Anticipating Education
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Anticipating Education

Concepts for Imagining Pedagogy with Psychoanalysis

Deborah Britzman

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📖 eBook - ePub

Anticipating Education

Concepts for Imagining Pedagogy with Psychoanalysis

Deborah Britzman

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A 2022 SPE Outstanding Book Award Winner Anticipating Education is an interdisciplinary collection of Britzman's previously published and unpublished papers that examines the dilemmas created by anticipating education, provoked when teachers, students, and professors encounter the unknown while trying to know emotional situations affecting their waiting, wanting, and wishing for teaching and learning. Anticipation has a particular flavor in scenes of education and not only since schooling presents again the mise-en-scène of childhood; anticipation also signifies the estranged temporality of anxiety, phantasies, and defense that compose and decompose hopes for transforming knowledge, sociality, and subjectivity in group life. This book is composed of Britzman's well regarded and highly cited conceptual contributions to thinking broadly on topics of intersubjectivity and pedagogy at the university and schools; the reception of difficult knowledge as unresolved social conflicts in pedagogical thought; and the significance of psychoanalysis with pedagogy. Four themes address the anxieties of teaching and learning: phantasies of education; difficult knowledge; transforming subjects; and, psychoanalysis with education.

Anticipating Education is required reading for everynewly-minted faculty member. The wisdom provided in this volume will prove tobe invaluable to your future career.

Perfect for courses such as: Foundations of Education | Theories of Teaching and Learning | Special Topics | Advanced Curriculum Theory | Philosophy of Education | Social Thought and Education | Studies of Language, Culture and Teaching | Child and Adolescent Development

