Lost Subjects, Contested Objects

Toward a Psychoanalytic Inquiry of Learning

By Deborah P. Britzman

Subjects: Educational Psychology
Paperback : 9780791438084, 199 pages, March 1998
Hardcover : 9780791438077, 199 pages, March 1998

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Table of contents


Introduction: Toward a Psychoanalytic Inquiry of Learning

1. The Arts of Getting By

2. On Making Education Inconsolable

3. On Becoming a "Little Sex Researcher": Some Comments on a Polymorphously Perverse Curriculum

4. Queer Pedagogy and Its Strange Techniques

5. Narcissism of Minor Differences and the Problem of AntiRacist Pedagogy

6. "That Lonely Discovery": Anne Frank, Anna Freud, and the Question of Pedagogy




A study of love and hate in learning and an argument for why educators might begin with consideration of these psychical dynamics when interpreting the conflictive dreams of education.


This book argues for education's reconsideration of what psychoanalytic theories of love and hate might mean to the design of learning and pedagogy. Britzman sets in tension three perspectives: studies of education, studies in psychoanalysis, and studies of ethics to consider how larger social and cultural histories live in the small history of the subject. Britzman casts her net widely to consider questions of sex education, the work of Anna Freud in reencountering the Diary of Anne Frank, reading practices in pedagogy, anti-racist pedagogy and the question of love, and the arguments between education and psychoanalysis.

Deborah P. Britzman is Associate Professor of Education, Social and Political Thought, and Women's Studies at York University. She is author of Practice Makes Practice: A Critical Study of Learning to Teach, also published by SUNY Press.


"Britzman is the most eloquent proponent in education today insisting on the return of the educator's attention to Freudian theory/method. This is not a comforting insistence, but is made with careful argument and ethical force.

"She starts with the psychoanalytic insight that education is an interference with various (often unconscious) implications for learning, particularly in regard to the play of affect and its attachments (specifically those of love and hate). This means there is always conflict in learning, conflict not only between the teacher and learner, but crucially for this book, within the learner herself. Given its premise, Britzman unravels how institutionally mediated education is then necessarily uncertain, indeterminate, ambivalent. This is a position with radical implications for the increasingly rationalized, outcome-driven forms of teaching which have become so prevalent in the English-speaking world. It is an argument that insists we look again at what we call learning and at the ethical obligations such a reexamination elicits. " — Roger I. Simon, University of Toronto

"The scholarship is impeccable, the arguments rigorous. Above all, the book avoids the substitution of jargon, whether psychoanalytic or 'educationist,' for thought; in its writing, scholarship, and arguments, it renders a certain difficult labor of thinking unavoidable. It's an outstanding piece of work, an important statement from a major thinker whose work should figure more prominently in the intellectual scene than it currently does. " — William Haver, Binghamton University

"She writes with incredible feeling and verve, never missing the chance for either the wit or high seriousness that comes of being sensitive to the presence of continuing uncertainties. This is a book to meet the strong and growing demand for Britzman's work. It is a work of serious critique and hope. " — John Willinsky, University of British Columbia