the world, with oneself and with others. As I define it, and according to the criteria described by Dunne, praxis involves the following elements: 1) Moral engagement. Praxis does not sidestep the interpersonal responsibilities between and among individuals. Rather, it embraces these messy intricacies as a key aspect of its operation. 2) Political engagement. The relationship between society and the individual is continually explored, stretched, and re-invented when praxis is embraced. 3) Open-ended exploration. Rather than defining experience before action, action is allowed to direct and re-define experience. Knowledge is not primarily considered to be 'arrived at', as a destination. Instead, practical knowledge becomes the road being traveled, a way of interacting with the world rather than something being 'produced' or 'discovered' in the world. 72 4) Dialogue. Dialogue is a valuable element to praxis because it involves more than one voice, and in this way it disallows the primacy of one over another. The listener/engager is therefore required to attend to the other. Easy and oversimplified definitions of truth become impossible in an authentic dialogue. Praxis as a Style of Learning The Player King , in Shakespeare's Hamlet, makes the following observation regarding the human condition, echoed by Nussbaum in her reflections on Pindar's poem: Where joy most revels grief doth most lament; Grief joys, joy grieves, on slender accident. This world is not for aye, nor 'tis not strange That even our loves should with our fortunes change, For 'tis a question left us yet to prove, Whether love lead fortune or else fortune love. (III.ii.191-198) Love and fortune, choice and circumstance; the two are represented here as in a fierce battle for supremacy. Is my character a product of my wi l l or of my 'fortune'? It appears even the writer of Hamlet remains baffled by this question. It seems to be in our nature as humans to rail against the dying light of the power of human reason to control and manipulate our circumstances. Even our choices are subject to this type of 'fate', as the Player K i n g suggests in his reflections on love. Learning to embrace the 73 contingencies, the soft edges, of human experience, knowledge, and choice, is one of the exercises of praxis. Outlining a pattern of research in approaching composition pedagogy that represents a very different paradigm from the technicist approach is not so difficult once we recognize the major distinctions between different approaches to knowledge. It is important to recognize the great discrepancies between technical and phronetic approaches to learning. This is outlined very well by aboriginal researchers who highlight the differences between western rationalism and aboriginal approaches to knowledge. Marie Battiste and James Henderson (2000) explain the incommensurability between these two approaches in a discussion on the Eurocentric need for definitions and classifications: Since most modern Eurocentric contexts reject the idea of intelligible essences in an ecology, they rely on arbitrary definitions that have no relationship with the life forces that Indigenous peoples use to understand life. Eurocentrism rejects the idea that the human mind can understand an ecology through these life forces. Instead, modern Eurocentric thinkers believe there are numberless ways in which they can classify ideas, objects, and events in an ecology. The system of classification and the definitions used within it are based on the desires or purposes of those who created the system. The definitions are judged to be valid i f they advance the desires or purposes of the people who fabricated them, allowing them to measure, predict, or control events. 74 Since the validity of the system rests on its ability to contribute to particular ends, no basis exists for saying that one classification system portrays the "real" world more accurately than another does. (p. 36) According to Battiste and Henderson, modern Eurocentric approaches are technicist at their very core, making very clear distinctions between means and ends and setting up a strong hierarchical relationship between material and finished product. The basic desire, to "measure, predict, or control events", is also technicist. This world is also a 'closed' world, in that the very validity of the system depends on these assumptions. For Battiste and Henderson, this means that Indigenous approaches to knowledge and learning must remain 'exterior' to modern Eurocentric strategies: Using Eurocentric analysis, one cannot make rational choices among conflicting worldviews, expecially those held by others. No worldview describes an ecology more accurately than others do. A l l worldviews describe some parts of the ecology completely, though in their own way. No worldview has the power to describe the entire universe. Eurocentric thought must allow Indigenous knowledge to remain outside itself, outside its representation, and outside its disciplines. It cannot attempt to capture an incommensurable knowledge system in its web of purposes. Eurocentric contexts cannot do justice to the exteriority of Indigenous knowledge, (p. 38) 75 For our purposes, it would be just as useful to say, "Technicist contexts cannot do justice to the exeriority of phronetic knowledge." Technicism, and its attended values, those of measuring, predicting, and controlling the vagaries of human experience, cannot have ascendance in a world where distinctions between means and ends are irrelevant and unnecessary, where there is no hierarchy between material and product, where a focus on human designs and purposes gives way to an intrinsic sense of the inherent value of life. Joseph Dunne, in outlining Gadamer's approach to a definition of phronesis, has this to say: There is first of all the nondisposability of phronesis - the fact that one is never sufficiently at a distance from it to be able simply to use it, or the fact that it gives one a peculiarly intimate kind of self-knowledge without however making this self fully transparent or available. Again, there is the fact that it breaks out of an instrumentalist framework and cannot therefore be understood in terms of the categories of ends and means ... Again there is the fact that it is realized always in concrete applications and never resolves itself into formulated knowledge that can be possessed apart from these applications ... The undermining of various separations - between being and knowing, matter and form, means and end, particular and universal, 'possession' and 'application' - which is inherent in the above characteristics makes of phronesis a very fluid reality, (pp. 126-127) 76 Praxis and Composition Pedagogy Moving away, then, from designs and processes in relation to writing goals, moving away from focusing on process and product, from an emphasis on methods and genre categories, where do we find ourselves? What does the terrain of a phronetic approach to composition pedagogy look like? Research in composition pedagogy has taken on a number of different permutations over the years. Although genre-based approaches have seen growing popularity in recent years, particularly through discourse analysis (the study of situated language use), technology-based writing studies have also risen to prominence. A major concern for researchers in the field has become the desire to situate the writing act within a possible field of purposes and goals. It is understood that there is a complex relationship between texts and their contexts, such that the goals of writing in any particular situation are unique and complex (Hyland, 2003, p. 166). Linked to this is the idea that literacy and language are social practices of interrelation and interpolation, not merely cognitive exercises. Intertextuality, particularly through new forms of media and technology, has broadened our perspectives on the nature and purpose of discursive relationships (Upton & Connor, 2001). The emergence of Contrastive Rhetoric, "which identifies the differences in rhetorical preferences between cultural and linguistic groups" (Hyland, 2003, p. 168) explores the terrain between literacy and culture, showing how different cultural groups respond to and create rhetorical situations in very unique ways. Such perspectives have 77 also provided a vehicle for resistance, questioning dominant socio-cultural expectations in terms of writing practice. The difficulty that continues to arise, however, when analyzing these perspectives on composition pedagogy, is the tendency to continue to perceive writing and the teaching of writing primarily as craft, a technical pursuit with goals and purposes distinct from engagement in the process