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ERIC Number: EJ879557
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 11
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 9
ISSN: ISSN-0882-4843
What Might We Learn from Heartache? Loss, Loneliness, and Pedagogy
Hurst, Rachel Alpha Johnston
Feminist Teacher: A Journal of the Practices, Theories, and Scholarship of Feminist Teaching, v20 n1 p31-41 2009
This essay traverses back and forth across the institutionally-imposed boundary between storytelling and critical reflection to explore how the author's thinking about feminist pedagogical praxis has been irrevocably altered by the experience of losing a parent as well as facilitating mutual support groups for young adults whose parents or siblings have died. The author is documenting a piece of her growth as a learning teacher over the 2006-2007 academic year. She has taught first-year university students in a tutorial setting for the past five years as a master of arts student at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, and as a PhD candidate at York University in Toronto, Ontario. Her undergraduate and graduate degrees are all in women's studies, and she has taught within her home discipline, Social Science and Fine Arts Cultural Studies. She begins by spinning a yarn that twists together the loss of her father, teaching first year students, and facilitating a mutual support group for the first time. She reflects upon how people carry their loss histories with them into the classroom: this loss could be death, but it is more multifarious than that. This is loss in its broadest sense. Loss amplifies the effects people feel when they are perceived in cliched and discriminatory ways, so it is fundamental to acknowledge its presence in the classroom. Finally, the author concludes by discussing the transformative impact that her facilitating and teaching have had upon each other, and upon how she lives with, and invites warmly though sorrowfully, the loss and grief of herself and others whenever she is capable of doing so. Denying the existence of loss bars an opportunity that one has to recognize and work with the loneliness engendered by learning and death. This reflection has taken the author all the way back to the almost impossible-to-write final paper about loneliness and education for the first course she took during her PhD coursework, the same semester that her father was diagnosed with cancer for the second and final time. This essay returns to Deborah Britzman's pedagogy and psychoanalytic theory course at York University, which marked a pivotal moment in the author's academic career and in her life. This course made her think deeply about the links between loss, loneliness, and education and over the past four years compelled her to critically reevaluate and eventually give up some of the theories she had been working with in response to learning about psychoanalytic insights into gender.
University of Illinois Press. 1325 South Oak Street, Champaign, IL 61820-6903. Tel: 217-244-0626; Fax: 217-244-8082; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Canada