The Very Thought of Education

Psychoanalysis and the Impossible Professions

By Deborah P. Britzman

Subjects: Education, Educational Psychology, Philosophy Of Education, Psychoanalysis, Cultural Studies
Paperback : 9781438426464, 180 pages, January 2010
Hardcover : 9781438426457, 180 pages, June 2009

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents

1. The Very Thought
2. Uneven Development
3. Reading
4. Psychology
5. Countertransference
6. Transference People
7. The Impossible Professions

A startling reading of the educational enterprise through a psychoanalytic lens.


Winner of the 2009 Gary A. Olson Award presented by JAC - a journal of rhetoric, culture, and politics

For anyone who has ever been to school, the very thought of education recalls an emotional world denounced. What happens then if we try to understand the emotional scenery of education? Author Deborah P. Britzman proposes that the psychoanalysis of love and hate in learning provides creative commentary on our contemporary educational controversies. Drawing upon novels, art, psychoanalytic theory, clinical material, and philosophical debates on human nature, Britzman presents a psychoanalytic education of uncertainty. She focuses on key encounters: thinking, development, reading, psychology, transference, countertransference, and learning a profession. From the collapse of contemporary pedagogical themes to the work of reparation, Britzman explores the fantasies of education for the purpose of returning ideas of grace, hope, humor, and humility to the impossible professions (education, government, and medicine).

Deborah P. Britzman is Distinguished Research Professor at York University. She is the author of many books, including Practice Makes Practice: A Critical Study of Learning to Teach, Revised Edition and Lost Subjects, Contested Objects: Toward a Psychoanalytic Inquiry of Learning, both also published by SUNY Press.


"Bringing analytic complexity to the subject of doubt, [Britzman] offers interesting commentary on the university, early education, candidate learning." — CHOICE

"Britzman accomplishes something quite remarkable: with great dexterity, she uses education to find themes that span diagonally across what were once thought as disparate schools of psychoanalytic thought." — Teachers College Record