Classes started this week. I’m studying Research Methods in Composition and Literacy, and it’s my first graduate level class in this subject matter. A vignette:
In my Literature and Childhood class a few spring semesters ago, we did our final poster presentations in the Honors college. As I walked into the room I spied a small seminar room across the foyer filled with a handful of students sitting around a table, books, articles, and notebooks piled up in front of them, passionately engaged in discussion. I realized it was a graduate class, most likely English by the looks of their reading materials. My heart lurched and I was filled with such a longing to have that experience. I turned and set up the poster to ready myself for the talk to the class, knowing that 75% of the students wanted nothing more than to get out of the room as quickly as possible.
Fast forward to now. I was sitting in a small seminar room in the Honors college, with a handful of students in a circle around the table, in a graduate class. We had piles of books, articles, and notebooks in front of us. We were passionately engaged in discussion. Class went over time, and most students stayed behind after that to ask questions and talk a little more.
About half way through the class, it dawned on me that I was experiencing a fulfillment of my desire. Yes, I got chills. Yes, it was every bit as wonderful as I thought it would be. “… yes I said yes I will Yes.” If I was a smoker, I would have had a cigarette afterward!
One of the research methodologies we talked about was feminist research methods. In the book Writing Studies Research in Practice, Liz Rohan explores how empathy, identification, affection, imagination, and emotion can be part of research, and not just critical distance. Not only is objectivity not a requirement in experimental academic research discourse, but passionate attachments, as researcher Jacqueline Jones Royster calls them, can be made “explicit and scholarly.” What a breath of fresh air! These ideas were in their infancy when I was an English major back in the late 1980s, and I felt so much frustration with The Way Things Were. I didn’t know how, as a 20 year old, to work toward these ideas within academia (although I certainly worked with them in my life). I am so happy to be able to take the momentum that these scholars have created, and run with it now.
When our professor encouraged us to figure out our passionate attachments and bring them to our research questions this semester, the True Voice Inside of Me said, “Consider it done!”