itself. Questions such as, "how is writing itself central to the process of inquiry I am engaging in?" seldom arise when ends (socio-political resistance, technological intertextuality, developing contextual awareness) are so distinguished from means. A s well , the vulnerability of the writing act, the riskiness and transparency inherent in the experience, tends to be ignored in pedagogies that would focus primarily on writing purposes and goals, even laudable ones. Storying the Writing Process: Praxis in the Composition Classroom The seeds for change, however, are clearly apparent, particularly when we look at the changing role of narrative in writing research and pedagogy. Looking at writing as a social act, an interplay of voices and interpretations, allows for a moment-by-moment redefinition of the experience that defies the inhibitive and reductionistic nature of universalism. Sharing stories is also a mode of teaching that allows for imaginative interplay between reader, text, writer, and teacher. Donald Murray (1989), a renowned teacher and researcher of writing pedagogy, discusses the importance of pursuing surprise in writing and in teaching writing. He says, "Our students wi l l recognize surpise when we share our surprise at what we are writing, when we allow members of the class to 78 share their writing and their surprises with us, and when we, as teachers, are surprised by what they are writing. They must see the great range of surprise that is possible when writing becomes exploration" (p. 9). A s Murray clearly articulates, surprise is a key element to the stories we tell, the stories we hear, and the stories we write in the writing classroom. As we pursue surprise, we pursue authentic engagement. Nancie Atwel l (1991), another powerful voice in the field, echoes Murray's sentiment by saying, "First, we need to reject impoverished models that promise skills mastery, to just say no to programs, worksheets, workbooks, and exercises, to say no more dummy runs when we can be giving kids the real thing" (p. 52). Storying the writing experience in a pedagogical setting helps to mediate between dichotomies such as means and ends, form and function, writer and reader. Stories help to create mutual meanings that are not homogeneous or static, but flexible, alive, and multidirectional. The very nature of a story lends itself to an emphasis on practical judgement over technical rationality in the tendency to focus on the particular, the unique, the vulnerable, and the irregular aspects of lived experience. According to this learning model, "teaching is redefined as storytelling" (Korn, 1997). Narrative approaches to writing practice do not ignore the emotional charge involved in the writing experience. In fact, the affective domain is central to the effectiveness of narrative, both in how stories are represented and how they are heard. Leggo (1999) calls for an approach to research that would not deny or sublimate the affective spaces we occupy as teachers and researchers: 79 I want my research to be intense, filled with emotion, caught up in the body. I want my blood to boil, my hands to sweat, my heart to pound and resound. I want research that is important, that speaks to how we live in the world, that sings in the language of manifesto. I want my research to come out of an intense life, but not a tense life as in a life that is "stretched, tight, as a cord or fiber; drawn taut; rigid." Instead I seek tensile research which is "capable of being stretched or drawn out, ductile" (p. 128). This kind of research, this kind of teaching, requires an element of vulnerability much like the tenderness of Nussbaum's plant. It is a different quality from a research that would make engagement in the learning process a tense, rigid experience, merely a translation of theory into fact, and not a "ductile" one: stretchable, malleable, and flexible. Coles (1989) makes this point clear in describing his own learning experience; "We had to change our use of the very word 'interesting': no longer were we to appropriate it for ourselves. What ought to be interesting, .. . is the unfolding of a lived life rather than the confirmation such a chronicle provides for some theory" (p. 22). Storytelling, as a practice of phronesis, as praxis, speaks directly to this very human need to make meaning through embodied connection in the moment. Troublingly, for teachers and researchers alike, it is a path fraught with peril, with unknowns, and with difficulties. Such a path requires the teacher/researcher to bear witness to their own suffering and the suffering of others as they wrestle with the need to fix, to remedy, to draw conclusions, and to categorize. It is a path of unlearning on the road to knowledge. Like Bunyan's 80 Pilgrim, we need to unload the burdens of our previous learning, our theories, predispositions, and habits of control, in order to continue on the journey of growth and discovery. Freire (1997) clearly understood this necessity: "a new reading of my world requires a new language - that of possibility, open to hope" (p. 77). Storying the writing experience in composition pedagogy is a community endeavour; it involves members of the writing community sharing their stories: the stories that precipitate the desire to write, the stories that they are writing, and the stories that evolve out of the writing experience itself. The role of teacher and student in these encounters is a fluid one, in that each member of the community is by turns speaker and listener, or writer and reader. Such an approach to pedagogy opens up new realms of meaning beyond mere 'process' or 'product' definitions. Coles (1989) explains the reflexive relationship of storytelling through his own experience as a psychiatrist, "But on that fast-darkening winter afternoon, I was urged to let each patient be a teacher: Hearing themselves teach you, through their narration, the patients wi l l learn the lessons a good instructor learns only when he becomes a wil l ing student, eager to be taught" (p. 22). Classical Rhetoric and the Role of Narrative: Striking a Balance Elevating and validating the importance of the story in the writing classroom may also involve the need to return to classical rhetoric, not as a guideline for practice, but as a reminder of the precarious balance involved in any communicative act. Although Halloran (1975) clearly rejects the notion that classical rhetoric can have any relevance for a culture that retains no common values and no communal-wisdom (p. 623), it is clear to other researchers (Rorty, 1991; Maclntyre, 1981; 1990; Dunne, 1993) that there is in fact a need for these things, though it may not be possible to utilize a theoretical model to identify them as they are re-interpreted and re-presented for a postmodern culture. 'Goodness' and 'virtue' are not 'dead', according to these writers, but they are contextual, contingent, and situated in cultural, historical, and social spaces that cannot be excavated by mere theoretical observation. Aristotle's classic representation of the rhetorical triangle, in which each member of a speech act, the ethos (represented by the good character of the speaker or writer), the logos (represented by the logic or verity behind what is spoken), and the pathos (represented by an emotional appeal to the audience), is of equal importance, remains relevant to modern composition pedagogy (On Rhetoric, Trans. George A . Kennedy, 1991). This is particularly true in light of the tendency on the part of scholars to elevate the importance of one aspect of the communicative triangle over the others. The nature and role of the ethos, or the speaker's good character, in the act of writing and speaking has also been problematized in current/traditional approaches in writing pedagogy. Proponents of a traditional view of the writing experience that see writing primarily as a form of 'expression', tend to ignore the fact that writing is a communicative act and promote the false notion of a 'private' self (Faigley, 1986, p. 153). Conversely, those who promote the view of writing as primarily a social act tend to see writing primarily as a play of different voices, wherein the hand holding the pen has little relevance to the study of writing in comparison with the social environment out of which a text arises (p. 158). In the expressivist view of writing, the practice is all about 82 ethos, and little consideration is given to the role of logos (the logic of the text itself) or the pathos (audience appeal). In the social view, the ethos is erased in elevating the role of the pathos, or reader. This is particularly noticeable in the writing of such theorists as Roland Barthes, who in 1968 proclaimed "The Death of the Author" in a famous and much-quoted post-structuralist essay. A s interest in narrative research continues to grow, the hope that researchers in composition theory wi l l take more of a balanced view of the communicative act is growing. Wil l iam Irmscher (1987) writes, after describing some suggestions for change in the way researchers who study writing should engage in the process, " A s I review these recommendations ... it occurs to me that they represent the same kinds of inquiry and attitudes that an author might adopt in "researching" a novel, not less thorough than scholarly inquiry, not less demanding, not less true to experience. The task would be to present the fullness of experience - the experience of the project, the experience of the subject, the experience of the investigator. I can well imagine that an extended study could take the form of biography or narrative" (pp. 196-197). Speaking, according to the Greek orators, involved a direct relationship between the individual character of the speaker and his or her understanding of the minds and hearts of the listeners. The identity and personhood of the orator was just as important to the resonance of the speech act as the truth of what they were saying and the skill they possessed in capturing the emotion of the audience (Halloran, 1975, p. 621). Now, in a postmodern culture, we tend to reject fixed definitions of identity and personhood, focusing instead on the human tendency to change, or 'become'. This approach can mask a possible real desire to escape the responsibility of self-analysis and authentic engagement between the self and 'other'. As narrative has begun to gain relevance as a 83 valid and necessary research style, inquiry has returned to the question of ethos. Who is the speaker and why does he/she speak? These become important questions when using story as a method of research. The questions are often framed in terms of 'voice' , as displayed by Britzman (1991): Voice is meaning that resides in the individual and enables that individual to participate in a community ... The struggle for voice begins when a person attempts to communicate meaning to someone else. Finding the words, speaking for oneself, and feeling heard by others are all a part of this process." (p. 230)) A s Britzman articulates, 'voice' becomes important the minute we choose to engage in a communicative act. Voice is intimately tied to identity, to a sense of self and the space one occupies, but not necessarily in a fixed or clearly articulated sense. Deleuze (1977) attempts to further elucidate the matter: I should like to say what a style is. It belongs to people of whom you normally say, 'They have no style.' This is not a signifying structure, nor a reflected organization, nor a spontaneous inspiration, nor an orchestration, nor a little piece of music. It is an assemblage, an assemblage of enunciation. A style is managing to stammer in one's own language. It is difficult, because there has to be a need for such stammering. Not being a stammerer in one's speech, but being a 84 stammerer of language itself. Being like a foreigner in one's own language, (p. 4) Stammering, developing a style, developing a self or ethos that is not fixed but mutable, these are the accessories of narrative engagement. Instead of representing style development as an end to which writing practice provides a means, a form of writing instruction that emphasizes practical judgement would note that style and voice are part of the process of writing itself, not separate or disengaged from it as mere products of the learning process. Praxis as Personal Engagement Praxis as narrative, a mode of inquiry and a process of learning in the writing classroom, also encourages participants to enter into a different kind of knowing, in which the learner is personally engaged with what is being learned. This is illustrated potently by Palmer (2004) who tells a story about the famous biologist and Nobel Prize winner Barbara McClintock: Another scientist named Evelyn Fox Keller came along when McClintock was in her early eighties and said, "I would like to write your intellectual biography, your story as a scientist. Tell me," she said, "how do you do great science?" 85 McClintock - who was one of the most precise empirical observers and one of the most rigorously logical thinkers in American science -thought for a moment and said, "About the only thing I can tell you about the doing of science is that you somehow have to have a feeling for the organism." Keller asked her question again. "Tell me, how do you do great science?" McClintock - who was at that age when all that's left is to tell the truth - thought for a moment about those ears of corn that she had worked with all her life, because they were cheap and plentiful, and she said, "Really, all I can tell you about doing great science is that you somehow have to learn to lean into the kernel." (pp. 22-23) Leaning into the kernel - this is a process of learning that is engaged, relational, and interconnected. If McClintock is right, i f truly knowing something means that we somehow have to have a feeling for the organism, it is possible that technical rationality is taking us further away from the goal, rather than toward it. If we were to compare the learning processes in studying the effects of "getting wet", for example, technicism would have the researcher insert an object into a stream to analyze the effects, but praxis would require the researcher to immerse herself in the water. In the latter case, the process of learning has intimate effects on the learner through the experience of the quality under observation (getting wet); in the former case, the learner other remains outside the experience, studying it and observing it without ever getting inside. 86 C. S. Lewis (1945) describes this difference in his short essay, "Meditation in a Toolshed". He explains that looking at a beam of light from the outside is an utterly different form of knowing than looking along a beam of light. Knowing something from the inside is distinct from observing it from the outside, and this applies to sexual love, ideology, religion, and cultural practices. He contends as well that modern culture has privileged a way of knowing that is distanced from experience: The people who look at things have had it all their own way; the people who look along things have simply been brow-beaten. It has even come to be taken for granted that the external account of a thing somehow refutes or 'debunks' the account given from inside. ' A l l thee moral ideas which look so transcendental and beautiful from inside', says the wiseacre, 'are really only a mass of biological instincts and inherited taboos.' And no one plays the game the other way round by replying, ' I f you wi l l only step inside, the things that look to you like instincts and taboos wi l l suddenly reveal their real and transcendental nature.' (pp. 54-55) Ultimately, Lewis argues, we cannot get away from the necessity of knowing things from the inside. Using the example of the physiologist studying pain, he explains that the inquiry would have no meaning for the scientist unless he himself had experienced suffering: "If he had never looked along pain he simply wouldn't know what he was looking at. The very subject for his inquiries from outside exists for him only because he has, at least once, been inside" (p. 55). 87 The other contention made by Lewis is the impossibility of ever truly being 'outside' experience; "you can step outside one experience only by stepping inside another. Therefore, i f all inside experiences are misleading, we are always misled" (p. 56). Technical rationality would have us believe, at some level, that we are capable of being pure observers, that the knower and the knowledge are discrete entities, separable and distinct. This helps us continue the fiction of separating means and ends, processes and goals, form and matter, subject and object. Clandinin and Connelly (1990) point out that a characteristic of good narrative inquiry is to enter into the "believing game": a form of connected knowing that recognizes "distance or separation does not characterize connected knowing. The believing game is a way of knowing that involves a process of self-insertion in the other's story as a way of coming to know the other's story and as giving the other voice" (p. 4). Self-insertion, like immersion in water, takes the researcher out of his or her perspective as an 'objective observer', and into the stream of the story itself. This is a way of knowing that is 'skin-to-skin' with the research process itself. Narrative inquiry, as Clandinin and Connelly point out, naturally lends itself to this type of learning. Instead of erasing the self, or ethos, or presenting it as being in contest with the pathos, narrative inquiry elevates the role of both pathos and ethos through interconnected engagement in the story itself (logos). Through storying the research process, no aspect of the communication triangle suffers. Instead, knowledge of each is augmented by connectedness with the others. 88 A s Battiste and Henderson (2000) have pointed out, however, incommensurable systems of value are based on very different sets of goals and purposes, such that it becomes impossible to convince people of the validity of a particular paradigm unless they are always already convinced of the value of its teleology. Moving to the next question, then, becomes an issue of value and purposes. Both the process of developing and the process of accepting a "convincing case" for a new paradigm of composition pedagogy require allegiance to the values and purposes embedded therein. 89 Dialogue with Lynn: Part Four "Okay, get up." "What?" "Time to go for a walk. It's a beautiful day. Here's your jacket." "I don't need my jacket. It's too hot. I feel like I 'm in an oven." "That's because you're pregnant. I forgot, sorry. It's just a bit chilly outside, so I thought..." "Chi l ly? I would like to know how it feels to be chilly, again. That would be a nice change." Okay, that definitely sounded like a whine. I pick myself up from the kitchen table where I have been marking student work and stretch. Looking down, I realize my feet have disappeared. This is a new discovery. "Lynn?" "What?" "I've lost my feet. They've disappeared." I feel a vague sense of panic. Losing one's feet is no light issue. How wi l l I know where I am going? 90 "No, don't worry. Y o u still have them - they look fine to me." Lynn is trying very hard not to laugh, but she can't hide her smile. M y new, rounder figure, coupled with the anxious expression on my face and the topic of discussion, must be quite hilarious. "Don't worry, I ' l l keep an eye on them for you. Make sure they don't run away or try anything funny." "Okay, all right. I know this must be really funny to you, but I 'm serious. I already feel unsteady with the unequal distribution of weight, and now this." " W e ' l l take it slow. 1 just wanted to take a short walk down by the water - nothing major. W e ' l l just meander and i f you get tired, we ' l l come home." "Mmmhmmm." I am focusing on my shoes. It's a good thing I wear slip-ons. Hovering over them, I lift one foot and feel for the opening, slide it in. Then the other. The whole process has taken place without me being able to observe it. I wonder, how much of our daily activity is a process of remembering? Was it my brain or my foot that remembered the shoe? " Y o u ready?" "Yep. Let's go." We step out into the late afternoon sun. A warm breeze is teasing the eaves and the tops of branches. Everything, everywhere, is bathed in that golden-green light only seen in early evenings in late May. This is ripe Spring, when the air is heavy with pollen and perfume, the branches weighted by flora in the sharp sunshine. We have not yet arrived upon the languid lights of summer, when the air, milky with heat and moisture, spreads a cloying aroma like the perfume of an aging aunt. Lynn and I always say this is our favourite time, when the year is still coltish, crisp and green and hard-skinned, like an immature apple. 91 We wind our way around the house to the sidewalk, dodging a group of evening joggers whose steps fall heavy and whose faces are glowing red with sweat. It must be the end of their run. Lynn is lucky to live only two blocks away from the ocean. Already we can smell,fresh sea-salt, bourne to our nostrils on breezes that, wave-like, crash upon the senses every few seconds or so. It is an undulating scent, invigorating and sleep-inducing at the same time. "Haaaa. Feel that. Isn't it just fabulous? I 'm so glad you got me out of there. I would have spent the rest of the evening marking, and I wouldn't have realized what I was missing." Lynn's hands are pocketed deep in her thin jacket and her eyes are distant. "It's gorgeous. I needed to go for a walk, too." " Y o u know, the ancient Druids called this the 'thin time'." "The what?" "The 'thin time'. They believed that the spirit world and the natural world moved in two parallel circles, and that the times when the natural world was in closest contact with the spirit world were called the 'thin times', the times when the veil between this world and the next was the thinnest. They considered these times to take place at dawn and at sunset, every day." "That's lovely. A n d it feels that way too, doesn't it? Magical, somehow." "Yes. Dangerous, too." "Dangerous?" 92 "Wel l , you know I've been thinking more and more about this birth. Giving birth, whatever that means. I've been thinking about the trauma of it a l l . " "From what I've heard, labour isn't easy. Are you worried about the pain?" "No, well , not right now. I've been thinking about the trauma of being born. Y o u know, coming from this dark, warm, wet environment where everything is so safe and suddenly being thrust out, you know, into this bright, harsh, cold world." "Wow. Yeah, and taking your first breath. Imagine how scary that would be! Never needing to breathe and then suddenly taking a breath for the first time. N o wonder newborns cry so much." " A n d then the crying. Think about it. The sound of your own voice, loud in your ears. A screaming, wailing voice you've never heard before. Y o u probably wouldn't even know it was your own." We cross the street to the ocean path. The wind has picked up, whipping our clothes from all sides with a studied and persistent inconsistency. "Hands, too. Textures you have never felt before, like blankets and bright light and cold objects touching you. Your hands and legs are free for the first time, but that can't feel very good when you have no idea where you are or what is happening to you." "That must be why they wrap newborns up so tightly in blankets when they are firstborn. It must make them feel safer to be bound up like that, almost like being in the womb again." "Can you imagine what it would be like to remember all that? To remember being born, and what it felt like?" Lynn stops, stands still on the path, her hair a rampant, enraged animal in the wind. She drags it under her collar in order to calm it. 93 "It's probably a good thing we can't. Y o u know, I read a psychologist somewhere who said that we spend our whole lives recovering from the trauma of being born." Lynn rolls her eyes, hands still plunged deep in her jacket pockets. "Great. That's really encouraging. And then we die." "Wel l , I don't know. I mean, I think it's kind of a beautiful thought. We all come into the world this way, suffering and scared. Nobody asks to be born. But all the same, we cling so tenaciously to this world once we arrive. We want to live, we want to heal, we want to grow. It's just the nature of being alive to want to live. Even plants seem to desire it; sometimes I see an old tree that is scarred and weathered and barely clinging to the soil and I can believe it has a volition, a goal. It wants to survive, not in a thinking or wishing kind of way, but it almost seems to have a wi l l for it. The limbs of every plant, the muscles and sinew of every living being, strain for life." The light around us is lengthening, like a cat stretching before bedtime. The glow is more resilient, elastic. Even our shadows on the pavement path have stretched, elongated torsos meandering ahead of us. A clump of trees on our left has metamorphosed into a group of belly dancers, shaking and shimmying and flashing green-gold as each tries to outdo the others. Such winking coquettishness blinds me. I am stunned under the duress of their flirtation, like a schoolboy among a group of exotic dancers. Lynn's eyes stray, with mine, to the wind-wanton trees. "We long for what we already have? Does that even make sense?" "Not in a cognitive way, mind you. I don't mean to say that we are thinking about it. We just lean toward life, the way a leaf leans toward the sun. Our purpose and goals in living life aren't always apparent to us such that we can articulate them, but they are present in the living itself." 