Blood's Will

Speculative Fiction, Existence, and Inquiry of Currere

by Morna McDermott McNulty (Author)
©2018 Textbook XII, 260 Pages
Series: Complicated Conversation, Volume 53


In Blood’s Will: Speculative Fiction, Existence, and Inquiry of Currere, main character Campbell Cote Phillips—a successful university professor, mother, and wife—faces the question "what would she give up to have everything else?" Her comfortable life takes an unexpected turn when she discovers that not everything is always as it appears to be. The story unfolds between the 1970s and contemporary Baltimore, weaving together the experiences of Finn (an unusual vampire with a strange history) and Campbell—along with a cast of characters across different generations—whose stories are portrayed in base-relief against the promise, or peril, of immortality. Blood’s Will is about love and desire, but it is also about family, friends, and the choices we all make. To be human is to sacrifice. To be vampire is to have endless opportunities.
As Noel Gough writes, "Understanding curriculum work as a storytelling practice has been a key theme in the reconceptualisation of curriculum studies during the last three decades, encapsulated by Madeleine Grumet’s formulation of curriculum as ‘the collective story we tell our children about our past, our present, and our future.’" Situated as a story embedded in the four stages of currere, the journey of the book’s main characters exemplifies the journey of recursion: the regressive, the progressive, the analytical, and the synthetic. Blood’s Will is an example of speculative fiction that "can contribute to an aspect of effective deliberation that Schwab called ‘the anticipatory generation of alternatives’" (Gough). This book is a useful reading for courses examining roles of narrative, fiction, and currere as fields of inquiry.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Advance Praise for Blood’s Will
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Dedication
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • Chapter One
  • Chapter Two
  • Chapter Three
  • Chapter Four
  • Chapter Five
  • Chapter Six
  • Chapter Seven
  • Chapter Eight
  • Chapter Nine
  • Chapter Ten
  • Chapter Eleven
  • Chapter Twelve
  • Chapter Thirteen
  • Chapter Fourteen
  • Chapter Fifteen
  • Chapter Sixteen
  • Chapter Seventeen
  • Chapter Eighteen
  • Chapter Nineteen
  • Chapter Twenty
  • Chapter Twenty-One
  • Chapter Twenty-Two
  • Chapter Twenty-Three
  • Chapter Twenty-Four
  • Chapter Twenty-Five
  • Chapter Twenty-Six
  • Chapter Twenty-Seven
  • Chapter Twenty-Eight
  • Chapter Twenty-Nine
  • Chapter Thirty
  • Chapter Thirty-One
  • Chapter Thirty-Two
  • Chapter Thirty-Three
  • Chapter Thirty-Four
  • Chapter Thirty-Five
  • Chapter Thirty-Six
  • Chapter Thirty-Seven
  • Chapter Thirty-Eight
  • Chapter Thirty-Nine
  • Chapter Forty
  • Chapter Forty-One
  • Chapter Forty-Two
  • Chapter Forty-Three
  • Afterword: An Ending About Endings and Some Words About Currere, Inquiry, and Fiction
  • Subject Index
  • Name Index
  • Series index

← viii | ix →



With a debt of love and gratitude to my dear friends and courageous editors Nancy Rankie Shelton and Tom Poetter. I also have a debt of gratitude to Bill Pinar for his faith in this project. ← ix | x →

← x | 1 →



My name is Campbell Cote Phillips. I am the subject writing herself. I am not an educator, nor a curriculum theorist. I am a scholar of Cultural and Women’s Studies. I explore the uses of curriculum inquiry as autobiography and narrative as they relate to various curricula in my field which is gender and cultural studies. More importantly, I share the idea that there is a curriculum to each of our lives. What you will be reading in this novel is the curriculum of my life, or, my currere (my life journey recalled and examined). As a close friend of mine once said, it is my, “theory for living, my theory for dying” (Daspit, 1999). I have done both, as you will see.

Charting complex and critical associations between the worlds of narrative and memory, the method of currere allows one to become more:

(S)elf conscious about the “strokes” and “lines” etched into the personality by curricular experience…the process in which Pollack was engaged, processes that begin with relinquishing of so-called realism…allow us to see anew and understand anew. (Pinar, 1991, p. 246)

There are four different “stages” when engaged in the journey of currere: Recalling the past (regressive), being free of the present (analytical), being able to re-enter the present (synthetical), and gesturing towards what is not yet present (progressive). It is important to note however, that these stages are not considered ← 1 | 2 → linear or progressive. Rather, they should be understood as a set of interconnected, rhizomatic (Deleuze & Guattari, 1980) moments that “frame” the complex process of conscious self-actualization.

To be certain, my life has taken some spectacular turns, as you will see in reading my story. You may believe this book to be a work of fiction. It is, in as much as fiction signifies possibility. But what I have written is also true. And truth relies on limitations and finitudes. Which will you, the reader, choose? You shall read more on this subject in the Afterword to my story. But I am getting ahead of myself.

