THE BRICOLEUR INTHE TENNIS COURT:
PEDAGOGY IN POSTMODERN CONTEXT

David L. Miller


This document may be too large for your printer buffer to handle. We suggest downloading this document to a disk if printing difficulties are encountered or e-mailing the author for a hard copy by clicking on his/her name.


Special Note: This document is best viewed in Netscape 2.0.


Prepositions are a problem. The ambiguity of these place-words is notorious. For example, the word "of" in the phrase "bag of peanuts" indicates possession and refers to the bag. But nothing of the sort is meant by the word "of" in the phrase "died of starvation" where the intention has to do with causality. The phrase "square root of a number" represents even a third meaning of "of." But none of these significations--objective or subjective, possessive or causal, genitive or ablative--indicates the prepositional problem that I want to address. In the case of these reflections it is a matter of diction. I refer to the little word "in" in my title. It may seem that there has been a mistake, a parapraxis of sorts, and that what is meant is "the bricoleur on the tennis court," since one is surely "on" and not "in" a tennis court. But in fact there is no mistake, whatever the seeming oddness.

Jacques-Louis David's pen-wash sketch from 1791, "Tennis Court Oath," shows the point (Plate 27). The artist has pictured a milling mob inside what looks something like a large hand-ball court. There are windows on the upper right and left through which people can watch what goes on below. In the foreground stand representatives of a triangle of faiths: the Protestant Rabut Saint-Étienne; the Capuchin Dom Gèrre, and the patriot Abbé Gregoiré, with a fourth figure, President Bailly, standing on a tailor's table. This is a tennis court down the street from Versailles. It is where the citizens gathered after being ousted from the palace and it is where they took an oath that would lead to revolution in France. They are in, not on, this tennis court. And it is this sort of tennis court that the word "bricoleur" implies.

The word "bricoleur" and its cognate "bricolage" come from bricole, a corruption of which is the English word "brickwall," like the brickwall of the tennis court in David's sketch. The root word means "redound" or "rebound." "Bricoleur," as Lévi-Strauss has said," is always used with references to some extraneous movement: a ball rebounding, a dog straying or a horse swerving from its direct course to avoid an obstacle. And in our own time the 'bricoleur' is still someone who works with his hands and uses devious means compared to those of a craftsman" (16), i.e., handyman or woman, gypsy, as opposed to specialist. A bricoleur is an ordinary person, like one of the citizens of the republic, not only in the French revolution, but also in a postmodern, postcybernetic revolution. A bricoleur does the best that she or he can do with what is at hand. If one cannot use the palace, a tennis court may do. The British term for this is "tinker," likely named for the tinkle of the pots and pans on the cart pushed down the street as this figure plied an unspecialized artistry.

The concept of the bricoleur frequents post-modern discourse. I have already mentioned Lévi-Strauss. After being faced with anomalies unexplained by his training, when doing field work with native South Americans, Lévi-Strauss wrote that "the characteristic feature of mythical thought is that it expresses itself by means of a heterogeneous repertoire. . . . It has nothing else at its disposal. Mythical thought is therefore a kind of intellectual 'bricolage.' . . . The bricoleur uses "the means at hand" (16).

The term did not remain only in the field of cultural anthropology. It redounded--itself a bit of bricolage--to other discourses: postmodern philosophy, theology, depth psychology, and literary theory. So, Jacques Derrida, writing about philosophy of language, said: "Every discourse is bricoleur" (1978: 285-86). Similarly, concerning literary theory, Gérard Genette wrote: "Language, especially the language of literary criticism is bricolage" (1965). James Hillman, in the Terry Lectures at Yale in 1975, invoked the notion of the bricoleur when arguing psychologically against the unconscious metaphysical and meta-psychological idea of a monolithic meaning of self. Hillman described the bounce of psychological bricolage in the experience of therapy or analysis in the following way: "Psychological reflections always catch light from a peculiar angle; they are annoying at the same time as they are perceptive" (164).

But why do I bring this up? In a book entitled Citizens, Simon Schama describes the event which David's eighteenth-century sketch pictures. Schama's account may make clear my purpose in invoking the thematic of the bricoleur in the current context. Schama writes: "Though it was Real--that is, Royal--Tennis that was played there, the naked, echoing court was the perfect opposite of the profusely decorated palace of Versailles from where they had come. There they had been in the realm of the monarchy, a place allowed to them. Here they were, as Rousseau intended, stripped down to elemental citizenship and brotherhood. There was nothing but their bodies, their voices bouncing off the pitched interior roofs from which tennis balls usually rebounded. A simple pine table was requisitioned from a next-door tailor, which served as the desk of the President, Bailly. Spectators crammed into the lower galleries and thrust their heads through the gallery windows. A performance was at hand. But what kind? They were improvising a nation" (359).

My fantasy is that our situation as contemporary teachers in the face of questions of value and teacherly moral responsibility is like David's picture and Schama's description. We are bodies and voices bouncing about, stripped to brother and sisterhood. Our professorial work is a performance. But what kind? We are, I believe, improvising education. We are bricoleurs.


Bricoleurs All

We may well have been made bricoleurs by a postmodern situation and context, i.e., the opening of and the pluralization of the canon, the canon of sciences and humanities, literature and history, sociology and psychology, not to mention the transformation of a text-based intellectual culture to one that is image-based. With the global diversification and cultural detextualization, we are all, willy nilly, always already bricoeurs in the bricolage, and we therefore have new moral responsibilities and postcolonial ethical intentions. Our dilemma now--or a piece of it--is how to stress value without stressing one group's value or canon with its potentially colonializing agenda.

When the canon is closed and reopened globally, there can be no specialities and no specialists. All those with former specialties in ideas become bricoleurs, tinkers, gypsies. The situation is analogous to Victor Turner's description of society's liminal figure. It used to be, Turner thought, that certain persons and roles were borderline, on the boundary or margin, and therefore liminal. The court jester or fool was such a one. But Turner is less sure about contemporary figures and roles. The boundaries are blurred. It may well be, at least psychologically, that today f everyone is liminal (Chap. 3). Former centers are peripheral; and things peripheral have become now central. Everywhere one stands, every periphery, is a new center. Remember William Butler Yeats' poem, Second Coming: "Turning and turning in the wideneing gyre, the falcon cannot hear the falconer; things fall apart, the center cannot hold, mere anarchy [or bricolage] is loosed upon the world" (91).

So, the problem is how now ethically to be a pedagogue, a teacher with moral responsibility.

1. The Culture of the Simulacrum.

A part of the postmodern context that creates bricoleurs, at least according to some, is the displacing of print by image as a primary medium of discourse. Gilles Deleuze, in The Logic of Sense, argues that after Nietzsche, if not already after Kant, thinking is located in a culture of simulacra. Language has an imaginal unconscious (as Derrida also argued, basing his notion of a philosophical metametaphorics on the work of Gaston Bachelard [1982: 207-57]). As Wittgenstein had said: "A picture (ein Bild) held us captive, and it lay in our language, and our language repeats it to us inexorably" (48, 48e). Imagoscription is upon us and it is now available to everyone in what Réne Huyghe already in 1960, in L'Art et l'âme, called the civilization of the image. We are in simcult. The world is itself a graphic interface with "icons" clicking us rather than we them. As Henry Corbin had noted, the world is mundus imaginalis, a medial imaginal cosmos, like Plato's metaxy, the realm of the phantasm. We are in a sort of Windows 95: an screen of images pointing to no-thing on either side but a so-called reality that is in fact virtual. William James had remarked that in the twentieth century the greatest discovery was the unconscious. Gilbert Durand has added that in the twenty-first century the greatest discovery will be the content of the unconscious: namely, images. Perhaps we are already there. From TV satellite dish, to computer terminal, laser holography, and imaging centers with diagnostic MRIs, as Andre Agassi says in a camera commercial: "Image is everything."

