Figuring Out Ineffable Education


  • Lynn Fendler Michigan State University


unspeakable, figurative language, rhetoric, ethics, intimacy, generosity


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.

Author Biography

Lynn Fendler, Michigan State University

Lynn Fendler is Associate Professor of Teacher Education at Michigan State University.

Her internationally oriented research explores what it means to be educated in particular historical and political contexts. She examines critical and genealogical relations among knowledge, reason, discipline, and power. Her recent interests include historiography, rhetoric, and philosophy of food.

See:[email protected]


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Invited papers