Britzman -The Return of "The Question Child": Reading Ma Vie en Rose through Melanie Klein

The Return of "The Question Child": Reading Ma Vie en Rose through Melanie Klein1 

by Deborah P. Britzman

York University


The Archive


Sometimes, a curious figure is let out of the psychoanalytic archive.2  Pontalis (1981:95) calls this Unheimlich

creature, "the question child," and he makes this metaphor from his reading of Melanie Klein's (1921) very first

and very strange report on analyzing her five-year-old son as she was also trying to carry out what, at the time,

was called "a psychoanalytic education."  Before moving to the substance of this metaphor, however, a brief

comment is useful as to the place this paper holds in the history of the psychoanalytic archive, indeed what this

paper inaugurated for psychoanalytic practice and its theory and for education.  There are, after all, other

question children, perhaps the most famous-- the first-- was a chagrined Freud's (1909) case study of "Little

Hans."3  Yet Klein took this metaphor to startling claims; her report affected the psychoanalytic archive in a way

that Little Hans-- even as he asked the same questions of his parents-- could not.  Whereas "Little Hans" seemed to justify the import of psychoanalytic theory, particularly on the strange history of the deferred action of infantile anxiety, Klein's case study opened new and deeply contested views for psychoanalytic theory.


Today, Klein's study "The Development of a Child" makes for strange reading.  The writing is difficult to follow and run on sentences lose their objects.  It is actually composed of two different papers written two years apart.  Part one, written in 1919, was her qualifying paper for admission to the Budapest Psychoanalytic Society.  It may represent Mrs. Klein's very first attempt at reporting on a child analysis, and perhaps proffering another justification for its relevancy to the child.  There, her faith in psychoanalytic education and its goal of sexual enlightenment is staunch.  And yet, in part two of the paper, written a few years later, she discards this faith and disputes her early insistence on the usefulness of a prophylactic psychoanalysis.  The faith in education and so, in the Enlightenment-- for Aufklärung-- that education was thought to represent, becomes ambivalent.

Looking backward, this report also initiates a paper war by way of her longstanding arguments with Anna Freud.4   Over the course of their lifetime Melanie Klein and Anna Freud would disagree on the status of how to interpret the fight between reality and phantasy in child analysis.  Anna Freud (1928) felt that if phantasy was the topic of the psychoanalytic dialogue, the analyst should, by way of education, move the child closer to the work of reality testing.  In the beginning, Klein agreed.  But by 1923, Klein had deep misgivings as to what the analyst should be interpreting.  Throughout their long careers, these founders of child psychoanalysis argued over the place of education in the psychoanalytic dialogue with children.  When "The Development of a Child" was reprinted in Klein's (1975) collected work, it contained a footnote added in 1947 that further disclaimed her early optimism on the role of education in psychoanalysis.  There, she attributed her faith to what was "necessarily in keeping with my psycho-analytic knowledge at that time."  She may be intimating that the archive does not age well and that in our return to it, we must still interpret the status of its knowledge, then and now.  The paper is also strange because Klein is analyzing her own son-- an acceptable practice at the time-- although this fact is disguised in her write-up of the case study.  Her child Erich becomes the paper boy "Fritz" and Mrs. Klein then refers to herself in the third person.  While Klein describes her early work as "upbringing with analytic features," in retrospect this paper also represents the beginning of Klein's psychoanalytic play technique, where interpreting the child's phantasies and anxieties take precedence over any educational attempts.  Indeed, in this early case study, one can glimpse Klein's beginning struggle to listen analytically, to interpret not the literal questions asked by the child but the ones left unasked.  Thus the metaphor of the "question child" becomes rich in possibilities, allowing the question of unconscious phantasy its depth, and its surprising and insistent force.