A postmodern theologian of culture, Mark C. Taylor (who not incidentally was honored by the Carnegie Foundation as the 1995 Teacher of the Year) has helped in his writings to bring to differentiated articulation the implications of a culture of simulacrae for teaching. In a book (Imagologies) that reports on values in teaching where classrooms in Finland and in Massachusetts are electronically linked, Taylor points out that cultural "imagology insists that the word is never simply a word but is always also an image" (styles). "The return of the figure disfigures the disfiguration of concepts by reinscribing the imago in the midst of the logos" (simcult) The audio-visual trace of the word involves an inescapable materiality that can be thought only if it is figured. The abiding question for conceptual reflection, according to Taylor, is: "How to (dis)figure the wor(l)d?"--a statement written in a manner so as to enable at least four possible readings (styles).

Others besides Taylor, and not only those in the study of religions, have mapped the contemporary hermeneutical task similarly. I have alluded already to the essay in which Derrida writes that "every abstrtact concept hides a sensible figure" (1982: 210). And I have mentioned, also, Wittgenstein and Bachelard. But there is also the important cultural and intellectual work of George Lakoff and J. A. T. Mitchell, both of whom have offered strategies of thinking and working in a world of semiotic simcult, a world in which, as Taylor has observed there is a fundamental irony. "A paradox of the imaginary." writes Taylor, is that "the proliferation of images is iconoclastic" (communicative practices). This is because of the infinite deferral of final definitive signification. Since closure is not possible, neither is idolatry or dogmatism or ideologism or colonialism. When these emerge, as indeed they do and will, they are defenses against the situation in which we find ourselves.

"Postmodern society is radically decentered and thoroughly disseminated. As a result of this dispersion, the machine of socio-cultural reproduction is no longer controlled by centralized agencies. Center and hierarchy give way to periphery and horizontality, creating a lateral expanse that extends endlessly in undefined directions. In the absence of centralized and hierarchical control, localized interventions in the structures of cultural reproduction and social production become not only entertainable but sometimes entertaining," or so hopes Taylor (simcult). "The imagologist does not trade in securities but trafficks in insecurities" (styles). "The play of [imaginal] surfaces exposes depth [and notions of depth, including those of the true, the good, and the beautiful] as another surface" (naivete, cf. superficiality, interstanding). So Taylor can quip: "Philosophy [and most traditional academic discourse] lacks the courage to to be superficial" (superficiality). "But the work is hypertext, if playful enough" (telewriting and styles).

The implication seems to be that we bricoleurs must have enough courage to be superficial. But this implies something about the nature of our new responsibilities.

2. Play without Why

As Taylor says: "Hypertext is a thinkertoy" (telewriting). Our thinkertoys are hypertexts. It is the word toy that I am noticing, as well as Taylor's use of the term "play." I believe that most teachers could agree with Taylor when he says that "based on the assumption that information is not knowledge and that knowledge is not understanding." For Taylor this implies that "the challenge of imagologies is to transform institutional technologies dedicated to the production of information that is non-knowledge into institutional technologies dedicated to the production of knowledge that advances understanding" (communicative practice). So, academic culture deals not only, and not principally, in information, in data-processing, but rather in the play of that information and data, the play of perspectives and ideas, the figuration of worlds in words that are always already figures.

Our de facto ethic is play. Indeed, play is the speciality of those who find themselves in a situation when there are no longer any specialities. Play is the ethic of the bricoleur.


Play: The Ethics of the Bricoleur

Many have taken note of this contemporary ethos. George Bataille, a culture-critic writing in The Tears of Eros, speaks of the excess of homo ludens in the images on the walls of the cave of Lascaux. These imaginings are both forbidding and transgressive; they represent both religious and mythological system of a hunting people and erotic playfulness and excess. To Bataille, they represent a way to escape the notion of sex as solely for the purpose of procreation.

Julia Kristeva, a post-Lacanian French feminist psychoanalyst, writes in her book, In the Beginning, about the experience of women in long-term analysis that occurs in the context of a male-dominate culture. There begins to be a discovery, she writes, that "the other is fleeing me." "What is more, this discovery reveals that I myself, at the deepest level of my wants and desires, am unsure, centerless and divided. This does not eliminate my capacities for commitment and trust, but makes them, literally and in no other way, playable (in the sense that a piece of music is playable)" (8). Ironically, a condition of play and the destabilization of centers motivate ethics in a way that seriousness and certainty can never have.

