Last week I participated in the annual conference of the History of Education Society, which this year took place at Mary Immaculate College, Limerick (Ireland): http://www.hesc.mic.ul.ie/
Usually I present some elements of my research – conclusive remarks, I mean. This time in my paper, “Epistolary education: self-development at the interface of emotions and embodiment“, I brought up the methodological question I am currently figuring out: how to account for Barbara Bodichon’s embodiment in the epistolary “I” that reaches us today in her personal correspondence – if this is possible at all. I don’t have the answer to my own conference paper question so I’ve thought of making a call for help in my blog!
This is my statement: in my monograph I study the significance of letter-exchange in the education of Barbara Bodichon. To do so, my theoretical framework reads the German educational term Bildung through the lens of narrative approaches to identity-formation (e.g. Paul Ricoeur, Marya Schechtman). I draw on philosopher Catriona Mackenzie’s notion of “bodily perspective” – i.e. the “essential part of the background interpretative context in terms of which [an individual’s] actions, emotions, beliefs, desires, values and character traits are intelligible both to herself and to others” (‘Personal Identity, Narrative Integration and Embodiment”, in Sue Campbell, Letitia Meynell and Susan Sherwin (eds) (2009) Embodiment and Agency (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press) p.103). In her article, Mackenzie argues convincingly of the necessity of incorporating corporeality into our analysis of narrative self-interpretation so as to move away from “disembodied narrating selves”. But what I wish Mackenzie had also included in her article is a suggestion of ways in which this bodily perspective is materialised in our methodologies within narrative inquiry. For I can “easily” tease out Barbara Bodichon’s emotions in her letters. But how is her embodied narrating self reflected in her epistolary narratives? How can I show that “our embodiment […] shape[s] our identities and [is] incorporated into our self-conceptions” in Bodichon’s epistolary “I”? How can this lived bodily experience be accounted for when I analyse her narrative self-conception? Is it possible at all?
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