Do I contradict myself?
Very well, then I contradict myself,
I am large, I contain multitudes.
– Walt Whitman, [Song of Myself]1
A professor of engineering at the University of Illinois (Champaign-Urbana) — Melih Sener — reminded me recently of Whitman’s famous lines from Song of Myself. I was reminded of the philosophy of Henri Bergson who was renowned for changing his position on ideas (particularly in relation to time and memory), and also of Slavoj Zizek who is politician-like in his ability to flip-flop. But, I’m also drawn to the kind of confidence and playfulness involved in openly expressing change in one’s understanding and take on an idea. Or better still, not even alluding to the change of tack — just letting it sit there.
Students who have had me as a supervisor will recognise a vaguely similar trick I often play. If a student were to say, “I think there is too much repetition in my choreography”, I might respond, “What if there is not enough repetition?”
But this, of course, is not the same as contradicting myself.
I’m wondering just how far I might push keeping contradictions alive in a teaching and learning situation. It’s built into so much choreography (indeed, I’d argue that good2 choreography is good because it contains contradictions that somehow force me to confront my biases and experience; that make me work). How would students find pedagogy based on stoking contradictions? (bloody frustrating I imagine).