The Swiss Jungian analyst and former President of the Curatorium of the Jung Institute in Zürich, Adolf Güggenbuhl-Craig, concurs with Kristeva's revisionary Freudian point. In a book whose English title is, From the Wrong Side (German: Vom Guten des Bösen), Guggenbühl writes: "The paradoxical approach to psychology offers still more. It helps us to play in the most profound sense of the word. Aside from many other things, psychology is also play. . . . Psychology is play for the glory of the soul. We psychologists try playfully to comprehend the soul with images and fables. The paradox of the images reminds us continually that we are playing as if with a kaleidoscope. We shake or turn the images lightly, revealing ever new configurations" (130).

To be sure, Freud, Jung, Nietzsche and--even--Marx (not Groucho!) had already insisted that play be seen as central to life and meaning (e.g., Jung: para 93). And there are others in this lineage of a burgeoning fantasy of play. Two recent studies have tracked this the history of this idea: namely, Mihai Spariosu's Dionysus Reborn, and Tilman Küchler's Postmodern Gaming (from which two works all of the references in the next section are taken, unless otherwise noted).

1. The Cosmos of Play: From Kant to Heidegger

Sparisou and Küchler's argue that we are at the end of modernity and at the beginning of play. The spirit of play replaces the metaphysical desire to ground things in principles, to stabilize movement on the basis of laws, to neutralize ambiguity in the hermeneutic move toward the constitution of meaning, and to reduce the multiplicity of phenomenon to the One instance that is common to all. As Hegel put it: "Play is the noblest and only true seriousness." But this insight begins in modern times before Hegel; it begins with Kant.

Kant. The concept of play--which for Kant is not a concept, but is an anti-concept, because it resists all attempts to conceptualizaton--belongs to the realm of judgment, just as understanding belongs to the realm of the cognitive faulty, and reason belongs to the faculty of desire. Because judment is the realm of pleasure and pain, this is where play belongs. Aeshetic judgment shares with play a purposiveness without purpose (Zweckmässigheit ohne Zweck) and a disinterestedness (Interesselosigkeit). Art is the play-realm par excellence, because art embodies the as-if of simulation, i.e., self-conscious illusion (bewusste Selbsttäuschguung). This observation of Kant's will later give rise to Coleridge's notion of the willing suspension of disbelief. But Kant still wants to distinguish the as-if of reason and the as-if of play (like Plato against the Sophists).

Schiller. In The Aesthetic Education of Man (1795)--under the immediate impact of Kant, but also of the French revolution--Schiller challenges Kant's reticence. Schiller doubts that there is such a thing as Kant's mere play. Ironically Schiller cites Plato, the very person whose argument Kant's seems to replicate: The human is the plaything of the gods, and, as such, human reason is constituted by play as is the aesthetic impulse. Schiller says: "Man only plays when he is in the fullest sense of the word a human being, and he is only human when he plays." This includes thinking and so represents a metaphysica ludens which will undergird Romantic idealistic aesthetics philosophically and which will lead to to the modernism of Nietzsche.

Nietzsche. In Ecce homo, Nietzsche wrote: "I know of no other manner of dealing with great tasks than as play; this, as a sign of greatness, is an essential prerequitiste." Nietzsches sounds like Schiller in this saying, but the connection is, not to Platonism, but to the pre- Socratism of Heraclitus, who said: "Time is a child playing (pais padizon), moving pieces on a game board: the Kingdom belongs to the child." It will be noted that there is a resonance here with Jesus' saying: "Truly I say to you, unless you receive the Kingdom of God as a little child, you shall not enter it" (Mk. 10:15, cf. Miller 1970).