This is a work of autofiction (Doubrovsky, 1977), or fictionalized autobiography—an effort which engages with the currere process; what I will refer to here as ficto-currere. My narrative blends and blurs the lines between that which is true (or real) with that which is imaginatively constructed. It is a story that belongs to “a new class of memoiristic, autobiographical, and metafictional novels—we can call them autofictions—that jettison the logic of postmodernism in favor of a new position” (Sturgeon, 2014, para. 2). My ficto-currere involves themes of death and immortality. I am always thinking of those topics:

For Daignault, “thinking happens only between suicide and murder … between nihilism and terrorism … to know is to commit murder, to terrorize”. Nihilism refers to the abandonment of any attempt to know. It is the attitude which says anything goes or things are what they are. It is to give up, to turn ones ideals into empty fictions or memories, to have no hope. Daignault (1983) calls for us to live in the middle, in spaces that are neither terroristic or nihilistic. (in Pinar, et al, 1995, p. 76)

I have discovered a way to “live in the middle,” as you shall see. Sturgeon agrees that, “fiction includes the narratives we tell ourselves, and the stories we’re told, on the path between birth and death” (2014, para. 8). Fiction can represent “truth,” or fact, in the form of experience. Just as often, as Truth (as hegemonic discourse) has oftentimes (in light of dominant Western history) been exposed to be little more than fiction (Rorty, 1989). I have chosen to write my autobiography as fiction in the 3rd person because the story is more believable as a 3rd person; written as a cool “objectivity.” I write about Campbell as if she were someone other than myself. Maybe, she is.

The fiction and the currere in my story are re-assembled as a “décollage”; cutting and tearing identities and “truths” to reveal other interpretations. Artist Annette Kunow (2012) describes décollage in language that mirrors the ficto-currere writing process: “This wrenching, shredding is pricking under the ‘skin’. It destroys leaving wounds. Parts of the hidden painting are diving on the scene with vehemence and make visible these repressed fears and desires” (p.4). This (re) assemblage between self and inquiry in currere is “phenomenologically related” ← 2 | 3 → (Pinar, et. al., 1995, p. 414), a form of reflective autobiography that emphasizes, “reciprocity between subjectivity and objectivity in the constitution of experience and meanings” (p. 414).

The lived experience itself is not the story. My journey is incomplete without the retelling of it in the form of this narrative and a four-step process that “includes retelling the story of one’s experiences, imagining future possibilities for self-understanding,” and “an analysis of the relationships between past, present, and future life history and practice …” (Pinar, 2004, p. 35)

Retelling requires memory. Yet, recollection is incorporeal. Therefore, how might I separate memory from fiction? Or rather, why should I try? When crafted from memory, each of our stories are always part-fiction (Barone, 2007). Here it is then—a currere of possibility for life and death, written in my story. Each of us has our own. We also share in one another’s as well. In the “Postscript for the next generation” Pinar, et al (1995) write, “Curriculum is an extraordinarily complicated conversation” (p. 848). As such, our lives, as curriculum, are a series of “open-ended, highly personal, and interest-driven events in which persons encounter each other” (p. 848). As a form of self-inquiry, the spiral narrative of currere (and four intertwined rhizomatic stages of the journey): what is “not yet,” is equal to that “which was,” and what “can be” blurs with what “has been.” That was my final discovery.

I am not the first to take such a journey. Scholar of speculative fiction and curriculum inquiry, Noel Gough (2010) identifies fiction (and more particularly, speculative fiction) as a form of currere and a method of inquiry. I decided to transform my autobiography into autofiction, and then into a 3rd person narrative of speculative fiction; making my own history thus a speculative one, revealing the indeterminacy of my existence. Speculative fiction is fiction that includes themes of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. What some consider to be speculative fiction is quite real in the future to others. We live everyday surrounded by instances of both horror and fantasy, of fear and desire. I mean, whose life doesn’t have just a little bit of each of those?

Gough examines the uses of writing-as-process (storytelling as an act of scholarship) by Bram Stoker as he wrote Dracula (1897). Naturally, I have some interest in the matter of vampires. Stoker, according to Gough (1996), “privileged writing to such an extent that many characters come to see the production of a manuscript as necessary for their own survival” (p. 260). There is a relationship in Stoker’s vampire novel (as well as my own) between inquiry (the search for facts or truth, or at least answers that satisfy a compelling question) and storytelling.

Stoker’s relationship to Jon Harker in the story of Dracula was one of a writer writing about a character who is writing about himself. We write ourselves into, and out, of existence. Fictional mortality. Those of us in academia know that the ← 3 | 4 → phrase “publish or perish” means everything. Some of us perhaps have done both. The (seeming) inevitability of death is nothing new for millions of people every day, people facing old age, terminal illness, or living in hostile war torn environments where death is possible every day. But I have lived most of my existence among the slumbering, comfortable, and seemingly healthy middle-aged, middle-class world. The illusion of immortality leads many of us to take for granted what we have, and to magnify the small problems, until they fog our perception of what matters to begin with. And then, what awaits us after death? I cannot answer that for you, just yet. I may ruin the story.

We might consider this theory for living and for dying—a process for knowledge-creation and meaning-making. What might you see in yourself through my story? Some of you may identify with me, and the journey I have undertaken. As they say in 12-step recovery meetings (Finn has taught me much), “Identify, don’t compare, with what you hear.”

