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The Art and Science of Portraiture

Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, Jessica Hoffmann Davis

ISBN: 978-0-787-96242-5 October 2002 Jossey-Bass 306 Pages


"The writing is beautiful, the ideas persuasive, and the picture it paints of the process of careful observation is one that every writer should read. . . . A rich and wonderful book."
American Journal of Education

A landmark contribution to the field of research methodology, this remarkable book illuminates the origins, purposes, and features of portraiture—placing it within the larger discourse on social science inquiry and mapping it onto the broader terrain of qualitative research.

The Author ix

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction: The Frame xv

Chapter One: A View of the Whole: Origins and Purposes 1

Chapter Two: Perspective Taking: Discovery and Development 19

Chapter Three: On Context 39

Illumination: Framing and Terrain 41

Implementation: Setting the Site 60

Artistic Refrain: Priming the Canvas 74

Chapter Four: On Voice 83

Illumination: Expressing a Point of View 85

Implementation: Defining the Lens 106

Artistic Refrain: Negotiating Perspective 124

Chapter Five: On Relationship 133

Illumination: Navigating Intimacy 135

Implementation: Delaring Boundaries 160

Artistic Refrain: Representing Rapport 175

Chapter Six: On Emergent Themes 183

Illumination: Searching for Patterns 185

Implementation: Naming Convergence 215

Artistic Refrain: Defining Form 232

Chapter Seven: On Aesthetic Whole 241

Illumination: Shaping the Story 243

Implementation: Composing the Narrative 261

Artistic Refrain: Achieving Balance 275

References 283

Index 289

"The writing is beautiful, the ideas persuasive, and the picture it paints of the process of careful observation is one that every writer should read. . . . Clearly a statement about the seriousness, the difficulty, the judgmental standards, and ultimately, the reliability of this form of qualitative research. . . . A rich and wonderful book." --American Journal of Education

"Rich in insight and gracefully written. . . . The authors do a masterful job here of clarifying the dimensions of this dynamic layered research process. They make a convincing case for portraiture as a useful tool for exploring the complexity and aesthetic of experience, particulary educational experience. Most important, this volume advances portraiture as a generative research process that produces documents of both 'inquiry AND intervention.'" --Journal of Critical Inquiry Into Curriculum and Instruction

"This bold fascinating book attempts the impossible: to describe, even to start explaining a little what makes a good portrait?tackling brilliantly the ages old issue of how the vivid particular and the abstract universal can live in the same portrait. The lay reader will be delighted by this graceful book, but so will the human scientist looking for guidance in carrying out qualitative research. Traditional social scientists should read it, too, for when they have finished making up their number tables, they must translate them into narrative portraiture if they want their findings to matter." --Jerome Bruner, research professor of psychology, senior research fellow in law, New York University

"In this daring study, the authors show us that the representation of a community or an institution is an art as well as a science. They acknowledge the imaginative, the idiosyncratic, the sympathetic aspects inherent in the undertaking, revealing how attempting to suppress them risks distortion and desiccation." --James Ackerman, Arthur Kingsley, Professor Emeritus of Fine Arts, Harvard University

"Unique in this text is the serious and informed concern for aesthetic qualities of each presentation, a concern that allows for exploration of contexts and a crossing of the gulfs between art and empiricism. Breaking through old either/ors, the authors invite us to see differently, to hear differently, and?in some fascinating manner?to understand." --Maxine Greene, William F. Russell, Professor Emerita in the Foundations of Education, Teachers College, Columbia University