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Teaching the Ethics of Narcissism

Emile Bojesen
Wednesday, March 11, 2020, 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm

In my recently published book, Forms of Education, I develop an argument based on the importance of different types of narcissism to educational relations. Beginning with Freud, but then returning to Ovid, as well as the myth that inspired him, and then working through readings of narcissism developed by Maurice Blanchot, Jacques Derrrida, Phillipe Lacoue-Labarthe, and Pleshette DeArmitt, I move towards outlining the significance for education of DeArmitt’s notion of the ‘narcissism of the other’. In this lecture, I will outline this context and extend these thoughts in the direction of Leo Bersani’s ‘impersonal narcissism’, which he seeks to recover through a reading of Plato’s Symposium and Phaedrus; taking seriously what relationship this might have with, if only in its distinction from, his reflection that, ‘In teaching, a certain type of group-work can be done, which might slowly disseminate into a fairly significant part of society. It would be a matter of how modes of connectedness subtly change within society.’ I will conclude by considering whether these contemporary readings of narcissism, especially DeArmitt’s and Bersani’s are less descriptive evaluations of aspects of the psychic economy, than they are pedagogical ventures towards the development of an ethics of narcissism.


Emile Bojesen is a Reader in Education and Head of Research and Knowledge Exchange for the Faculty of Education at the University of Winchester. He is co-editor of the new Risking Education imprint for Punctum Books and has published widely in the field of educational and philosophical thought, including a recent monograph, Forms of Education: Rethinking Educational Experience Against and Outside the Humanist Legacy (Routledge, 2020), and in journals such as Philosophy Today, Angelaki, Educational Philosophy and Theory, Studies in Philosophy and Education, Journal of Philosophy of Education, Pedagogy, Culture and Society, and Ethics and Education,. He is currently editing a special issue of Studies in Philosophy and Education on the topic of ‘Derrida and Education Today’.