94 "So, meaning and being are one and the same thing?" "Wel l , you remember Hamlet's famous meditation: 'To be, or not to be, that is the questiom/Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer/The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune/Or to take arms against a sea of troubles/And by opposing end them.'" "Hmmmm. The battle against 'outrageous fortune' becomes ultimately a battle against ourselves. If we battle our own destiny, the troubles and struggles of life, we have only the option of ending life itself." "That's right. That's what he seems to be saying. The meaning of life is inextricably wound up in life as it is lived, pain and joy included. This is the 'outrageous fortune' he talks about." "So it's fitting that we are born the way we are, then. Life is a gift we wouldn't want, but once we have it, we can't let go of it. We hold onto it 'for dear life' . Ha! Isn't it weird how we talk about wanting other things the way we want life? A s i f life itself were the ultimate desire to which all other desires must be compared. We just assume that everything alive, by living, desires life." " O f course, for even desire is dependent upon a live wi l l . A stone or boulder cannot desire anything. The cessation of life is the simultaneous cessation of desire." "It's not 'I think, therefore I am'. It's, T w i l l , therefore I am'. Right?" "Wow. Maybe. I 'm nervous to attach ergo sum to any statement, but that's as good as any other I've heard." In spite of myself, I feel the skin on my upper arms begin to pucker into little bumps. I 'm actually a bit chilly. It's a nice feeling. "I think there's more to it even than that, though. When you think about it, things seem to reach out, to long, not only for the life that they have, but for the life that they could 95 have. It's as i f everything has a sense of something more, beyond themselves and of themselves at the same time." " Y o u mean, like a life that is reaching toward life." "Yes. We swallow our old selves on the path to becoming ourselves. It's like the baby feeding from the body of the mother. Even an individual life strains towards growth and change. What is is always reaching out for what could be." "Do you think that this idea of what we 'could be' is something we could articulate or explain?" "Perhaps partially, but not fully. I don't think we can ever fully articulate, in words or in thoughts, the life we long for, but we live towards it anyway." "I like that. We live towards it, like that leaf I was talking about, straining toward the sun." Below us, waves fling themselves with reckless abandon at the stones, driftwood, and bathers limning the shore's edge. A brisk wind flies up at us from below, like the wings of a hundred birds of prey. The world seems wild, beautiful, and angry tonight. Lynn peers down, then looks at me over her jacket collar. "So, what was that about the 'thin time' being dangerous?" "Oh. Wel l , I guess for me the natural world is similar to the womb for the unborn fetus. I 'm not saying it's particularly comfortable and warm and safe, but the 'thin time' reminds me that there might be more. Undiscovered country. Vast, spacious expanses of reality existing in a parallel universe. Inches away and light years distant. Death could be a form of labour, taking us into another painful, scary, expansive reality that we don't even imagine in our present circumstances." 96 "But really, Lesley, all of life is like that. Every moment bears us away to the unknown. That's the genius of Hamlet. He recognized it. 'The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune' are constantly assailing us. In fact, who knows but that we ourselves are not the stones and arrows being tossed? We are on a line of flight over which we don't have much control, but this does not strip our lives of meaning or of purpose. It just means we are not always in the know. The story is still being told." The path we are on begins to descend, winding down from the cliff edge to the shoreline in a jagged series of turns, like one of Zeus' lightning bolts. Down here, the wind's pummeling becomes more streamlined and directional. Funneling in from the ocean, it buffets our senses, a crescendo of motion. It is a hungry pant, as i f the sea has opened its throat to devour us. Such a death would not be entirely unpleasant, I think to myself as we pick our way across the rocks to a chunk of driftwood, bleached white by salt and wind and looking like the bone of an ancient reptile. "What story?" "The story that gives all of this meaning. The story of our lives, interwoven with other lives, that keeps being formed, changed, and told long after we are gone." Her hand strokes the smooth surface of the skeletal log upon which we are sitting. This tree still has a story, I think to myself. 1 don't know where it came from, or where it might end up, but somehow I have become a part of this tree's narrative just by sitting here. For some reason, in this moment, that is a comforting thought. 97 Chapter 5: Implications for the Field of Writing Pedagogy The Telos of Technical Rationality Bob Davis (2000), a secondary school practitioner for over 30 years, makes the following claim in the introduction to his book, Skills Mania: ... an exclusively skills-based education is itself a message to students that techniques can solve all of life's problems. This is technocracy. Education, I believe, cannot avoid passing on principles. . . . It's not the stress on skills I object to. It's the current neglect of what these skills should be anchored in: content, conviction, allegiances, real human beings and, in general, a commitment to helping students understand history, learn about the world and consider ways to make it a better place to live. (pp. 8-9) 98 Davis' concern here is the tendency of the modern education system to adopt a "skills-based" focus without properly considering the purposes or ends that such programs tend to serve. According to Davis, education is turning into a type of "vocational training" (p. 9) and finds this to be "a particularly unfortunate and ironic development in light of the failure of skills mania to come through with the jobs it promises" (p. 9). Additionally, Davis argues that "one of the disasters of technocratic skills education is its increasing abandonment of proper citizenship and humane education" (p. 9). With technicism, ends are so separated from means that it is often difficult to discover what goals are actually being achieved. In Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire (1970) outlines the need for education to become a practice of freedom. He uses the analogy of banking to explain the current situation in the classroom (p. 58). In Freire's estimation, knowledge is treated like a deposit that is expected to have a positive rate of return in the actions, words, and lives of the students. Teachers are the depositors, and any communication between teacher and student takes place outside of the realm of authentic human interaction. Roles and routines dominate all aspects of the pedagogical relationship. Jane Tompkins (1990) picks up on Freire's metaphor in her essay, Pedagogy of the Distressed, but she outlines the problems in current educational practices using a model other than banking. Calling it the 'performance model' (p. 654) she explains how it is just as coercive and destructive as that explained by Freire. Instead of allowing students the opportunity to discover their true selves, to constructively engage in their own learning, the performance model sets up a false self as students learn to imitate the roles and behavior of those they are intended to emulate. In turn, teachers and adults 99 raised in a performance-model atmosphere continue to exemplify those attitudes, styles, and actions that are considered successful and worthy of repetition (pp. 654-55). What is worthy of mention from both of these researchers is an understanding that the current educational system embeds systems of thought and behaviour that disallow inter and intra-personal freedom in the construction of experience, authentic human interaction, and the creation of identities outside of a binary (right/wrong) moral framework. Knowledge and learning, in the current paradigm, are seen as items that are produced and manufactured through the assimilation of certain rules and procedures. The concern brought up by Davis (2000) that echoes in the work of Freire (1970) and Tompkins (1990) is very much related to the issue of purposes or ends (telos). What is actually being achieved by the technicist approach in education? How would the embracing of an incommensurable paradigm (praxis) bring about a change? Getting Beyond Ends-Means Thinking The technicist approach to writing practice focuses on aims and goals outside of the experience of writing itself. These goals may be lofty: 'to teach critical thinking' or 'to become a better citizen', or they may be practical: 'to master various writing genres' or 'to develop a professional and error-free style'. The difficulty with both of these types of goals is