Gough says, “As the story unfolds, acts of writing are increasingly seen to be essential for the self-preservation of particular individuals, but they eventually assume even greater significance” (1996, p. 260). He continues that, “(O)ur purposes often may be better served by (re)presenting the texts we produce as deliberate fictions rather than as ‘factual’ narratives ‘reflecting all without distortion’” (p. 260).

Fiction is not the opposite of fact, it is the opposite of finitude. But while it is defensible to assert that reality exists beyond texts, much of what we think of as “real” is—and can only be—apprehended through fictional texts. Just as light can be wave and particle, we can acknowledge narrative (as a particle, i.e. a “fact”), but facts in themselves mean little until they are situated, and thus also like light wave, hence the elements of subjectivity. Barone (2000) too, reminds us that in “this reordering, elements of experience are recast into a form that is analogous but does not replicate an actual experience” (p. 138). Memories reflect the past, but as instruments of the present, they are also catalysts for future action.

By now, while reading this Introduction, you may have realized (or have known all along) that I too, am one of the fictional characters of this book, as much as I am (here) an author. This Introduction has become a “true” account of a fictional character (myself-depicted as real) writing her autobiography (as auto-fiction), and re-manufacturing it as speculative fiction. But this Introduction too, is fiction, written by someone else, other than me, Campbell Cote.

The purpose of an Introduction written by a character in the fictional book for which the Introduction is written, to be written as a real author, about an account she claims as non-fiction but has written as a third-person, is to invite the reader to an intertextual engagement with this book. It is, as Gough (2011) puts it, “a narrative experiment” (p. 4), a process by which I might: ← 4 | 5 →

Question whether it is possible, at least in principle, to establish inter subjectively reliable distinctions between “fiction” on the one hand and particular constructions of “reality” that we can call “factual” or “truthful” on the other. (p. 4)

I suggest no distinctions are possible expect those forcibly manufactured. As a form of decollage, I attempt the opposite: To scrape away at the veneer, and tear apart these distinctions, to re-assemble my “I” through multiple “eyes” (McDermott, 2011).

I wanted to raise the question: who is the authentic, or essential, author? Therein lies a contingency (and irony—as I am fully aware of my fictionalized existence), which allows for a pragmatic interpretation of the story (Rorty, 1989). I claimed earlier that this novel is a work of auto-fiction, which would suggest that I first would have to be “real,” and thus fictionalizing what I called the “real” autobiographical account of my life events (before and after my relationship with Finn). I might argue that this Introduction itself is also the fictional account of an autobiographical depiction of the other author (McDermott). A fictional auto-fiction. I invite you to read this novel as an act of ficto-currere, and enter it as a tesseract. The two share interchangeable qualities: A tesseract is a three-dimensional object. A tesseract is also a four dimensional object—a hyper-cube, unraveled. A hyper cube unravels to a tesseract. Four dimensions unravel to three. A hyper cube is a thing you are not equipped to understand only the tesseract. “We can see the thing unraveled, but not the thing itself” (Garland, 1999, p. 2).

Blood’s Will is followed by an academic analysis (see Afterword), which further explores intersections between currere, inquiry, and speculative fiction. The point is that the novel retains the idea that, “the self is considered a living thing composed of fictions” (Sturgeon, 2014, para. 8). Yet, the analysis involves many plot spoilers, so it must be included in an Afterword, and not before. As a sample of ficto-currere based inquiry, like works of auto-fictional research, my story should trouble the “reader’s expectation of outcomes” (Leavy, 2017, p. 198); outcomes that accompany fiction by following an anticipated narrative course and “attempt to neatly resolve the troubles in the text” (Watson, in Leavy, 2017, p. 198).

Instead, currere explores the rhizomatic and emergent nodal interstices of life—and life creates the fiction, cracking open new intersection of possibilities seeking to trouble expectations. This work of ficto-currere breaks the preconceived ideas we hold about reality, and the “master plot” (p. 197) we commonly anticipate in a fictional story. Instead, like Watson (in Leavy, 2017), “I keep the ending open, in order to mirror real life” (p. 197), events as they happened—blurred with my memory of them, and re-created through the writing process. Read. And then, I’ll see you, my reader, on the other side. ← 5 | 6 →


Barone, T. (2000). Aesthetics, politics, and educational inquiry: Essays and examples. New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Barone, T. (2007). A return to the gold standard? Questioning the future of narrative construction as educational research. Qualitative Inquiry, 13(4), 454–470.

Daignault, J. (1983). Curriculum and action research: An artistic activity in a perverse way. Journal of Curriculum Theorizing, 5(3), 4–18.


XII, 260
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2018 (October)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2018. XII, 260 pp.

Biographical notes

Morna McDermott McNulty (Author)

Morna McDermott McNulty is a professor in the College of Education at Towson University, where she teaches teachers how to teach. She also teaches a class about vampires. Her books include The Left Handed Curriculum and An Activist Handbook for the Education Revolution. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland, with her partner and two children.


Title: Blood's Will