Around about this time last year, I visited the Morgan Library and Museum in New York. The library itself is breathtaking, a grand room full of first edition books, priceless art works, and displays of fiction writer’s manuscripts and letters. To be in the room is to be in the presence of scholarship; this is what is must have been like to have stood inside one of the great libraries of the ancient world, in Constantinople or Alexandria.
I find places like this to be inspiring. They stir up in me yearnings to be a part of the world of scholarship, to join those reading and writing their way into greater insight or clarity about the way things are.
I discovered, while at the Morgan, that they had a Dickens exhibition running. Dickens is my favourite writer. He also stirs up in me yearnings to be other than what I experience myself to be. When I read a Dickens novel or biography, or go to a Dickens exhibition, I find myself wanting to write fiction about the worlds of teachers and students, about the lifeworlds or the mythopoetics of classrooms.
This morning I opened a book about narratives and fictions in educational research.
Narrative … opens up (to its audiences) a deeper view of life in familiar contexts: it can make the familiar strange, and the strange familiar. As a means of educational report, stories can provide a means by which those truths, which cannot be otherwise told, are uncovered. The fictionalization of educational experiences offers researchers the opportunities to import fragments of data from various real events in order to speak to the heart of social consciousness – thus providing the protection of anonymity to the research participants without stripping away the rawness of real happenings. … [These] are stories which could be true, they derive from real events and feelings and conversations, but they are ultimately fictions: versions of the truth which are woven from an amalgam of raw data, real details and (where necessary) symbolic equivalents (Yalom, 1991).
Clough, P. (2002 ). Narratives and Fictions in Educational Research Buckingham, Philadelphia, Open University Press. p8
I wonder if this is where these recent blog posts are leading me and why I find Britzman’s phrase about ‘ethnographic opera’ so apt. I’m guessing that this is why it seems right that my blog is called ‘Degrees of fiction’.