not due to the nature of teleology itself, but to the separation of the experience from the purpose. The more separated ends and means become, the less likely that one wi l l have anything in common with the other. Action itself ceases to have any meaning beyond its result, or outcome. What develops is a certain kind of dualism that pretends a 100 telos exists outside of and separate from the experience or action. In this way, it becomes easier to explain away particular actions and choices as being meaningless in and of themselves, presupposing the idea that only utilitarian goals have worth and value. In contrast, a phronetic approach cannot separate ends from means, and thus cannot privilege one over the other. Instead, the practice of phronesis gives new credence and value to the act of writing itself as the very action is interconnected with the purpose that drives it. The discipline of writing, the vulnerability intrinsic to the act, the communication between the self and other selves, the social contingencies that are not only inherent to the genre under study, but to the moment of writing, are learned and engaged as the pen strikes paper into flame, as the voice emerges. Baxter (1958) makes the following comment in an audio-recording entitled The Nature of Poetry: "it is the poets above all others who seem in their hearts and in their determination most eager to understand reality, to dive into the very depths of things that are important in human living. It is a way as truly as that of science, philosophy or theology of searching out human truth". Baxter's focus here is on the nature of poetry, its character and persona as a way of entering the world. This is vastly different from an approach that would turn poetry into a means for a particular end. Rather, poetry, the writing/reading/enjoyment of poetry is seen as a way, a way of living, being, experiencing, and seeing the world. Wil l iam Stafford (1970) asserts, " A writer is not so much someone who has something to say as he is someone who has found a process that wi l l bring about new things he would not have thought of i f he had not started to say them" (p. 231). Engagement in writing, engagement in the teaching of writing, wi l l not follow a 101 predetermined plan. Rather, like a narrative, it follows its own winding path and emerges in unforeseen places. Annie Dillard (1989) profoundly illustrates this: The writing has changed, in your hands, and in a twinkling, from an expression of your notions to an epistemological tool. The new place interests you because it is not clear. Y o u attend. In your humility, you lay down the words carefully, watching all the angles. N o w the earlier writing looks soft and careless. Process is nothing; erase your tracks. The path is not the work. I hope your tracks have grown over; I hope birds ate the crumbs; I hope you wi l l toss it all and not look back." (p. 225) Praxis: Quality Over Method Praxis, as an approach to the teaching of writing and as a form of engagement in the act of writing, is not a method. Instead, as Dillard suggests, it is a form of humility, a listening to the moment and responding without a need for control. It is an act of courage, too, in that it defies the fears of technicism that would try to control and manipulate outcomes. It is hopeful, in that it boldly attaches itself to the belief that communication can and wi l l take place in the moment of engagement, that the adventure wi l l be worth the perils and pitfalls ahead. These qualities, of humility, faith, courage and hope, are not goals to be attained, nor are they means to achieve other goals. Instead, they are necessary components of the phronetic approach to learning. They are being learned even as they are used to learn. This is phronesis in action. 102 A phronetic engagement with writing pedagogy, then, does not necessitate a debunking of all current approaches to the teaching of writing. Instead, it forms a framework for involvement that precipitates a new way of engaging with text, writer, student, and teacher. Marilyn Chapman (1999) presents a view of genre that she defines as "situated, social, and active" according to the following definitions: • Situated in that they arise out of and are embedded in particular contexts and spheres of activity, • Social in that they are learned through and used in interactions with others, • Active in that they are dynamic, flexible, purposeful, and useful and are learned through engagement - by doing, (p. 471) Chapman's vision of genre moves beyond a focus on the 'production' of writing itself or a focus on the characteristics to be 'produced' in the writer through writing. Instead, she explains the learning of genres as an embedded, interrelational, non-generalizable activity, an act in which the purpose is integrally connected to the practice and in which the planning and execution are inseparable from one another. Chapman's approach clearly illustrates how phronesis as a way of interacting in the world can inform particular pedagogical perspectives, such as the teaching of genre in the writing classroom. Praxis and M o r a l Responsibility: Embodying the Learning Experience 103 The importance of an embedded, non-technical moral 'framework' for interaction in a pedagogical setting is explained by Davis (2000): Once again let me offer what Albert Einstein had to say on this subject: "All means prove but a blunt instrument if they have not behind them a living spirit. " It is this spirit, these anchors in people, in their minds, in their history, in their common bonds, in their lives as integrated wholes, that the skills zealots are eroding from education. They are asking us to produce T. S. Eliot 's hollow men, with headpieces filled with straw. They are suggesting that our job as teacher is entirely technical or instrumental. They are asking us to train people who are mentally skilled but mindless. They are saying, "the information age showers us with information and we're going to give you the skills to sift the useful from the useless." But this discernment is not primarily a technical matter, (p. 191) Davis ' argument, that 'valuable' education cannot take place in a moral vacuum, reveals the tendency of technicism to discourage or ignore moral allegiances. The.human spirit, so often suppressed or dismissed in traditional technicist research and practice in pedagogy, is now being celebrated, particularly in emerging approaches such as narrative inquiry. Connelly and Clandinin (1990) clearly articulate this in the following observations: 104 Narrative inquiry and story as we imagine them functioning in educational inquiry generate a somewhat new agenda of theory-practice relations. One part of the agenda is to let experience and time work their way in inquiry. Story, being inherently temporal, requires this. B y listening to participant stories of their experience of teaching and learning, we hope to write narratives of what it means to educate and be educated. These inquiries need to be soft, or perhaps gentle is a better term. What is at stake is the creation of situations of trust in which the storytelling urge, so much a part of the best parts of our social life, finds expression, (p. 12) It is in the very nature of narrative, as these writers explain, to allow "experience and time" to lead the process of learning. This is indeed a new agenda for "theory-practice relations", in that it upsets a common assumption that theory and research 'should' guide practice. The nature of this new form of learning and inquiry is also different, and Connelly and Clandinin tellingly use terms associated with texture and touch ("soft" and "gentle") to describe this difference. The body, and the experiences of the body, are once again, through narrative, 'invited in ' to the processes of learning. Recalling Nussbaum's statement that "The tenderness of a plant is not the dazzling hardness of a gem", the radical nature of narrative inquiry is its 'tenderness' as compared to the 'hardness' of traditional technicist research, theory, and practice. Uti l izing terms associated with touch, with the body, and with emotion may be the only way to deal with questions of telos related to praxis and writing pedagogy 105 without resorting to technicist claims, definitions, and dependencies. When we speak of impacts, for instance, it is common to describe things in terms of cause-and-effect, raw material to outcome, theory to practice. Instead, praxis as an approach to learning, and particularly as an approach to learning writing, defies this linear perspective on experience. It is better, then, to allow different terms to embody a way of learning that finds the impacts within, and not outside