Occasional Paper Series #45

The Times of Our Lives

by Deborah Britzman

I recall a remark Anna Freud once gave around the age of 85. She said there are two ages that are most challenging for the human and require the most strength: the times of early childhood and the times of old age (Sandler, with A. Freud, 1985). Within these bookends of life, Anna Freud exchanged the ideality of strength as might for that of care for vulnerability. Strength becomes the capacity for tolerating, as in living with bodily fragility, care, and dependency. Here, perception of time, or our feelings in time, are other to the function of time. It is, after all, no small act of courage to link together early and late time.

A few years ago, my mother’s 82-year-old friend Gigi told me that when you get to her age, everyone looks 20 years old. I suppose the opposite is also the case: by the age of six, everyone looks 80 years old. The idea I am exploring and the one that brings me to think with Jonathan Silin is that everyone has difficulty with narrating time because we are in the world of others. We can feel both young and old, and this brings to the telling of time an emotional situation of development as uneven (and as opposed to linear progression). It is here that the capacious writing of Jonathan Silin opens the pedagogical crypt and dusts off the erasures. How may we in education learn to know our own time? Silin might reply, Let’s posit the life of the mind as always in relation to the life of bodies with the lives of other bodies. Let’s welcome any body in illness and health, for this is the human condition.

About the Author

Deborah Britzman is the distinguished research professor at York University in Toronto, fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, holder of the York University Research Chair in Pedagogy and Psychosocial Transformation, and a working psychoanalyst. Author of nine books and over 100 articles, Britzman’s scholarly area of expertise is in psychoanalysis with education and the Freudian and Kleinian histories of psychoanalysis, both applied and clinical. Recent books include: Freud and Education with Routledge; Melanie Klein: Early Analysis, Play and the Question of Freedom with Springer Press; A Psychoanalysis in the Classroom: On the Human Condition in Education with SUNY Press; and Anticipating Education: Concepts for Imagining Pedagogy with Psychoanalysis with Myers Educational Press.

Deborah Britzman