Heidegger. In an early essay on the poet Friederich Hölderlin, Heidegger noted that poetry appears in the modest guise of play, but it is hardly a harmless game. The poetic art looks like a game, but it is play in a difference sense. Later (in "The Origin of the Art Work"), play is explained as that space or realm (Spielraum) which makes possible in an art-work the integration of what Heidegger calls the fourfold: earth, sky, world, gods. Rainer Maria Rilke names the site of this juxtaposition an unerhörte Mitte, "an unheard center," an invisible midst, which gathers all beings in the play of risk or adventure (das Spiel des Wagnisses) and which is the eternal playmate (ewige Mitspielerin) in the world-play of Being (Weltspiel des Seins). Heidgger calls this play-function of mirror-play (Spiegel-Spiel) the fourfold of Being. It is the Schwingungsbereich, the realm of oscillation. In a late work, Heidegger is prone to say that there is not a being of play but a play of being, i.e., that play is the fundamental term. We play because we play . . . without reason. This is a long way from Kant; in fact, it reverses Kant. But Kant represents the beginning of this play.

Many will follow in postmodernity: I have mentioned Bataille, but there are also Eugen Fink, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Jean-Francois Lyotard, Jean Baudrillard, and Jacques Derrida. In all of them, in spite of their differences, two themes emerge: the play that is being petitioned is a play of differences, and it is a play without a player. Spiel ohne spieler (Fink); alles Spielen ist ein Gespieltwerden (Gadamer); jeu de la difference (Deleuze); jeu de la différance (Derrida).

Such is the tesimony. But what is the point? the implication? Four things, I think, and even once wrote (1969: 139-56).

2. Four Qualities of an Ethos of Play

I take the following four marks to be implicates of an ethos of play.

a. Aisthêsis (or nonseriousness marks a profound seriousness). By aesthetic I mean, mainly, the surplus and mixing of the excess of senses. Two examples may suffice. The first is from the play, Fantasticks, which opened in New York in 1960 and is still playing. At one point, the narrator, El Gallo, attempts to help the audience toward an aesthetic way of experiencing. He says:

" . . . try to see it:
Not with your eyes, for they are wise;
But see it with your ears:
The cool green breathing of the leaves,
And hear it with the inside of your hand:
The soundless sound of shadows flicking light.
Celebrate sensation (28).

A second and similar instance is to be found in Joyce Cary's novel, The Horse's Mouth, when the artist/anti-hero, Gulley Jimson, is explaining to his mistress, whom he affectionately calls his "whore," how to look at one of his paintings, one which, not unlike Renoir's canvas of a woman after her bath, pictures a nude with a bowl, towel, chair, etc. Jimson says: "I'll show you how to look at a picture, Cokey. Don't look at it. Feel it with your eye . . . . First you feel the shapes in the flat--the patterns, like a carpet. . . . Then you feel it in the round. . . . Not as if it were a picture of anyone. But a coloured and raised map. You feel all the rounds, the smooths, the sharp edges, the flats and the hollows, the lights and shades, the cools and warms. The colours and textures. There's hundreds of little differences all fitting in together. . . . Then you feel the bath, the chair, the towel, the carpet, the bed, the jug, the window, the fields and the woman as themselves. But not as any old jug and woman. But the jug of jugs and the women of women. You feel jugs are like that and you never knew it before. Jugs and chairs can be very expressive. . . . It means a jug can be a door if you open it. And a word of imaginations opens it for you. . . . I'm trying to teach you a big happiness" (98- 99). Indeed, . . . a pedagogical happiness, too.

b. Poiêsis (or fiction marks profound truth). This second qualitative mark of play has to do with way already has been referred to as the play of the as-if. Martin Heidegger, in Being and Time, referred to all knowing as being constituted by "as-structures." I know whatever I know "as" something. About what it is ultimately, I must remain epistemological humble. Ortega y Gassett and his disciple, Julián Marías, spoke not of walking across a street but of walking across a metaphor (49). The world is imaginal--so far as one can know. Our English word "fiction," from fingere, which means "to point" (as in English "finger"), has no opposite. So when The New York Times wants to talk about books other than those of fiction it says "non-fiction," an invented category (i.e., a fiction), one that has not yet been affected by Kant, let alone Heidegger.

