My Goddard work was about language. I wanted to find ways to revitalize language, returning it to its deep power of transformation in theory as well as in practice. This led me to recover the role of the subject and desire in language, putting together a selection of theory where this was present and proposing a style of theoretical writing that did not block out playfulness and creativity. On the other hand it led me to the practice of writing from the body in order to embark on a fantastic, autobiographical and biological exploration of my own story; this was an experience of fascination, difficulty and discovery that I can only describe as learning that I had always been looking through a window, cracking that window open, pushing my head through it to discover the coldest air I had ever known, and then learning to breathe underwater.
Autobiography of My Tongue taught me to work with a critical/creative methodology, and it taught me how to construct and conduct research without ignoring the person that I was: my tastes, quirks, talents and life experiences. I discovered the epistemologist in me: the one who is passionately interested in how we know, in finding and knowing more about the way of knowing that was organic to me and that I had always been looking for.
Autobiography of My Tongue also led me to a conclusion that has completely redirected my research and my understanding of literature and language teaching. It taught me that not all is language. It led me to the question that is guiding my research and pedagogy today: how can we inhabit more fully, more intelligently, more sensibly, more relationally the bodies that we are and the contexts in which we live? Work at Goddard gave me the wide theoretical framework that I needed in order to understand embodiment; it taught me how, through writing, to work on myself as project. It was like entering the eye of a hurricane… the most exciting and scary thing I have done.
During my years at Goddard, I started a project called “Language and Peace” where I grounded this theory and writing practice with a group of students. It became a laboratory for the exploration of the relationship between language and the body, through theory, writing practice and then community action such as installations or performance art in order to include the community in our reflection. We did seven years of passionate collective work together. Now most of these students are university and school teachers in different places, applying methods that integrate the body into teaching English and Spanish classes; many of them have been colleagues and collaborators in the “research from the body” projects that have followed.
- To work from desire. This knowledge came when I finally had the courage to say: I really do not like this and this way of working, I really do not like this style of writing. Identifying what I did not want was essential to begin to model the work that I wanted to be doing. My advisors were expert companions in these excursions into the unknown.
- To stop working from certainty and to risk standing in the place of not knowing. Goddard taught me the bravery of working in unexplored territory, the loneliness of it, the need to find and put together existing and ignored theory and examples that could serve as invisible partners and guides in this work, the invaluable satisfaction that comes from work on our real questions, which is ultimately work on ourselves.
- That I am writer. I had always feared this question am I writer or am I not, do I have the material to pursue this path. I learned that what I was looking for was inside of me. It taught me vital and passionate ways in which to practice the writing of theory; also I learned writing from the body. I learned that creative writing was not just about publishing completed stories or adhering to an existing genre, it was about exploration, about following rhythms, images, and deep inner strangeness into the place of the unknown, and that this was the only writing that would ever satisfy, regardless of whether it was published.
- A concept of truth. What a wonderful thing, to recover with an MA program a concept of truth. After so much disenchantment with theories that didn’t seem to touch what was important; after my own fascination with postmodern deconstruction of truth, into multiple truths, multiple points of vision, etc, and the vertigo of working from there (which I loved, but which also left many holes for me)… to discover that there was also somewhere to touch ground. One day I had a dream in which in the middle of a crazy situation my Goddard writing teacher said “touch yourself.” I try to remember those words every time I am lost. As a Goddard classmate once said to me; “the map is the body.”
- Care of the self. I learned the role of silence in my language work. I learned to recognize my creative and thinking rhythms, to be less terrible with myself when I was blocked. To understand being blocked as a bodily response to moments when I was trying to force things into a too wide perspective, or not allowing the rhythm I needed for understanding. To be humble, and learn that simple everyday care of the self and of others, in spaces like family or pedagogy, is a concrete contribution to the work we want to do. Because what this work is profoundly about is an education for life, for becoming persons, more capable of coming into contact with what is real. Whatever that is.
Turn in on April 8th for Part II on what Juliana is up to these days, and read more about Juliana on the Goddard site. You can also contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org