Figuring Out Ineffable Education

Lynn Fendler


Using devices from classical rhetoric, this essay draws a distinction between representational language and figurative language. That distinction is extended as an analogy for thinking about education, outlining the possibility that figurative education might be something other than representational education. Representational language and figurative language establish two different constellations of power relations between knowledge and people, and two different conceptual horizons for imagining what education might mean. Capitalizing on the epistemological fallout that occurs when representational language shifts to figurative language, this essay tries to come to terms with the differences between representational education and figurative education in order to imagine other ways of being educated. It concludes by gesturing toward ineffable values of ethics, intimacy, and generosity.


unspeakable; figurative language; rhetoric; ethics; intimacy; generosity

Full Text:



Aristotle. Rhetoric. Online version compiled by Lee Honeycutt. Available:

Bingham, C. & Biesta, G.J-J. with Jacques Rancière (2010). Jacques Rancière: Education, truth, emancipation. London/New York: Continuum.

Foucault, M. (2011). The courage of truth: Lectures at the Collège De France, 1983-1984. G. Burchell (Trans.). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Hawhee, D. (2002). Bodily pedagogies: Rhetoric, athletics, and the Sophists' three Rs. College English, 65(2), 142-162.

Perloff, M. (1996). Wittgenstein's ladder: Poetic language and the strangeness of the ordinary. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Rancière, J. (1991). The ignorant schoolmaster: Five lessons in intellectual emancipation. K. Ross (Trans.). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Rancière, J. (2006). The Politics of aesthetics. London: Continuum.

Wittgenstein, L. (1977). Vermischte Bemerkungen. Berlin: Suhrkamp.

Zembylas, M. & Fendler, L. (2007). Reframing emotion in education through lenses of parrhesia and care of the self. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 26(4), 319-333. to be different...

Other Education works in association with the following partners:

and is sponsored by the silence and mindfulness App Calm Me Down

Please see copyright notice at the end of each published work for specifics.

ISSN: 2049-2162 © Other Business Ltd, 2012-2017. Other Education™ is a not-for-profit trading entity of Other Business Ltd whose registered office is: Bernard Rogers Accounting, Bank Gallery, High Street, Kenilworth. Registered in England: 08567212