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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A grim fairy tale : a mythopoetic discorse on taboo, trauma and anti-oppressive pedagogy Kirkland, Kevin Harvey


This dissertation is a critical, performative exploration and analysis of mother-son incest as a site for educational inquiry. Particular attention is given to the sexual abuse of gay males. The text challenges and re-enacts personal and social perceptions of taboos as spaces of silence, trauma, and transformation, drawing on discourses of anti-oppressive pedagogy and narratives of healing. My views of anti-oppressive pedagogy, influenced by Freire, Kumashiro, and others, trouble taboos as personal, political, and cultural narratives. This inter/play of texts serves to acknowledge painful histories associated with incest and, on a conceptual level, to explore secrets, silences and shame around sexual abuse inbedded in cultural curriculum. Curriculum stems from currere meaning "to run," as in a course, and narrative stems from narrare meaning to make known. When both terms are juxtaposed they suggest a running from knowing. What if traumatic sexual abuse histories were placed at the center of pedagogical inquiry? Presented as a work of fiction, my dissertation is informed by an extensive literature review of motherson incest. The image of a mother as a perpetrator of sexual abuse is antithetical to mythohistoric constructions of motherhood. Literature on incest reveals that men are less often viewed as abuse victims, that gay men experience much higher histories of abuse than heterosexuals, that homosexuality and early childhood sexual abuse may be correlated, and that both homosexuality and sexual abuse remain acutely silenced topics in education. All of this generates a lifelong sequelae of problems for male survivors. Trauma necessitates a critical and creative reconsideration of educational research as a site of narrative inquiry and healing. The methodology I employed is mythopoetics presented in the form of a fairy tale within a play. Drawing on the fairy tale genre's tradition as a vehicle for imparting moral and ethical messages, the encompassing play creates a forum for dialogue and disruption of the tale. Music, art, and photographs are integrated into the text to augment the mythopoetic presentation. Mythopoetics becomes an avenue of make believe and a framework for anti-oppressive pedagogy. If education is about learning new ways of being and becoming in the world, we need to re/collect difficult subjects in order to transform lived experiences of learners.

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