The second-third century Christian writer, Origen of Alexandria, had a bit of trouble with a pagan critic who did not understand this poetic point about as-structures. Celsus had criticized Origen's allegorical readings of the Bible as being fanciful and not attending enough to the literal and the historical. Origen responded that he examined each word for its plenitude of meanings, for its world of images, for its pleroma of signification. Then he read the text all of the ways. It was he, not Celsus, Origen argued, that took seriously the letterals of the words, the literal. The so-called literal, historical reading of Celsus was only one of the meanings possible, and his narrowing of the text in fact is giving a fanciful interpretation, i.e., the fundamentalist fancy of the reader. It is the literalist who violates the text by not seeing its poetry, that which it fingers, that to which is points; whereas the poetic reading is in fact the one that has regard for the plurisignification of the actual literal text (140).

c. Metamorphosis (or change marks a profound stability). This third implicate of play's ethos came to beautiful expression in a work by Norman O. Brown of some years ago. Let me bring back a few segments from that book, Love's Body.

"Meaning is in the play , or interplay, of light. As in schizophrenia, all things lose their boundaries, become iridescent with many-colored significances. No things, but an iridescence, a rainbow effect. Am farbigen Abglanz haben wir das Leben. As indirect reflection; or refraction; broken light, enigma.
"No things, but an iridescence in the void. Meaning is a continuous creation, out of nothing and returning to nothingness. If it is not evanescent it is not alive. Everything is symbolic, is transitory; is unstable. The consolidation of meaning makes idols; established meanings have turned to stone.
"Meaning is not in things but in between; in the iridescence, the interplay; in the interconnections; at the intersections, at the corssroads. Meaning is transitional as it is transitory; in the puns or bridges, the correspondence.
"In the iridescence is flux, is fusion, subverting the boundaries between things; all things flow" (246-47).
This, I believe, is a view from the playground of being, from the playground of being a teacher today, where all things are playing out their own destinies. Panta rhei, said Heraclitus. "Everything changes." Or as the Chinese classic, I Ching, put it: "Change, that is the unchangeable."

d. Therapeia (or purposelessness marks a profound purpose). When I say that I think that one quality of an ethos of play is a therapeutic function, I mean the word in its ancient sense rather than in the connnotation given the word by a mental health culture. Therapeia meant "tending," "waiting upon," "taking note of." In Plato's dialogue, Euthyphro, the word is used to refer to religious piety and, in that context, it means waiting upon the gods. "Waiting upon" has the same connotation anciently as it does now in regard to service-persons in restaurants. A good wait- person does not wait "for" a tip, but waits "upon" the table and "upon" the desires of those dining. The wait-person tends and takes note and--in Heidegger's word, appropriated from the mystics--"lets be" (Gelassenheit).

With this value and quality, behavior and meaning becomes Leben ohne warum, a phrase from Angelius Silesius that shows the way to the problematic of our theme of moral responsibility. The phrase from the Christian mystic is: "A rose is whithout why." Angelus Silesius writes: "The rose is without why; she blooms because she blooms; she pays herself no heed, asks not if one can see her." For our purposes, this indicates a pedagogical ethics without why, like the mystic "rose" (54). e. e. cummings has a short poem that expresses the same notion:

when god decided to invent
everything he took one
breath bigger than a circus tent
and everything began

when man determined to destroy
himself he picked the was
of shall and finding only why
smashed it into because (404).

The was, the should, the why, and the because are the killers. They kill the play that is, like the rose, without why. They kill a potential avenue to a postcolonial, postmodern pedagogical morality and ethos. But there is a problem just at this point, just at the end.


Conclusion: Give it its Play

There may seem an implicit should and why, if not a because in my remarks. There may seem a recommendation that we should play. If it seems so, then there is an irony. If the should is felt, then it is not yet the point of the ethics of the bricoleur. Let me tell you a story.

In 1969, I had written a book on play entitled Gods and Games: Toward a Theology of Play. It included a brief commentary on the philosophical analysis of the notion of play by the Heidelberg philosopher, Hans-Georg Gadamer.

