Academic journal article Journal of Thought

Novel Identities: Catharine Maria Sedgwick's Hope Leslie as a Mentoring Framework for Curriculum Studies and Life Journeys

Academic journal article Journal of Thought

Novel Identities: Catharine Maria Sedgwick's Hope Leslie as a Mentoring Framework for Curriculum Studies and Life Journeys

Article excerpt

The whole idea of the journey is basic to humanity ... [but] the really significant journey is the interior journey. (DeWaal, 1998)

Prevalent in both archetypal and religious literature, the journey motif weaves its way through tales of human growth--stories which grapple with the processes of how people come to be and to know. Such images of identity formation and knowledge construction hold significant implications for the field of education. As Huebner (1993) suggests, "the question educators need to ask is not how people learn and develop, but what gets in the way of the great journey--the journey of the self or soul." Huebner is not saying that knowledge of human development is without importance, but instead he is asking educational scholars to be willing to look at knowledge construction through a more contextualized and holistic lens-to risk an exploration of students' journeys from alternative standpoints. His statement demands much from the educational community, in that it calls for an enormous paradigm shift.

Accustomed to a cultural environment with a reductionist tendency to describe education in terms of attaining and measuring de-contextualized skills, the journey metaphor requires us to look at learning through a "new" lens, in which knowing becomes something that is inextricably linked to our unfolding life contexts. Exploring the problems and possibilities inherent to such a paradigm shift makes it necessary for educators to revisit questions regarding the nature of educational research. What does education "as a means of caring for the journey" look like? And in what ways might it be implemented within pedagogy and research?

In our own lives, we have discovered that examining specific life stories--both on an individual basis and communally with students--often provides important clues concerning the ways in which people learn, in which they have traveled through obstacles within their unique journeys of "the self or soul." In particular, narrative examinations have proved helpful at a multiplicity of levels in terms of exploring the identity formation and knowledge construction of forgotten or marginalized people. As Pinar (1993) explains:

   We are what we know. We are, however, also what we do not know. If
   what we know about ourselves--our history, our culture, our national
   identity--is deformed by absences, denials, incompleteness, then our
   identity-both as individuals and as Americans is fragmented.. (p.
   61)

When viewed from this standpoint, locating forgotten journeys moves beyond an act of altruism or of social justice (as important as such motivations are) to one of educational necessity. When another's story is missing from collective American lore, then my own story--both individually and communally--is also incomplete.

If examining life journeys is regarded as a necessary part of educational scholarship, then it follows that pervasive assumptions concerning which narrative formats are appropriate sources for educational research should be re-examined and replaced by more expansive notions (Gilbert, 1994). It also follows that as researchers seek new narrative spaces from which to explore and uncover marginalized journeys and ways of knowing, that we must also seek narrative sources that provide us with potential guideposts or mentoring clues for locating "new" ideas with the potential to inform current curriculum theory. One such neglected, yet promising narrative research genre for the education field is that of 19th-century American women's novels.

Therefore, our purposes for writing this paper are two-fold. Firstly, we will demonstrate the viability of exploring a "new" source for curriculum studies research, that of 19th-century women's novels. And we will do so, for the most part, through the context of the now marginalized, but once highly acclaimed 19th-century novelist, Catharine Maria Sedgwick. Secondly, it is our purpose to describe some of the specific contributions that Sedgwick's life and most popular novel, Hope Leslie, or Early Times in the Massachusetts (Sedgwick, 1827), can offer to the field of curriculum studies. …

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