Bildung, Currere and the Task of Remebrance

Presentation given as a part of the EDCP 2014-2015 Seminar Series, “International Perspectives in Curriculum and Pedagogy” hosted by William E. Doll Jr., Donna Trueit and William Pinar.

Bildung, Currere and the Task of Remeberance from Norm Friesen on Vimeo.

ABSTRACT: Franz Kafka opens his intimate “Letter to his Father” by admitting that he simply cannot come to terms with his own upbringing –“because… the magnitude of the matter goes far beyond the scope of …memory and understanding.” Nonetheless, the method of currere –like other autobiographical methods– encourages educators to undertake “a subjective reconstruction of academic knowledge and lived experience.” Kafka’s concerns are used, perhaps paradoxically, to frame a similar educational “task of remembrance” by German scholar Klaus Mollenhauer. This presentation explores Mollenhauer’s understandings of Bildung and remembrance with the hope of opening up a space of dialogue between Continental and North American educational thought.

Posted in Bildung, History, Klaus Mollenhauer, Pädagogik, Presentation, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Herbart on Pedagogical Tact

In 1802, J.F. Herbart (1776-1841) gave a brilliant lecture on pedagogical tact, which provides many insights that remain relevant today. Here’s a 1898 translation of Herbart’s lecture, provided courtesy of Google Books.

See the whole PowerPoint presentation, which situates Herbart’s discussion of tact in the context of the broader relationship between phenomenology and pedagogy.

Posted in Bildung, Pädagogik, Phenomenology, Presentation | 1 Comment

Expression of the Hands (Ausdruck der Hände)

In this 1997 documentary, director and narrator Harun Farocki offers what might be called a phenomenology of the hand in cinema. The phenomenon in question, of course, is the expressive power and possibilities of the hands in film. In this sense, it can be seen as similar to the phenomenological studies of poetry and literature, such as those of Bachelard or Ingarden, rather than a study of a lived experience per se.

Expressions of Hands (Ausdruck der Hände) 1997 from Norm Friesen on Vimeo.

As a phenomenologist should, Farocki reveals a depth and complexity in his subject matter that is surprising, even evocative of wonder. E.g.:

“Film loves to show the pianist’s hand as much as a hand holding a gun.”

“The fist close-ups in the history of film were of the face; the next featured human hands. Often, hands are supposed to betray something hidden in the expression of the face. For example, the hand might tightly hold onto a glass, while the face appears calm.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hiedegger – the Magus of Messkirch

A 1989 documentary about Martin Heidegger, born and raised a Roman Catholic in Messkirch, Baden-Württemberg. An excellent video with well-translated English subtitles. In a number of interview fragments included here, Heidegger explains his thinking with atypical simplicity and clarity. His speech also might be seen to illustrate the rhythm and pacing of his thinking or “philosophizing.” The piece probes some of the more complex and controversial aspects of Heidegger’s thought and life. Unfortunately, given the date of its release, it does not reflect the deep implication, both in thought and action, with National Socialism that has been revealed more recently.

The Magician of Messkirch- Martin Heidegger (Rudiger Safranski, 1989) from Norm Friesen on Vimeo.

Personal note: This video beings by showing a debate between H.G. Gadamer, Jacques Derrida (right) and Jean-Luc Nancy (left) that I attended in Heidelberg back in the day. Sadly, history has shown Gadamer’s insistence on Heidegger’s “shameful silence” in the face of Nazi atrocities to be false.

Posted in Martin Heidegger, Phenomenology | Leave a comment

Old Literacies and the “New” Literacy Studies: Revisiting Reading and Writing

Video “abstract” and paper that recently appeared in the open, online journal

This paper traces a discontinuous and material history of “schooling,” writing and its technologies, rather than one that would be continuous and etymological or cultural in focus (i.e. going back, say, to Medieval Europe or ancient Greece).

The results, I think, are rather astonishing: Material and communicative practices that we associate with traditional schooling (e.g., frontal instruction, recitation, complex instructional sequences) reappear not over centuries but millenia.

This has significant implications for notions of school, (multi-)literacies and ways that literacy overall is understood. In addition to presenting examples from the discontinuous, material history of inscriptive practice (and its reproduction), this paper focuses on these consequences.    

Download a PDF of the complete paper.