of, itself. A phronetic learner does not 'do' writing 'in order to' see x or y come to fruition. A phronetic teacher of writing does not teach writing 'in order to' see certain characteristics and/or skills emerge from herself and her students. The values being taught are a part of the nature of the practice being engaged in. As with a pregnant woman carrying a growing fetus, the outcome, or result, of writing/teaching belongs to the very body of the exercise of writing/teaching itself. In this way it becomes difficult to say, at any point, that the purpose of writing/teaching is separated from the act of writing/teaching. The body and the purpose are 'one'. Because the body and the purpose belong so intricately to each other, it becomes, then, not only expedient to use textural terms in describing the new paradigm, but necessary. We come to know the process of praxis through discovering its 'texture' by interacting with it and being with it. We learn to sit with it, holding its weight in our hands, listening to the way it sounds and the way it discovers itself within our own beings. Praxis, and the practice of praxis, becomes a very different thing within different individuals. It responds in unique and surprising ways; it improvises. Where technicism denies or repels moral allegiance, praxis cannot avoid it. The phronetic learner is constantly committing to, engaging with, and responding to moral conversations. These do not take place in a void, however, as they have names, stories, histories, and locations. 106 When we come to accept the premise that actions, choices, and experiences have value in themselves, that a telos, or purpose, can be found in the moment of engagement, we can accept a version of education, of communication, and of human value that transcends utility. Meaning, for researchers, teachers, and students alike, can be found in every interaction. Viktor Frankl (1963), famous existential psychologist and Holocaust survivor, summed up these observations in startlingly cogent prose: "Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible" (p. 172). 107 Dialogue with Lynn: Part Five "So, how is your thesis going?" Lynn's voice is crackling over the phone. Her apartment has horrible reception, which appeases me somewhat. Its excellent location, pleasing floorplan, and incredible rent would otherwise be too good to be true. Thank goodness the gods mitigate their favours somewhat. It's also better that she have bad reception than low water pressure, or mold for that matter. "It's going. Though this pregnancy is starting to weigh heavy upon it. Pardon the pun." "Weigh heavy?" "Yeah. Well, the pressure of having to bring all these little pieces together in such a short time frame, and with a due date looming ... It just pressurizes the whole process. It's like I'm trying to fit a world of ideas into a tiny little conceptual space, and on a deadline." "It sounds like you're doing the same thing in a few areas in your life." I can hear Lynn's smile on the other end. Warming up to my complaint, I continue. "Sometimes I feel like the whole process undermines the main point of my work, as well. Here I am, trying to show ways of teaching and writing that evade traditional paradigms, while I am forced to work within a structure that is extremely traditional and technical. The structure of a thesis, the process that must be followed as it is formulated, defended, and completed, are all very technical. The question I have is: how do I transcend all that as I argue for a different paradigm for the teaching of writing?" "The way to do it is to transcend it." "How do you mean?" 108 "Overwhelm the process by overtaking it. If your new paradigm stands up to criticism, it w i l l , when you operate within it, display the flaws and weaknesses in the old system. It w i l l naturally show, by its very existence, the losses contingent upon strict adherence to technical rationality." " Y o u know, I believe that, but its hard to imagine that I can do it. What I mean is, there is still a part of me that believes someone else could do a far better job than I could." "You're still approaching this like a technical rationalist would. Think about it. You 've decided in advance of engaging in the activity that your work is somehow inferior. Also, you've chosen to ignore the process of discovery in favour of focusing on end results and outcomes, as i f that were the most important thing about teaching, or writing, or engaging in any kind of artistic process. Sounds to me like you're a bit of a hypocrite." Munch, munch, munch. She must be eating granola, I figure, or a carrot stick. What a health nut. "Thank-you. In a few short words you've managed to make me feel worse. But I get your point. I think I felt the same way about having a baby, at first. I kept asking myself, 'isn't there someone else out there who would be better at this?', until I figured out that, no, in this time and this place, for this baby, there is no-one better at this than me, because I 'm the one doing it." "Exactly. Y o u need to approach this thesis topic in the same way. It's your baby. It doesn't belong to you, necessarily, just as no human being belongs to any other human being, but you conceived it and you need to let it grow within you, allowing those things that make you special and unique to colour it and give it life." "Wel l , the things that make me 'special' and 'unique' right now are pretty unsavoury. For instance, I have to put three pillows under my bottom just to make it comfortable to sit at my computer while I am writing. I have been holding up a package of frozen peas to my forehead for the last hour because of the heat, and none of my shoes fit because of 109 the swelling, so I 'm practically housebound. Y o u think I should allow this to 'colour' my thesis?" Lynn laughs. "Whatever works for you, babe. I think, in a way, you know, all the little things you're describing already have impacted your work, though maybe not in ways you recognize. It's like in my poems. Sometimes I ' l l go back to them, after a year or so, and realize that the choice of a word or phrase was due to an incident in my life. Some symbolic reference might be an answer to something I was experiencing at the time. Remember my 'Icarus' poem? "Yeah." I instinctively look outside my window. A small bird has landed on the precarious branch of a spindly pine right by my study window. I make a mental note to bone up on my bird knowledge in my spare time. When it comes to birds, I 'm a feather head. Someone could easily tell me this was a rare form of penguin and I would be inclined to believe them. "I was looking at it yesterday and realized it was all about where I was living at the time. When I wrote it, I was living with those two girls, remember Tara and Maggie? Both of them lived a lifestyle that I was really envious of. They had this incredible social circle and they were so effervescent and fun-loving that I just wanted to mimic their approach to life. It wasn't until I started living with them that I realized it was all a sham. One of the girls was completely delusional and the other one refused to deal with her painful past by partying all the time. I felt like I was Icarus, trying desperately to fly by wearing wings that weren't my own. It wasn't that I shouldn't bother attempting to fly, I realized, it was that I was trying to fly the way someone else flies, and that never works." "I remember that poem. I really liked your distinction between the attempt to fly and the attempt to fly in an inappropriate manner. I think there is a lot to that idea. Most people read the myth of Daedalus and Icarus and think the moral of the tale warns against pride, displayed by Icarus' pride in attempting to fly too close to the sun. But in your poem, you really question that approach." 110 "In some ways, I agree that the myth warns against pride - just not as it is commonly explained." "But, I thought.. ." "I think Icarus' unwarranted confidence in his technical skills is a huge part of his problem. He totally relies upon a kind of logic that works like an equation. 'Birds fly, birds use wings to fly. I want to fly, I need to construct wings'. His failure is due to his attempt to mimic the actions of someone else, namely a bird, to achieve a particular end. Instead of discovering a new and unique method of flying that was appropriate to his nature, he tried to turn himself into a type of bird clone. It's like finding the easy way out when confronted with a problem. Instead of being creative in the moment and working out a solution that is unique to the situation, we often try to find security in a guarantee. 