So Mrs. Klein began a psychoanalytic education with her son with the idea of enlightening him in what she called, "sexual matters."  By answering any of his questions with honesty, she thought she could help him avoid the future of neurotic tendencies and also, "deprive sexuality at once of its mystery and of a great part of its danger" (1-2).  But her son had already signaled his distress; there already was, in Klein's view, a certain inhibition of his curiosity.  Originally Klein interpreted Fritz's clinging to superstition, to the fantasy figure of "the Easter Bunny," and likewise, to an absolute faith that his wishes can be granted, to the idea that he had stopped thinking.  Indeed, Fritz did not want his wishes and theories tested by the knowledge of the adult: he did not want to be enlightened.  But neither did he want to wait for experience to become history.

Things get rather absurd.  At one point, the five-year-old Fritz believes he is a gourmet cook, can speak French fluently, and can fix any object that is broken.  While Mrs. Klein explains patiently that he does not yet know how to do any of these things-- that he must learn-- Fritz replies calmly: "If I am shown how just once, I can do it quite well"(3).  He holds tightly to this great refrain; it is his last word.  Something about having to learn is being skipped over and Klein places what is missed under the ominous heading, "The child's resistance to enlightenment."  It is possible, I think, to wonder what precisely is being resisted, given the fact that other divisions of this early paper gather Fritz's struggle under the grand theme of existence.  That is, Fritz wonders about the nature of reality and its judgments, the qualities of time, history, and memory, the definitions of his rights and powers, the future of his wishes and hopes, the meaning of birth and death, and whether there is a God.

These are exquisite problems and they take us to the dreamy realm of trying to symbolize our encounter with both reality and phantasy.  And if Fritz is now sounding a bit like the philosopher Kant, trying to know things- in-themselves and all the while bumping up against his own subjectivity, his questions force Mrs. Klein to move as close as she ever would to confronting her own wishes for enlightenment.  And from this confrontation there emerges the figure of the question child.  Was Fritz interested in trying to distinguish between his phantasies and his reality?  What can knowledge even mean in this divide?  Why did he cling so tightly to his own explanations for how the world should work?  Perhaps Fritz was collapsing the two spheres and this was holding him back.  Although Klein begins to think about infantile omnipotence-- a mode of obdurate thought that even if buried by having to grow up, is still preserved by way of our wishes for learning and existence-- she is also on the way to her own education as an analyst and perhaps as a mother.  How strange, then, that a case study that leads her away from educating her son returns her to a confrontation with her own education: not enlightenment but the (unconscious) nature of existence as such.

Let us suppose that Klein's beginning approach, one that she first called "psychoanalytic education," is not beyond our own archive, the contemporary child-centered pedagogy.  There, the child's curiosity determines the curriculum, the teacher proffers knowledge for the child's use, the knowledge is the discovery of how things work, and adult intervention follows on the heels of the child's preoccupations and so, lends a hand to their alteration.  It is not so much that these educational goals are unworthy; although they are easily derailed by all that exceeds the literal, namely our resistence to what else curiosity signals.  When this orientation to how knowledge is made organizes psychoanalytic education, adult efforts to guide the child foreclose the adult's notice of the work of the unconscious.  Where does anyone's curiosity come from and what stops it short? If something strange happens to Klein on the way to her education-- if, quickly put, she met "a question child"-- something difficult also happens to education.

Klein had difficulty figuring out the nature of curiosity-- where it comes from, what it represents, how it loosens itself from its object and so, what it means to urge this facility.  These questions also animated something new about her own curiosity; Mrs. Klein discovered, along with the child's resistence to enlightenment, her own resistence to what else the child asks.  We are entering the psychoanalytic field of transference: the exchange of unconscious wishes, the displacement of our first love onto figures of authority, the transposition of symbolic equivalences of old and repressed conflicts onto the understanding of new situations.  Significantly, Freud (1912) writes of transference as a dynamic and as a relation and he links its indelible signature to permitting investigation.   In trying to know something new, our psychic archive is opened.  The transference, Freud writes, emerges from "a compromise between the demands of [the resistance] and those of the work of investigation" (103).  Something within the very work of investigation resists and animates its own demands.  And in psychoanalysis, this resistence may symbolize a paradox: there is mystery to sexuality and knowledge cannot take this away.  But there is also mystery to knowledge because we have sexuality.  It is here, that our elusive education flutters and flounders.