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Year
2021
ISBN
9781975504335
CHAPTER 1
A Note On Transference To Reading
WOULD IT BE so far afield to relate Paulo Freire’s (1983) ‘The Importance of the Act of Reading’ and his return to ‘the most remote experiences of childhood’ (5) with that of a psychoanalyst who listens in on her own case history? And, given that Freire mainly wished to comment on the significance of reading to his own life and to the creation of his pedagogical acts, might I, too, take a chance and freely associate to signs along the way and ask the affecting question, ‘Why is there a desire to read?’ Might I, too, search for lost traces of my long-ago childhood and link this prehistoric past to the currency of my commitments to protecting and caring for the life of the mind? Might I, too, narrate the transference, both positive and negative, both with love and hate, to reflect on what has become of my reading education? And, if I can do that, would I then open a new reading, a new world, and a new approach to old and seemingly intractable conflicts? Might I, too, find that what reading teaches is that nothing is what it seems to be, that reality, too, must pass through my subjective world and that within the act of interpreting there is an allowance for our earliest mental paradox, namely, that we are always reading for what cannot be seen but can still be imagined?
One day, over 60 years ago, when I was once six years old and there in my first-grade class, the teacher ordered me into the ‘bad’ readers group. I then stumbled upon the strange fact that I was going to be known as a slow reader. My first grade had four reading groups: the good, the almost good, the not-so-good, and the truly terribly bad. All children knew that the pretense of the names of the groups—let’s call them the butterflies, the bees, the frogs, and the fishes—were mere cover stories for whether or not one was either good or bad. There was no such thing as the ‘good enough’ reader. The bad (dumb) group was given a very stupid thin book of gigantic type. Each page held a large picture and a few repetitive words: ‘See Skip jump.’ ‘Jump Skip jump.’ ‘Jump, Jump, Jump.’ Ad nauseam. The good (smart) group had a beautiful thick book filled with stories of adventures. I felt humiliated, jealous, and desperate. I had no idea how I could leave the dumb group. Indeed, besides the fact that my parents were getting a terrible divorce and besides the fact that I had stopped talking, I had no idea why I was there. One day, when the teacher was not looking, I went to the bookshelf and stole the smart book. I placed that book under my coat and left school with the stolen smart book. I was very worried my mother would ask how I came to possess the book. So, I hid it under my bed and only took it out to read when I was sure I would not be disturbed or caught. But I worried I would be accused of stealing the book. And I fantasied that my teacher would march to my house, demand that I confess, and take the book away. Near the end of that first year, still worried that I could not explain why I had the book at all, I threw the book out of my bedroom window. It landed on the flat part of the roof just below my window. For the next few years, I watched the weather destroy the book until there was hardly a sign of my crime. I hoped no one would learn that I had stolen and then destroyed a schoolbook. Reading was not only dangerous. Reading was my most complex emotional situation and my most obsessive fantasy.
In the naïveté of a young child—where reason and unreason and desire and anxiety feel one and the same—I could not imagine telling the teacher I wanted to read. I symbolically equated my desire to read with a crime and with feelings of guilt. Somehow, I was really able to steal words and the words knew that. Of course, childhood is that privileged time when there is no difference between the animate and the inanimate and feelings were everywhere and attributed to anything. And in childhood, our transference to objects felt as powerful as did the transference of love, hate, and authority onto actual people. Yet I have to wonder today, what could it mean that I would learn the desire to read by stealing a book? Like Freire (1983), who needed to assure his audience that the act of reading was and remains an emotional experience even as these affecting ties design intellect, I, too, must proclaim that in reading I was not ‘a rationalist in boy’s clothing’ (6). I was, however, a fabulist with the capacity for imagining the worst and by hiding in sheep’s clothing, or so I thought, had the illusion that I could escape my dumb fate and freely associate to my desire as a reader. I came to learn that just as with people, there would be transference to books loved and hated, understood and misunderstood, given and stolen. Only later did I learn why.
Sigmund Freud ([1899] 1968) has made the argument that our earliest memories involve two nearly opposing experiences—the actual and the imagined. Both are affected by leftover time, by the ripples of impressions. Both are incomplete and have to be that due to childhood itself. He described this complex as ‘screen memories,’ fragments of one event displaced from the original scene and projected onto another later event. It was Freud’s answer to the common questions of why people tend to remember irrelevant or indifferent things, why people idealize a past never experienced, why we need a cover story, and why memory and forgetting are two sides of the same coin. The feeling of an event persists but the historical event is subject to the ravages of time, fractured and displaced, just like the decaying book thrown onto the roof of my childhood home. Memory is just that construction. Freud also compared approaching psychical life, or taking a case history, to an archeological dig. The bits of pottery and material signs of everyday ancient life are in fragments and scattered across a wide swath of land due to the weight of the earth, the work of worms, and nature’s capacity for burial. The archeologist cannot be sure if the fragment found remained in its original place or, whether the bit of pottery had shifted to another location. But the metaphor of archeology could not quite address the liveliness of these fragments in mind. While modern scientific instruments might aid in clarifying the time, date, and place of an object, the same cannot be said of the objects of human feelings and the traces of those feelings that return at a moment’s notice, say, when staring out of one’s window and hallucinating a decaying book, still there on the roof. Our modern measurements cannot grasp what the desire to read feels like.
I would have to say that reading is not only an interpretive act. It is also one of imagination and how the mind functions that involves attention, reception, hallucination, bodily action, refinding, and memory. Reading forms associative pathways between the inner and outer world. There is something before interpretation and it has to do with transference, our susceptibility to our projections of life’s impressions, to the act of becoming absorbed and lost in the other’s words, and to the desire to escape into reading. Then memories of reading are like taking account of one’s case history. Details slowly become a story of revision. Reading is an act of projective identification and imagination for, after all, words must signify what is no longer there. In reading we are able to associate with absence, a general principle for the capacity for symbolization. Something stands in for something else but cannot be the original thing. This little lesson, that the book can stand in for a crime, for a secret, for a six-year-old’s emotional situation also brings a second chance to make a better world with a self that is less naïve, more assertive, and freer to associate disparate and fractured torso memories into a new narrative. And all these dynamic associations lend the mind its freedom and openness to things unseen so as to risk what happens to the self when one reads the dreams of transference to words and world.
Bibliography
Freire, Paulo. 1983. “The Importance of the Act of Reading.” Journal of Education 165 (1): 5–11.
Freud, Sigmund. (1899) 1968. “Screen Memories.” In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume III (1893–1899): Early Psycho-Analytic Publications, edited and translated by James Strachey, in collaboration with Anna Freud, 303–22. London: Hogarth Press.
CHAPTER 2
On Not Being Able To Write
TO BEGIN
Consider matters of creativity and inhibition as two sides of the same coin and as what is tossed away in education. The metaphor gambles with what we believe is our due and not only because we have all grown up in school and leave its doors with strong ideas—good and bad, better or worse—as to what learning should be like and how it should feel. The problem does come down to what can be said of education since the idea of education signifies a process, a function, the results of the process, and second thoughts as to its value and what is missing. So, too with the question of inhibition and creativity. These two are processes, functions of the mind, and results of their processes. They come with second thoughts as to their reasons, values, and losses.
My interest in both inhibition and creativity emerges from my work as a university professor, where students and faculty are urged to write, and indeed, many do want to write but, somehow, have lost their way. My work as a psychoanalyst provides another view. I see individuals who feel stuck, worry about failure or becoming disengaged, worry they are not creative, and worry they cannot try something unexpected in their daily life. For some, time has stopped. They turn the clock back when they ask, What if the same thing happens again? Others say they lose interest too quickly or feel it is just too late to try something new. They begin a project with enthusiasm and then just as suddenly stop. I see the same situation with those just beginning therapy. There is great hope for meaningful change but little patience for getting to know the self. So how does one study discontentment, disappointment, and loss of love? What do these feelings have to do with creativity and anticipating education?
Much of my thinking that proposes or anticipates negation is beholden to Marion Milner’s (1990) self-study of her own inhibitions, On Not Being Able to Paint. Milner had the significant idea that it was important to study her failures and places of discontentment. Her interest was with trying to express unconscious emotional attitudes toward the nature of the creative process and in their convictions that reverse their course and provoke the failures to create.
Milner learned to find emotional attitudes woven in any scene, fleeting worry, or phantasy that make up one’s state of mind. She analyzed creativity and inhibitions as emotional situations and commentary on the feel of psychical reality. So it seems right to engage Milner’s approach to creativity and question what is occurring when, in education, we hear the common anxiety of not being able to write or not being able or allowed to be creative. And it seems right to study inhibitions and creativity as a means of getting to know the fluid boundaries of inner and outer reality. What then are the dangers and risks of imagination?
For Milner (1990), self-study is the grounds for symbolizing what imagination risks and she insists that imagination risks the destruction of meaning. She named this plunge into uncharted thoughts “the dangers inherent in imagination” (14) and included movements between the personal and the aesthetic, conflicts between subjective impressions and objective worlds, and procedures of creativity and anxiety. Milner wrote from the obscurities of her life: the things unclear or dissatisfying, the mishaps and misshapen experience, and the writer’s incomplete, failed, or baffling encounters. As Milner admits, the desire for mastery may also be felt whenever one tries to write something new, and whenever one has to begin with the blank page. Mastery already indicates anxiety over the unknown and paradoxically, the wish for perfection may be a clue for an incapacity to be affected by symbolization.
Only gradually did Milner (1990) understand that to paint, the painter must surrender to both a wandering, aimless mind and be contained by what she called “facts of art” (127) that involve the acceptance of beginning with a blank canvas or frame, an interest in one’s own limits, and attention to the critical play that structures and divides objectivity and subjectivity, and reality and phantasy. She used the idea of frame as both space and time: as a border, or canvas that contains the edges of a painting and as time, there are also rules of comportment. In Milner’s words, “[t]hus when there is a frame it surely serves to indicate that what’s inside the frame has to be interpreted in a different way from what’s outside it” (157).