'So-and-so did such-and-such and that worked for them, so it should work for me" is our logic. Whether we realize it or not, our unwillingness to see the uniqueness of the situation is our downfall." "So you don't believe that it was a general overconfidence that brought about his tragedy, just an overconfidence in technical sk i l l . " "Yeah. Pride, in general, never is a problem. If you think about it, pride cannot exist in a vacuum. It's just another word for overconfidence. And you can't just be 'overconfident' in general. Y o u have to be overconfident about a particular thing or things. Overconfidence is when the thing you are confident about is not worthy of your confidence. If your confidence is justified, it's not overconfidence, is it?" "I see." The bird outside my window has cocked her eye in my direction. She is in constant motion, twitching from side to side. First on one leg, then on the other. 111 "The other thing is, overconfidence is usually a mask for some type of fear. Take Icarus, for example. He was afraid of striking out on his own and attempting something new, a novel way to fly that would have been appropriate for a human being. His fear of novelty, of doing something different from what he already saw in nature, held him back and produced an overconfidence in the 'tried and true' method." "If Icarus had seen the uniqueness of his situation, he may have been able to construct a flying machine that would have worked for him." "I think so. I hope so. Yes." "Then I guess that's what I 'm trying to do here. I 'm trying to construct a flying machine that wi l l take me out of the labyrinth of this thesis without falling flat on my face." Lynn laughs aloud, again. "Yeah. Only you've got one up on Icarus already. Your whole thesis is about the uniqueness of the learning experience. A l l you have to do is stay true to your instinctual recognition that this thesis is an opportunity to learn something in an entirely new and original way. It was Icarus' fear of originality that got him into trouble. Don't let it happen to you." "Yes, captain. Y o u know, your poem about Icarus got me thinking about a poem I wrote a few days ago. Do you want to hear it?" " O f course! Read it to me." I pull up the file, trying to make the pauses resonate in my voice as I read: Invasion Y o u bear, you weigh Y o u lift with heavy limbs Outside your window She darts, she flies 112 She pierces the soil With tiny, quick steps Disarmed, you turn to look -She freezes you, Medusa-like With sharp, unblinking gaze. Y o u have not seen Y o u have been seen Unravelled like a cord Flayed like venison Y o u have been sliced. Clean and through. The surgeon's blade O f iris touching iris Scrapes your old softness Raw. Y o u are lucid. Your eyes burn With new fire. M y voice trails off, faltering. I hate reading my poetry aloud. It always sounds lame. Some people have a knack for it, though. One of my professors has a lilting Newfoundland accent that caresses poetry into life when he reads it. I've tried copying him, but, surprise surprise, it doesn't work. Looking up, I see my bird has stayed on the branch through the entire poem. She is still eyeing me quizzically, bobbing her chin up and down (do birds have chins? I don't know. This one seems to) as she continues to deftly sway upon her perch. Lynn applauds into the mouthpiece. "I love it! Y o u know what's great about this poem is that you see a bird and she inflames you with a desire for authenticity. It's the total opposite of Icarus' reaction." "For me, the magic of it is the meeting. Y o u know, 'iris touching iris ' . That's really what my research and my writing is really all about. It's the place where the real can touch the real, i f that makes any sense. Ultimately, with teaching, as with any human 113 relationship, it's all about 'iris touching iris ' . I want my writing, my teaching, and my research to reflect this commitment." " Y o u know, honestly, I think it does and it w i l l . Commitment to anything is always self-evident. Take your pregnancy for example. Y o u are committed to being pregnant. It's obvious and becomes more obvious with each passing day. Your body reflects your commitment, whether you like it or not. It's the same with your writing. It is the body of your voice, your style. It w i l l , whether you like it or not, reflect your commitments. Y o u can't control the reactions of others, but the message is self-evident through the way you talk about writing, the way you engage in writing, the way you teach writing and, of course, through the writing itself. Y o u inscribe yourself on the world around you, but the very process of inscribing is one of letting go. Y o u can't hold on to your writing, but you can continue to write." I look outside my window. The branch is empty. "Like the bird. Y o u kiss it, you make contact with it, and it flies away." Lynn laughs. "Leaving a poem in its wake." 114 Epilogue A thought from Nancie Atwell ' s Side By Side: Essays on Teaching to Learn (1991) continues to resonate with me as I am writing. In a mere two paragraphs, she sums up some of the concerns with technicist approaches to education in the writing classroom that precipitated my own work. She says, .. . we need to know the individual writers and readers in our classrooms. We need to know how to observe their experiences as learners and make sense of what we see in ways that wi l l move a learner forward. We cannot know these things i f our only perspective on students is through a tunnel of textbooks, workbooks, worksheets, and software. The new programs of thinking skills only add insult to this injury. While the language arts programs rob us of our expertise as readers and writers, the critical thinking materials rob us of our powers as critical thinkers. The materials spell out exactly what and how we should teach and students should learn. In short, they tell us not to think in order to teach our students how to think. Even worse, because the program content consists of artificial and sterile exercises, students are mostly asked to think about nothing, (p. 42) Even though Atwell is not expressly concerned with means-ends activity as such, she is wonderfully describing my own struggle as a teacher in a writing classroom who desperately wanted to inspire, encourage, and communicate, but found little space for 115 authentic interaction within curricular contexts that demanded pre-determined rationales and scope-and-sequence programs. A s a writer, I knew that such environments were ascerbic and detached, doing little to promote authenticity in my own writing, and much less in that of my students. What I needed to do, I realized after some time ruminating over these concerns, was to tell my own story, or at least a portion of it. In telling my own story, I was choosing to be vulnerable and open, sidestepping altogether angry and sometimes vitriolic campaigns for one writing 'approach' that would magically dispose of mediocrity in the writing classroom. I wanted to tell a story that transcended the petty trivia that writing teachers often concern themselves with at the expense of the larger questions like, "What are we doing as writing teachers? Why do we write? Why do we care? Do we care?" Writing parallels a life. It becomes meaningless, artificial, and contrived when our lives become meaningless, artificial, and contrived. As we question our lives, as we find meaning in our circumstances, life itself speaks for us and through us. We transcend by living and writing transcendentally. There is no other way. I do not want to pretend that what is written on these pages prescribes another 'approach' to writing pedagogy that wi l l somehow supersede the others. Instead, I want to talk about infusing ourselves and our stories into what we do so that it can come alive: resplendently, astonishingly. There is no pattern or prescription here, only the snapshot of lives being lived, of stories being told. M y hope for this thesis is that it elicits something genuine from its readers, be it a story, a poem, an inspiring memory, a quotation, of an action grounded in true self-116 awareness. Inquiry springs from these cognitive leaps into the unknown. The 'inward eye' of the spirit rests on a bird, a baby, or even a daffodil, and transports us into the unknown and untried, which is the ground of learning. 117 References Arendt, H . (1958). The human condition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Aristotle. On Rhetoric. (Trans. George A . Kennedy) New York: Oxford University Press, 1991. Atwel l , N . (1991). Side by side: Essays on teaching to learn. Concord, O N : Irwin Publishing. Bakhtin, M . (1981). From the prehistory of novelistic discourse. 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