JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory, Volume 24, Number 2, 2004 Page: 354
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is a breakdown of defenses, helplessness comes to the fore, and knowl-
edge is felt as a force without being secured by meaning and understand-
ing. But this means there is something ordinary and everyday about both.
Second, significant learning entails a dual action: new knowledge becomes
entangled in the force of old phantasies of learning events, rendering both
as a problem oftransference and so of interpretation. Simply put, learning
is not the other side of trauma, but trauma's constitutive and belated
If trauma is the incapacity to respond adequately to a traumatic
perception, a central question that trauma studies poses to pedagogy is
how we can think about perceiving, receiving, and reconciling knowledge
in teaching and learning. In conceptualizing the experience of learning
through theories of trauma, we ask: What makes knowledge difficult in
teaching and learning and how can these difficulties be narrated and
learned from? Whereas the first question may seem to reside in the content
of knowledge, the second foregrounds the experience of encountering the
self through the otherness of knowledge. Moreover, if the first question
takes its inspiration from psychoanalytic theories of trauma, the second
returns these theories to the more ordinary realm of trying to know one's
narrative acts through the psychical dynamics that animate learning and
resistance. A further question can now be raised: what happens to the
subject of knowledge when difficulties become both an obstacle to and the
means for an encounter with the unexpected? Britzman has termed these
events "difficult knowledge," a concept originally meant to signify the
relations between representations of social trauma in curriculum and the
individual's encounters with them in pedagogy (Lost). While clearly there
is and should be "difficult knowledge" in the curriculum, the sense we
develop in this paper is made dynamic and intimate: "difficult knowledge"
as a concept for understanding the shadowy internal world ofphantasy and
its object relations.
Initially, we considered the problem of"difficult knowledge" through
Shoshana Felman's provocative discussion on crisis and education ("Edu-
cation"), and we used her theory of trauma as a metaphor for affecting
pedagogy (Pitt and Britzman). Indeed, Felman's discussion is an inquiry
into the similarities between breakdowns of meaning in testimonies of
historical trauma and encounters with them in university classrooms.
We grappled with Felman's hauntingly insistent questions that opened
her self study and in doing so became magnetized by the imagery of
education as crisis:
Here’s what’s next.
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Association of Teachers of Advanced Composition (U.S.). JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory, Volume 24, Number 2, 2004, periodical, 2004; (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc28644/m1/100/: accessed September 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .