JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory, Volume 24, Number 2, 2004 Page: 353
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Pedagogy and Clinical Knowledge:
Some Psychoanalytic Observations
on Losing and Refinding Significance
Deborah P. Britzman and Alice J. Pitt
We are surprised in reading Jean Laplanche and Jean-Bertrand Pontalis'
dictionary entry on trauma by how close it comes to describing the
movements of ordinary learning. They present trauma as posing three
psychical problems: it is an event within one's life characterized by
intensity, by the subject's incapacity to respond adequately to it, and by the
force of its aftereffects. Freud, too, must have been surprised when he
came to refine this concept over his long career, wavering between
emphasis on outside events and external causes and on internal events and
their power of condensation, substitution, and displacement. What Freud
came to was how psychical reality structures and is then structured by a
compulsion to repeat the trauma. Both conceptualizations raise interesting
dilemmas for symbolization because of trauma's untimely time but also
due to a constitutive feature of learning. Something happened, but
something did not happen. Learning and trauma work as deferred action,
sliding between external and internal events, eluding yet marking both. The
actual event and its phantasmagoric reception vie for the same space; yet,
in having to do so, trying to symbolize, so traumatized, becomes the
conflict. This intensity opens our psychoanalytic discussion: when
thinking about trauma and learning, we wonder where they come from
and where they go. We suggest that for understanding the uses of and
defenses against knowledge in teaching and learning, this must be left
as an open question.
For now, we begin with our reasons for reconsidering, through a
clinical theory of learning, the psychical dilemmas that trauma invokes.
First, the qualities of trauma and the qualities of learning converge. There
jac 24.2 (2004)
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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/m1/99/: accessed November 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .