The case for magical realism- as an approach to educational research and a significant element of Narrative inquiry Jane Speedy University of Bristol Jane.firstname.lastname@example.org Research centre: http://www.bris.ac.uk/education/research/centres/central
Narrative inquiry -what is it for? Intimate, partial, nuanced accounts of people’s lives Generating local, situated knowledge that is not generalisable and may not be ‘true’ but tells us how people construct and give meaning to (narrate) the stories of their lives in relation to a particular audience /context / time
What ideas underpin narrative research? • A plethora of multidisciplinary understandings from literary theory, creative writing, linguistics, socio-cultural and post structural theories, social psychology, sociology: part of the blurring of genres between arts and social sciences (the emphasis, so far, in educational research has been on the social sciences) • Crucial are notions not just of story, but of narration and performance(implying audience, place, space) and of meaning and perhaps even identity construction and concepts of time (such as mythical, cultural, autobiographical and historical/political time) and memory
What established genres of ‘literary’ narrative inquiry are there? • Biographical research and life writing • Auto/biographical research (including memoir) • Narrative analysis and inquiry • Poetic and performative inquiry • Fictionalised accounts /creative fictions
So what about ‘magical realism’? • ‘magical realism’ the ‘transgressive and subversive’ fictional genre , whereby the magical, the mythical and the ‘impossible’ blend seamlessly and unapologetically with the actual and the real (Bowers, 2004:67)
Two separate (oppositional?) juxtaposed narrative modalities.. • A situation which creates disjunction within each of the separate discursive systems, rending them with gaps, absences and silences • Two separate narrative modes never manage to arrange themselves into any kind of hierarchy (Slemon, in Zamora and Faris, pp409-410)
‘Magical realist’ fiction and film • Fiction • Allende, I (1985) The House of the Spirits, New York, Knopf Carter, A (19840 Nights at the circus, London: Vintage books • Okri, B (1991) The famished road, London: Vintage books • Marquez, G (1970) One Hundred Years of Solitude, London: Cape • Morrison, T (1987) Beloved, New York: Knopf • Rushdie, S (1981) Midnight’s Children , London: Cape • Roy, A (1998) The God of Small Things, London: Flamingo • Walker, A (1990) The Temple of my Familiar, New York: Pocket books • Film and television • Ally Mc Beal (1997-2002) David, E, Kelley,FOX TV series • Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) Guillermo del Toro, Esperanto films
Educational research consists mainly of realist tales • Truth claims are based on what really happened because we were really there (even if it is later fictionalised into symbolic equivalents) • The implausible and downright inexplicable is either not happening, not noticed or smoothed out… • Fictionalised research is accompanied by a HUGE literature of justification and differentiated very markedly from ‘real’ life research
Consulting with Gargoyles: a realist tale • 1991-1998 The Wills memorial building , University of Bristol • Five years on the fifth floor…‘mock-gothic’ therapy education and research
Consulting with Gargoyles: a realist tale my very own gargoyle
Consulting with Gargoyles: a realist tale ‘I waited for 30 minutes, and have now gone to the library. My time was not wasted. I consulted at some length with the gargoyle at the top of your staircase. I found him in many ways a most satisfactory supervisor. He has a pleasing and quizzical countenance and regards me with the mixture of soul and oomph that I find most useful when reflecting on my practice. He also arrived on time.’ Speedy, J (2000): 10
Innurez Pllanka The Gulbarrion college gargoyles: re-arranging and expanding academic tribes and territories Djangot Parsifnos
Magical/marginal • In counselling conversations people are also often at marginal moments in their lives • (indeed, a disproportionate number of those seeking counselling live their lives fairly permanently at society’s margins) • What happens if we listen seamlessly-from a position of magical realist possibility?
I could slide my hands inside my skin at night and take out the bones. I could clutch the bones of my ancestors tight I could hold them up to the window, translucent and white in the moonlight and then slip them back into my limbs in the morning and no one would know.
My mother-in-law swallowed me whole fairly early on in the marriage I think It wasn’t what I expected really, to be gobbled up suddenly and with such gusto. I spent twenty years down inside that churning stomach, voice muffled, nobody evennoticing I was there really. And then, at the hour of her death, she kind of rose up and spat me out. Her last act.
Chat chat chat • Pauline: Yup. Well she still came and talked to me you know. After she died. She used to come and sit on the end of my bed in the home and have a chat. Right up until I was sixteen. • JS: ( slightly confused) So… that was after she died, she’d visit you at the home then?
Chat chat chat • Pauline: Yes. I’d wake up in the night, you know, and there she’d be, mug of tea in one hand, fag in the other, chatting away: Chat, chat, chat. I never got a word in. Never wanted to really, I’d just lie there and listen and she’d chat away and she’d always tell me just to wait, and then they’d see. I’d amount to something one day and those poor bastards ‘d still be stuck doing shit work at a kid’s home, or most probably out of work. She was right. • Funny thing is, she never ever came to see me at the home when she was alive. Not once. But as soon as she upped and died you couldn’t keep her away. Then when I left that was it, never saw her again.
Could ‘magical realism’ enhance/expand our research practice? • In therapeutic conversations practices we move seamlessly between the possible the impossible the magical and the real • In therapy research and we make a big fuss about moving between worlds : fictionalised accounts and creative fictions exist amidst a ‘literature of justification’ • When we listen from a magical realist position, we listen seamlessly and we witness seamless border crossings as people make meaning of the worlds they inhabit
‘Academic’ References • Bruner, J (1987) Actual minds: Impossible worlds, Harvard University Press • Clough, P (2000) Narratives and Fictions in Educational Research, Buckingham, Open University Press • Sparkes, A (2002) Telling tales in sport and physical activity: a qualitative journey, Human Kinetics, Champaign, Ill. • Speedy, J (2000) Consulting with Gargoyles: applying narrative ideas and practices in counselling supervision,in: European Journal of Psychotherapy, Counselling and health, 3 (3) 1-13 • Speedy, J (2005) Consorting with gargoyles: a magical realist tale, in: Trahar.S (Ed) Narrative research on learning: International and comparative perspectives Oxford: symposium • Speedy. J (2008) Narrative inquiry and psychotherapy, Houndmills: Palgrave/ Macmillan • Van Maanen, J (1988) Tales from the field, UCP, Chicago • Yalom, I (1991) Love’s executioner, Penguin, Harmondsworth • On magical realism • Bowers, M (2004) Magic(al) realism, Routledge, London • Faris, W (2004) Ordinary Enchantments: Magical Realism and the Remystification of Narrative , Vanderbilt University Press, Nashville, TN • Zamora, l and Faris, W (Eds) (1995) Magical realism, theory, histpry and community, London: Duke University Press