Issue n° 40


Moral chronicle : Echo and Narcissus : poetry and impasse in the speaker, Philippe Arnaud (EHESS)

According to Philippe Arnaud, the myth of Narcissus, linked to that of the nymph Echo, helps us to understand, at once the impossibility of all communication, and in going beyond this, its possibility. Let us consider again; on the one hand, silent fascination and, on the other, meaningless repetition; silence and the word, desire and distance, intensification and constant flux of images. Now, it is in this game of seeming true and false, of exposition and retreat, that the ‘other’ may assume form and existence. The myth teaches us that speech can only be based on a desire that hides in the very movement that gives it expression but which in unceasing new beginnings reinvents itself anew.

Notion : « Science-(fictions) », Alain Vergnioux (Caen University)

The author analyses three domains in which established scientific knowledge and (partly) fictional constructions crisscross in terms of their discourse according to very different modalities. These go from science fiction novels to theoretical and epistemological reflexions. The status of science as a process of elaboration, and that of the knowledge to which it leads, become uncertain. Must they be reduced to the register of ‘narrative’? What more does science fiction teach us about humankind and the world than science itself? Should the presence in the world of scientific knowledge inevitably be connected to its expression in the form of myth?

Report: Myths in education

Presentation, Laurence Gavarini and Dominique Ottavi

Myth and the otherness of childhood, Dominique Ottavi (Paris X University)

Is not the ‘natural’ suitability of the story for childhood based on some prejudices where ideas of primitivism, imagination and uncivilised thought are intermingled? The article proposes to clarify this relationship, starting by distinguishing between the notions of story, myth, legend and fable and by a critical examination of the positions of Van Gennep and Frazer. D. Ottavi reviews the modern interpretations of the story from the point of view of its educational value (Bettelheim, Belmont) or in a more profound way its capacity to represent the real. She shows that in their transcription from oral to written versions the strong heritage focus of stories (Grimm, Perrault) and their use with children go hand in hand. According to the modern interpretation children are considered the depositories of an archaic, mythical knowledge. By attributing to stories their first role in the control of feelings, children thus become the first targets. But here too, Freud likeWittgenstein, shows that truth must be sought in the ‘unsettling strangeness’ of the story, the experience of limits and the encounter with certain deep forms of terror.

Myths and utopias, Anne-Marie Drouin-Hans (University of Bourgogne)

After re-defining the notions of utopia and myth, the author analyses and evaluates the educational dimension of these two types of narrative. The classical utopia narratives describe ideal societies as rational and internally transparent and which incorporate models of education to enable them to continue surviving. Even if is a question of fictional narratives, utopias offer plausible situations and allow for the testing of possible forms of social constructions through ideas. The term myth has more varied use. In Plato the myth represents the presentation in symbolic form of an abstract issue. Based on this model, A-M. Drouin-Hans explores three examples of myths of origin (Genesis, Popul Vuh and that of the Banquet on the origin of love). The rhetorical forms used serve a purpose of providing a foundation of exposition and explanation. In a broader way utopian narratives and myths combine in the hermeneutic aim of interpreting the real.

Logos, Mythos and Metis ways of knowing and relationship in respect of language, Marilia Amorim (Paris VIII University)

Firstly the author comments on the polysemy of names in Homer’s Odyssey, Ulysses « of a thousand tricks », Circe « the twister », to disclose two poles in the construction of sense in the discourse, that of stability as opposed to variation of sense. On this basis, she defines three kinds of knowledge: demonstrative knowledge (logos), narrative knowledge (myth) that of actions and trickery (metis). This echoes the activity of teaching and the role of the sophists in the Greek cities of antiquity. She emphasises the link between this activity and the exercise of democracy and political formation.

The myth of modern education in the 21st century : Makarenko’s contribution, Antoine Savoye (Paris VIII University)

The occupation of teacher has generated a number of professional myths associated in general with the figures of « great teachers ». This article proposes to study the case of Makarenko, and the forms of mythification of which he was the object, on the part of educational zealots and of committed university teachers. This reciprocal legitimisation, for the former in the form of redemption through exemplary and edifying narratives, for the latter in emphasising ’emancipatory’ teachniques, child-centredness and educatability. All conspire to reinforce the general myth of « modern education » through the elimination of contexts and actual agents. This is cross-cultural myth that can ‘consort’ without contradiction with the theses of Neill and Monterssori. Antoine Savoye then shows in a more precise way how the pedagogic myth was initially internal to the USSR and then constructed by Makarenko himself to be promoted as a model at the level of the State. Then he studies its reception and dissemination in France where it had support from the Communist Party in the 1950s, committed intellectuals and pedagogic movements (Cemea, Gfen). Though badly integrated into the field of progressive education in France, Makarenko is always invoked, in particular when his work is envisaged as a « solution » to the schooling of « difficult » young people.

The state of the orphan and her/his pedagogic shadow: the myth of the « wild child », Léandro de Lajonquière (Sao Paulo University)

This paper examines the so-called medico-moral treatment to which Doctor Jean-Marc-Gaspard Itard subjected a boy named Victor, also known as the wild boy of Aveyron (l’enfant sauvage de l’Aveyron) at the beginning of the 19th century. The aim is to question the persistence hitherto of the interest in this pedagogic experience, the ideology prevailing at the time which made it possible, as well as the singular personal implication of the doctor-teacher in this enterprise. The paper focuses especially, and in the light of the distinction dear to psychoanalysis between identification and imitation, on the content of the psycholinguistic ideas and on Itard’s mode of address to the boy. The conclusion is that he did not hesitate embodying a promethean desire for methodical fabrication of humankind, thus perverting the dialectic of demand and desire and showing what must not be done in a child’s education.

Is the father a myth ?, Martine Ménès (Paris VIII University)

Of what is ‘father’ the name? Does the term denote a myth? Martine Ménès answers this question in successive stages and offers a close analysis of Freudian and Lacanian prespectives. But firstly she gives extensive consideration to Greek tragedies, to the myth of Œdipus and to its different expression in antiquity. She especially recalls the structural positions of Pelos, Labadakos, Laïos et Chrisippus in the elaboration of the paternal fable. This is followed by a presentation of the analyses made by Freud in Totem and Taboo, Moses and Monotheism and their recasting by Lacan in the name of the father. This is what is named by synthome and the language.

Analysis amd reading of « Il nous manque une culture, Réflexions sur l’enseignement hébraïque », by Emmanuel Levinas, Denis Poizat (Lyon II University)

There is no doubt that Emmanuel Levinas could not avoid questions concerning the communication of knowledge and education in his courses in philosophy. But his responsibilities for thirty-four years as Director of l’Ecole Normale Israélite Orientale could not but reinforce further reflections on education, as many texts bear witness. In this article D. Poizat presents and provides a commentary on « Il nous manque une culture ». E. Levinas attempts to reply to a question that Ben Gurion asked him in 1953 on the failure of Jewish education. For Levinas, the reason for this failure is due to the fact that education can only be sustained where supported by a culture within a lived tradition, rooted in a ‘country’. This, however, is not enough, as other texts show. Education must be able to base itself upon and be expressed through knowledge of texts (The Torah) and through re-reading and constant commentary on them. Education must be based on a philosophy that draws together univeralism, the contradictory exercise of reason and attention to the other.