Academic journal article Journal of Curriculum Theorizing

Capacity and Currere

Academic journal article Journal of Curriculum Theorizing

Capacity and Currere

Article excerpt

For archetypal psychology, the vertical direction refers to interiority as a capacity within all things.--James Hillman (1985, 29)

Titania waked, and straightway loved an ass.--William Shakespeare (MSND 3.2)

My first epigraph (above) speaks of an arena little talked about these days of terrorism, acrimony, and road rage. It speaks of--interiority--that which is within all things and so has "capacity." The word "capacity" interests me. Capacity suggests wideness, not narrowness; openness; space for possibilities not yet even imagined, or if imagined, done so with a tremble. Capacity puts aside the correcting mind with its focus on the gold, the known end, public acclaim, drive, the impetus to demolish one's opponent. Capacity is no friend of standards or accountabilities, opinion polls, common sense, facts, competition, and the like: those are the hobgoblins of small minds. Capacity does not truck with lobbying. Instead, capacity holds room for unknowingness and peculiarity. Capacity is fearless in its embrace of the other inner side of things. These days there is plenty to fear without, but there may be another kind of fear that shuns verticality because of the panic of self discovery. As Gaston Bachelard (2002) puts it, "We need to unlearn our fear of the life within, the fear of temptation, the fear of our deepest instincts" (307).

My second epigraph is taken from Shakespeare's romantic comedy, A Midsummer's Night Dream, which concerns a confusion of identity. Titania, queen of the fairies, has been put under a spell. Upon waking, she will fall in love with whatever she first looks on, "Be it on lion, bear, or wolf, or bull, / On meddling monkey, or on busy ape, / She shall pursue it with the soul of love" (2.1. 180-183). Improbably, she wakes and sees one of the commoners disguised as a donkey. And so, she falls in love with an ass. Some see the play as ridiculous, others as lacking in morals, others still as a commentary on bestiality. "Does one remember the play for orgiastic bestiality?" questions Harold Bloom (1998, 163). Bloom's book, The Invention of the Human, is pertinent to my focus because of what Bloom sees Shakespeare doing in all his plays. Shakespeare invents the human. He widens our understanding of what and how we become human beings. To fall in love with an ass is not to celebrate bestiality but to wonder at how, where, when, what we can allow ourselves to love. Love's capacity is greater than the judgmental mind. "Does it make any difference at all who marries whom [in the play]?" Bloom asks. "Shakespeare's pragmatic answer is Not much" (163).

To the outer world, of course, it does matter who loves whom. It matters so much that schools enforce standards of behavior and culture shapes attitudes and morals. An amendment to the United States Constitution, even, is seriously being proposed to protect marriage against some people loving and wanting to marry some other people not deemed morally fit. Identity is formed, often against one's instincts, by such enforcing, shaping, and amending. But dramatists, fiction writers, poets, artists, curriculum theorists, and other deep dreamers have for some time now countered the movement to flatten identity. What a bold and fearless enterprise we dreamers dream! The problem is keeping the dream alive when we awaken to the beast. And so I herald currere to protect us from the curriculum (Pinar, et. al, 1995, 596); currere to welcome us to "capacity."

My remarks are occasioned by a theater event Marla and I attended while in London two summers ago. We saw Edward Albee's The Goat, Or,Who is Sylvia?, a play about a man who falls in love with a goat. The problem with synopsis, of course, is that the play is not "about" that at all, although a man does fall in love with a goat. "Aboutness" can only circumscribe the action, not tell the inside of the story. While some condemn the play as deeply weird (my uncle, a proper man, found it inexplicable) others quite rightly see it as one of the most intense theater experiences of our time, not only exploring issues of identity but forcing us to travel inside the human psyche, where we may not wish to go. …

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