Archive for August, 2008

three graces

August 17, 2008

es wird frühling auf meinem desktop, by sigrid.

quiet, by sigrid.
three graces, by sigrid.

i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
e e cummings

This spring and summer I made some pictures in the Austrian country side (in the Weinviertel). Today I found a lovely poem by e e cummings to go with them.


jack and jill

August 11, 2008
the reader, originally uploaded by signs and wonders.

Recently I posted something about vintage photos and girls reading – by chance I just discovered another great collection of vintage photos on Flickr, actually several collections and fleamarket finds by signs and wonders. Many of those photos are really intriguing, they tell of ordinary and the same time unique lives and stories forgotten. I was thinking that quite a few could be used in class as a prompt for story writing. Maybe I will use that one day. In any case, there are also a number photos of girls reading, never only few boys. What makes them so special? Maybe it is because they tell of self-contained, feminine and ‘good girls’ but at the same time also speak of a certain kind of confidence, an independent mind, a claim for a world of their own. Girls reading don’t pose for the photographer in the same way as on other photos.

read it again, originally uploaded by signs and wonders.

romantic science

August 9, 2008

I have just finished reading Purchasing Power by Elizabeth Chin, which was recommended to me recently as a fine example of an ethnographic study about children. Chin researched two years with black children in a poor neighborhood in New Haven, Connecticut. And it is a good read, almost like a novel drawing you into a certain kind of world, which is foreign, at least to me, except that the author did ethnographic research. I have always found this interesting, books like that, which reach the borderline of genres.

Last year I read Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch, because I wanted to understand more about football culture, something that is completely alien to me. It is an autobiography novel bordering on the ethnographic ‘thick description’, and I don’t think any serious study or cultural studies paper could have given me a better insight into the world of football fans.

Chin being an anthopologist and researcher, not a novelist, keeps one very emotional scene outside the actual study: In the afterword of the book she descibes the farewell between herself and a child she has been involved with closely for two years.

And she writes: “Love is mysterious knowledge. I knew Tionna as well as I did in part because I came to love her; this, I believe, is crucial to the practice of anthropology and there is no point in denying it. This kind of mysterious knowledge neither replaces objectivity nor renders it impossible, although they exist in tension with each other. Learning to manage love and science in relationships, as a fieldworker must, is a little like having two brains. Not always a comfortable experience.”

In science as well as in art, the work process is always accompanied or even driven by feelings, sometimes they are more in the foreground, and sometimes not; they may be curiosity, passion, ambition, fear, a liking for risk, or love. I have always thought that there is no reason, that love and science should not be able to be reconciled, because as Chin writes, love provides a particular and privileged kind of knowledge. Especially in researching children, I would find it impossible to keep love out of it. Just as loving children will not make you a lesser teacher, loving people should not make you a lesser researcher. It is really about reconciling the ‘two brains’ – the rational, analytical, logical and systematic on the one side and the holistic, emotional, aesthetic, spontaneous on the other.

It was Alexander Nuria, the great Russian neuropsychologist, who sought to reconcile the two, though “a methodology that combines theory and practice through deep involvement in the lives of individuals over time” (Cole 1997). Nuria found it not enough to conduct science in the traditional sense, arriving at a understanding of neurology derived through conventional scientific method, meant to focus on detail and to arrive at general conclusions. He also wanted to understand human beings as a whole, and as individuals, and wrote fascinating case studies of patients with neurological disorders, which tell us more about both the person and the relationship between researcher and researched. He called this “romantic science”.

As Oliver Sacks wrote here Luria was the founder of classical neuropsychology, “yet he also felt, from an early age, that no “classical” science, no reductive approach, could ever embrace the fullness, the reality of a life.” Romantic Science is “a science which embraced the fullness of what it means to be a unique individual”. Sacks himself followed Luria in his way of writing both from “the perspective of analytic, reductive science, and second, from that of a “romantic” narrative and an almost novelistic science”. He says, “Luria’s endeavour – combining classical and romantic, anatomy and art, science and narrative – has become my own.”

Luria’s novelistic case studies took 60 years to publish, Chin put some of her ‘romantic’ observations in the afterword of her work. I am glad they wrote them down.

teaching practices

August 9, 2008

I made some visuals for an upcoming class/ presentation. It is ridiculous how much time I spend sometimes just for creating one slide. But I guess it is all worth it, at least for those students, who are like me and really like well made visual pesentations.

three little words

August 7, 2008

Random posting about three little words – the musical, which I have never heard about. Maybe it does not even exist. I just like the poster/cover.

future of the book is digital

August 7, 2008

futureofthebook have just published a research report read:write on ‘digital possibilities for literature’. I quote Fuel4Arts: “This publication commissioned by the Arts Council England seeks understanding on how literature responds to mass digitisation. “How can the Web…support new writing, build lasting…communities…& take advantage of unparalleled access to a global conversation to further the aims of literature?”

Meanwhile Jill Walker at jilltxt  posted about Mark Merino’s  on Elit 2.0 (a guide to literary works on social software)  at Writer Response Theory which is a table matching up works of electronic literature to popular web 2.0 tools. with the suggestion of “using these creative works of fiction and poetry to enrich a course where students learn about social technologies and web 2.0”.

So some want to further literature through digital networked practices, others want to further digital practices through literature. I am just quoting everybody here, because I have not had time to look at it all in more detail, but I hope to be able to do that soon.

always & everywhere it’s the words

August 6, 2008

I poached this image by Ed Fella from a post on the blurring of boundaries between design and art: Graphic Design Vs. Fine Art on HOWblog.

superheroes for literacy

August 6, 2008
Batman - Lukas Jones

Batman - Lukas Jones

I have uploaded here my draft essay on Superheroes for Literacy, which I am going to submit for publication.


beedle the bard

August 2, 2008

It is hard to avoid Beadle the Bard when the email inbox is filled with announcements from every Amazon shop I ever signed up with. I cannot help liking the idea that J.K. Rowling decided the best gift she could give to the six people, who helped her was to write and illustrate a handmade book. Obviously she made them potentially rich by doing so, as the auction of the seventh book brought apparently brought $4 Million, but nevertheless there is something lovely and romantic about a handcrafted and illustrated book as a gift, especially when design, writing and illustration are carried out by one person, something that will be still treasured and valued for many years to come, surrounded by that ‘aura’ that Walter Benjamin talked about in his book about art in the age of mechanical reproduction. Maybe it is just nostalgia for feelings evoked by the mystery of such a very special book, a book given to real people in the real world, and a the same time referring to the special bequest from Dumbledore to Hermione in the fictional world of Harry Potter, feelings which reach back to my own childhood reading experiences. But then again Rowling has always been very, very clever at merging myth and fairy tale, childhood fantasies, adult fantasies about childhood, and giving it all a contemporary and imaginative twist; that is what made her so successful in the first place.

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