Posted in Media Theory | Leave a comment

McLuhan's 1960 Report on Project in Understanding New Media

Untitled-1This two-volume text was commissioned by the National Association of Educational Broadcasters. In the opening paragraph, McLuhan refers to it as “Project 69,” and memorably explains its purpose as follows:

Project 69 in Understanding Media proposed to provide an approach to media and a syllabus for teaching the nature and effects of media in secondary schools. A new tactic was used, namely to consider not so much the constituents nor the “content” of media, as their effects. I therefore raise the question at once: “Why have the effects of media, whether speech, writing, photography or radio, been overlooked by social observers through the past 3500 years of the Western world?”

In the cryptic note at the top right (on p. 2), McLuhan writes to Harley Parker, with whom he later co-authored Through the Vanishing Point: Space in Poetry and Painting (1968) and Counterblast (1969). Parker also appears with McLuhan in the 28 min 1969 film Picnic in Space, directed by Bruce Bacon.

This text reflects McLuhan’s then-coalescing thought as it relates to both education and to multiple media forms; and the text serves as relatively direct and clearly-written precursor for the 1964 Understanding Media.

The full text of this report is available as a 7.5 Mb PDF file.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New Doc. Course: Phenomenological Research & Writing


Here’s the description: What is the experience of a conversation via Skype or Facetime? What are the experiences of absence or divided attention that technologies of “presence” bring to our everyday lives? The purpose of this course is to give a “hands-on” introduction to the methods involved in the research of the nature and meaning of such lived experiences. Based largely on the work of Max van Manen and Bernhard Waldenfels –but also relying on texts by Heidegger, Gadamer and Merleau-Ponty– it focuses on the practices of writing and analysis that are a part of hermeneutic phenomenological research. Students will learn about and apply hermeneutic phenomenology as it relates to doctoral research projects, particularly in connection with education, technology & new media.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Visiting Prof @ UBC Vancouver

UBC Faculty Card

I’ve taken up an appointment as a Visiting Professor at UBC for the 2014-2015 academic year. (I’ll still be available at my Boise State email.)

At the same time, I’ve transferred some domain names (e.g.,, to new servers, and have started to use UBC’s blogging and wiki server (thanks to Brian Lamb!). I apologize for any interruptions in access during this time.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Heidegger's Anti-Semitic Theory of Technology & Modernity

Heidegger in 1933 newspaperI’ve been working  on a text discussing (briefly) the latest Heidegger “scandal” (one of many in recent years). One strange thing is that some of his more outrageous remarks that link his anti-semitic racism with the core concepts of his theory of modernity and technology (or his entire Seinsgeschichte) do not seem to have appeared in English coverage. Here’s some of the characteristics or terms he ascribes to “World Jewery” (his term):

  • Weltlosigkeit literally “worldlessness,” something that Heidegger (and his student Gadamer) attribute elsewhere to animals
  • Machenschaft, variously translated as “machination” or “manipulative domination” (Guardian)
  • die zähe Geschicklichkeit des Rechnens und Schiebens; something like  “tenacious destiny of calculation and writing”
  • Machtsteigerung, an expansion of power, that…
  • in turn is connected to a Sichbreitmachen einer sonst leeren Rationalität und Rechenfähigkeit: a proliferation of an otherwise empty rationality and calculability.
  • And finally, a Bodenlosigkeit [die] alles sich dienstbar macht, a groundlessness or soil-lessness that instrumentalizes or “puts” everything “into its service.”

The text discussing this is available as a .pdf:



Posted in Critical Theory | Leave a comment

Translating arte Documentary on the Frankfurt School

I’ve been working on subtitles for translating this fantastic documentary on the Frankfurt School from the French/German cultural channel, ARTE. Saw it originally in Zurich;I think this copy is from YouTube.

The Frankfurt School: “Whoever thinks is not enraged” from Norm Friesen on Vimeo.

So far, I’m 1/2 way done, with the rough results below (audio synching and some subtitles still need finessing).  The original title of the documentary is “Wer denkt is nicht Wuetend” (Whoever who thinks is not enraged), a shortened quote from Adorno:

What once was thought cogently must be thought elsewhere, by others: this confidence accompanies even the most solitary and powerless thought. Whoever thinks is not enraged in all his critique: thinking has sublimated the rage.

Posted in Critical Theory | Leave a comment