Not long after the book's publication, Gadamer came to be a visiting professor at Syracuse University where I was teaching. Every Thursday afternoon, after his seminar on Aristotle, he and I would go to a local country club bar to drink German beer and to talk. I knew that he had read my book, and it is not difficult to imagine my growing anxiety when week after week went by without him saying a word to me about it.

Finally, after many weeks--what seemed an eternity to a young professor in the thrall of a wise mentor--he turned to the topic of my book. I was full of fear and trepidation, as it turned out that well I should have been. He said: "Professor Miller, you almost got the point!" I was crushed! What was wrong? It did little good for him to aver that it was not entirely my fault. "English," he explained, "has a doublet for the idea: play, the verb, and game, the noun, are different words in English, whereas German says it with one and the same word, ein Spiel spielen, as does French, jouer un jeu." So, he explained to me that I had wrongly thought that play has something to do with fun and games. "Very American!" he said in a way that was not at all reassuring.

So what was the point of play? Gadamer asked me if I rode a bicycle. I said that I did. Then he asked me about the front wheel, the axle, and the nuts. He remarked that I probably knew that it was important not to tighten the nuts too tightly, else the wheel could not turn. "It has to have some play!" he announced pedagogically and a little exultantly, I thought. And then he added, " . . . and not too much play, or the wheel with fall off." "You know," he said, "Spielraum."

So that was it: it is not a matter of games (which are the domain of specialists and not of bricoleurs). It is rather a matter of what we, in English, call "leeway." "Lee" is the sheltered side of any object, so it is the side of a ship that is turned away from the wind. The point is to have som leeway, some play, as in a bicycle wheel, a little space, some distance, Gelassenheit: education and teaching without why.

The anecdote of my missing my own point leads us back to the beginning of these remarks: to the problem of the preposition and to why the problem for the postmodern bricoleur is the preposition. The real problem of the preposition is not the matter of the case (objective or subjective); it is not even a matter of "in" or "on." Rather, it is a matter of leeway. It has to do with placement, as prepositions do, but in a different sense.

We think we are on the tennis court of teaching where we try our best to determine our new pedagigcal responsibilities in the face of an imaginal culture and global bricolage, playing the game to win as best we can; but what if it turns out that we are not on, but in the tennis court of postmodern teaching, bouncing off the walls, always and already. We are ourselves bricolage, as well as bricoleurs. The point to give ourselves some leeway. Topos. Some space. Spacing. So that we may let education happen. Gelassenheit.

Perhaps such a perspective could release us from the fantasy that the play of bricoleur is in the ability to be clever, to figure pedagogical things out, things like values. Rather than thinkers, we could be tinkers: being loose, loosed, spaced out. Play it out, as in fishing, give the students enough line,. We don't hook them. We don't even let them hook themselves. We show them how thy have hooked themselves already. How they are always already hooked. And us, too, to be sure.

Things are not playful, of course. I know that. I know that life and its world are not fun; that they are difficult, impossible, tragic, etc. Like the Buddha said: "All life is suffering." But there is always some play in it. Not ha-ha; not game. But space, leeway, Spielraum. We could focus on the play, taking notice of play in the curriciulum, in student relations, in presentation, in administration. Above all, we could sense the play in everyone's words about everything, in language, in image, in the imagery of words and language. This noticing can help the wheel turn. And this turning is a revolution.

As the anecdote about Gadamer shows, it is not so much playing, as constantly being alert to where the play is, i.e., to note where the play is. Taking note. Waching for the play. Expecting the gaps, the lee-ways. Seeing aesthetically, poetically, metamorphically, and therapeutically.

To be sure, there is a a revolution going on, like the French one, and in such times, as the French found out, we could lose pedagogical our heads, especially if we attempt to be kingly or imperialistic. Former imperialisms of life and mind and morality are finished. Bricolage bounces off the academic walls, just like in that tennis court down the street in Versailles. There are new modes of imagination in a world of mutually exclusive and equally valid global standpoints. So too there are new responsibilities. Like those citizens who swore a tennis court oath, we are now improvising a nation in the life (or lives) of the pedagogical mind (or minds).