Misgiving And Giving
I have come to understand Milner’s (1990) On Not Being Able to Paint as a method for the study of uncertainty in creative expression. Over the years, I have returned to her book. My recent reading was inspired by a discussion I had with a painter who, like Milner, felt dissatisfied with her painting but could not say why. This painter knew I thought of myself as a writer and in the painter’s mind, that meant that I could not understand what it feels like to paint and not paint. This painter felt that painting was so different from writing that not only were the activities incomparable in physicality, interest, mood, grip, and medium. The writer and the painter could not meet. I still wonder what it is to understand another’s creative processions. Would that be empathy, as if I could put myself in the painter’s shoes? Or would it be more like witnessing the intricacies of the painter’s entanglements and with that, wondering about my own?
As I read Milner with the other in mind, I wondered then what the writer could learn from the painter and, even more specifically, what the writer can learn from the agitations of the painter’s body in the act of painting.
Milner wanted to understand the beginning of object relations as psychic creativity. She described these concepts as if they mirrored the activities that go into painting: contact with a pre-logical area of the mind characterized by fusion, illusions, reverie, concentration, absentmindedness, and a temporary loss of self that surrenders to ecstasy. Part of Milner’s book wrestled with her inhibitions and essentially a fear of creativity. No one can tell you how to have an inhibition, but once it seems to creep into one’s mind, how difficult it is to know what is really being avoided.
Milner, who also wrote under the name ‘Joanne Fields,’ had a few careers: first, a teacher of reading in early childhood and then as an industrial psychologist for her first study of unhappiness in work. She returned to education, serving as researcher/interviewer for a five-year study of underachieving girls that resulted in a 1938 book, The Human Problem of Schools, edited by Susan Isaacs (Letley 2014). That study and the reports that followed discussed basic principles of children’s learning, and this left her depressed. Schools, Milner found, are unhappy places (Farley 2015). In an overview of her career, Milner (1996) portrayed her work along with her sense of self as trying to understand the underlying yearnings of human behavior through picturing the forces of the unconscious life and imagination. Her introduction to On Not Being Able to Paint, and what I see as the true part, acknowledged her questions and “private misgivings” (xviii). “It was only gradually,” Milner wrote in her preface, “that a persisting idea had emerged that somehow the problem might be approached through studying one specific area in which I myself had failed to learn something that I wanted to learn” (xviii). Failing to learn what one wants to learn is the breaking heart of creativity. Milner then admitted that her discontentment had something to do with what she had evaded, namely, trying to understand a fundamental human predicament that learning and development foster from emotional life, love, and hate.
The insight Milner would then develop for the rest of her life was a variation on the themes of love, symbolization, thinking, concentration, and reverie. For Milner, creativity would “go back to the stage before one had found a love to lose” (1990, 67). It would be a stage of orgasmic union and that, Milner argued, would set up the creative problem of communicating, giving, and receiving love. Paradoxically, the jubilant creative experience would, in and of itself, also create the conditions of inhibition and disappointment.
A surprising revelation in Milner’s (1990) second edition, On Not Being Able to Paint, appeared late in her postscript titled “What it amounts to.” Her admission, or perhaps confession, was that she wrote the introduction of her book under the cover of false confidence, as if the introduction was only following a prearranged plan. Except that the problem she was trying to express involved the situation of not learning and so any plan would be disingenuous. Even more, in thinking she was simply creating what already existed, Milner found herself “seduced by objectivity” (116). All this led Milner to question how anyone, from the beginning of life, perceives the outside world and through the creation of symbols, comes to feel the difference between inside and outside and the self and the other. How does one come to the process of reaching a semblance of objectivity through the investigation of subjectivity? Milner put the problem as one of freeing the self from the sway of an estranging “dictatorship” of exteriority (116). One consequence of her estrangement was an unwitting denial of her paintings as the symbolization of subjective life and its incompleteness. She came to the view that for the process of writing or painting to unfold, creative activity carried risks founded in t...

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APA 6 Citation
Britzman, D. (2021). Anticipating Education ([edition unavailable]). Myers Education Press. Retrieved from https://www.perlego.com/book/3031443/anticipating-education-concepts-for-imagining-pedagogy-with-psychoanalysis-pdf (Original work published 2021)
Chicago Citation
Britzman, Deborah. (2021) 2021. Anticipating Education. [Edition unavailable]. Myers Education Press. https://www.perlego.com/book/3031443/anticipating-education-concepts-for-imagining-pedagogy-with-psychoanalysis-pdf.
Harvard Citation
Britzman, D. (2021) Anticipating Education. [edition unavailable]. Myers Education Press. Available at: https://www.perlego.com/book/3031443/anticipating-education-concepts-for-imagining-pedagogy-with-psychoanalysis-pdf (Accessed: 15 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Britzman, Deborah. Anticipating Education. [edition unavailable]. Myers Education Press, 2021. Web. 15 Oct. 2022.