Perhaps this is what John Ashberry had in mind when he wrote the poem called "Tennis Court Oath," alluding to the very tennis court that I referred to at the beginning:

"your fears were justified..."
[about the new moral responsibilities in the face of a plural global context that is detextualized]
"the blood shifted you know those walls . . ."
[the tennis court in which, by virtue of the shift, we bricoleurs find ourselves]
"there was no turning back . . ."
[indeed we are like it or no in the culture of the simulacrum]
"darkness in the hole

the patient finished

They could all go home now the hole was dark

lilacs blowing across his face glad he brought you"

[Well, I'm sorry about the darkness, but I am indeed finished, like the patient in the poem, and you, like they, can go. All I have been trying to do was to show the potentially playful lilacs blowing across the faces of all of us postmodern bricoleurs, yes, even glad in a pedagogical revolution opened by a new virtual web of networked globalism]


Sources

Ashbery, John. The tennis court oath. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1962.

Bataille, George. The tears of eros. Tr. P. Connor. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1989.

Brown, Norman O. Love's body. New York: Random Hous, 1966.

Cary, Joyce. The horse's mouth. New York: Harper and Row, 1965.

Cummings, E. E. Poems 1923-1954. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1954.

David, Jacques-Louis. Jacques-Louis David. Paris: Les Éditions G. van Oest, 1930.

Deleuze, Gilles. The logic of sense. Trs. M. Lester and C. Stivale. New York: Columbia University Press, 1990.

Derrida, Jacques. Writing and difference. Tr. A. Bass. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978. Margins of philosophy. Tr. A. Bass. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982.

Durand, Gilbert. "Exploration de l'imaginal," Colloque international "science et conscience," 1-5 October 1979, Cordoba, papers.

Genette, Gérard. "Structuralisme et critique littéraire," L'arc 26, 1965.

Guggenbûhl-Craig, Adolf. From the wrong side. Tr. G. Hartman. Woodstock: Spring Publications, 1995.

Hillman, James. Revisioning psychology. New York: Harper and Row, 1975.

Jones, Tom and Schmidt, H. The fantasticks. New York: Drama Book Shop, 1964.

Jung, C. G. Collected works, vol. 6. Tr. H. G. Baynes and R. F. C. Hull. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1971.

Kristeva, Julia. In the beginning was love: psychoanalysis and faith. Tr. A. Goldhammer. New York: Columbia University Press, 1987.

Kûchler, Tilman. Postmodern gaming. New York: Peter Lang, 1994.

Lakoff, G. and Johnson, M. Metaphors we live by. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980.

Lévi-Strauss, Claude. The savage mind. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1966.

Mariás, Julían. "Philosophic truth and the metaphoric system," Eds. S. T. Hopper and D. L. Miller, Interpretation: the poetry of meaning. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, Inc., 1967.

Miller, David L. Gods and games: toward a theology of play. New York: World Publishing Co., 1969. "The kingdom of play," Union seminary quarterly review, 25/3: 343ff., 1970.

Mitchell, J. A. T. Picture theory. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.

Origen of Alexandria. Hom. in Ier. 50.2.2, in: Patricia Cox, "Origen and the witch of Endor," Anglican theological review, 66/2: 140, 146n23, 1984.

Schama, Simon. Citizens: a chronicle of the French revolution. New York: Knopf, 1989.

Silesius, Angelus. The cherubinic wanderer. Tr. M. Shrady. New York: Paulist Press, 1986.

Spariosu, Mihai. Dionysus reborn. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989.

Taylor, Mark C. and Saarinen, Esa. Imagologies. New York: Routledge, 1994. (Reference is by chapter name with page reference superscript.)

Turner, Victor. The ritual process: structure and anti-structure. Chicago: Aldine Publishing Co., 1969.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Philosophical investigations. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1958.

Yeats, William Butler. Selected poems and two plays. Ed. E. L. Rosenthal. New York: Collier Books, 1966.


Copyright David L. Miller

FAX: (315) 443-5390


Talk to the Conference Participants


Questions and comments may be directed to the Conference Convenor, Alvin G. Burstein or individual authors by clicking on his/her name.

HOME


This page has been accessed times.

Last updated: June 6, 1996