Reading that first study, one may be struck by the unanswerable qualities of Fritz's questions and perhaps wonder what work these questions tried to accomplish.  Indeed, Mrs. Klein's exasperated replies to her son suggest she was caught in this mystery as well.  Fritz asks: "How do eyes stay in?" "How does a person's skin come on him?" Then, there is a future question: "When will I be a Mama?"5  Yet even if Klein tried to answer (and shortly, we will learn the strange discussions her attempts made) her son refused to believe her.  And Mrs. Klein came to believe that proffering proof was not the criteria for establishing a convincing reality.  Reality would have to pass through the resistence and the investigation.  This child's questions defied both the adult's imagination and conventional notions of time.  After all, how would you answer the worry, where was I before I was born?  Or even, when will the boy become a Mama? Each question resembled a photographic negative.  The particular qualities of the questions he tried to ask-- such as how do I keep together?  What will happen to me because I am me?  And, how am I like you?--  can be gently grouped under the sign of existence as such.  The unconscious question may be: What can I make because I was made?  Until this strange and familiar set of worries could be witnessed, both Mrs. Klein and her son were caught in the glare of Enlightenment.  The more the child asked, and the more the mother answered, the more anxious, repetitive, and stereotyped became their discourse.  The very psychoanalytic education meant to open curiosity became, for both the mother and child, something like an intellectual inhibition.

Listen to the conversation between Melanie Klein and her son on the topic of how babies are made.  Klein offered these explanations in the child's language as a way to help her son leave behind his theory that children are made from milk.  And yet, the child's language is rather ingenious in that it can sustain his first theories.  After all, milk does have something to do with it.

When I begin once more about the little egg, he interrupts me, 'I know that.'  I continue, ' Papa can make something with his wiwi that really looks rather like milk and it is called seed; he makes it like doing wiwi only not so much.   Mama's wiwi is different to papa's' (he interrupts)  "I know that!'  I say, 'Mama's wiwi is like a hole.  If papa puts his wiwi into mama's wiwi and makes the seed there, then the seed runs in deeper into her body and when it meets with one of the little eggs that are inside mama, then that little egg begins to grow and becomes a child.'  Fritz listened with great interest and said, 'I would so much like to see how a child is made inside like that.'  I explain that this is impossible until he is big because it can't be done till then but that then he will do it himself.  'But then I would like to do it to mama.' 'That can't be, mama can't be your wife for she is the wife of your papa, and then papa would have no wife.'  'But we could both do it to her.'  I say, 'No, that can't be.  Every man has only one wife.  When you are big your mama will be old.". . . .Your mamma will always love you but she can't be your wife.' . . . .At the end he said, 'But I would just once like to see how the child gets in and out.' (34)

There are some lovely moments of deja vu in all of this confusion of time and timing, but also poignancy when Mrs. Klein notices how sad and lonely her explanations made him.  More so, there is that odd trail of Fritz's confidence: the "I know that!" and his wish that if he can just be shown once he could do it himself.  These utterances also punctuate and hold in abeyance his mother's appeal.  Klein places this conversation under the sign: "The child's resistence to enlightenment."  The grammar of resistence moves back and forth: mother's knowledge depends upon her son's acceptance of the future perfect.  When Fritz becomes an adult, he can do these things.  But the promise of time is insufficient to the urgency of the present tense and to the deferred action of the past perfect of the child's logic.  There is also the passion between mother and son, a mystery of vulnerability that frays the edges of this language.

Indeed, the vulnerability of mother and child resides in and is carried by language.  Even if the adult uses the same words as the child, the adult may well be assuming what Michael Balint (1992: 14) calls, "the Oedipal level of language," where "the analyst's interpretations are experienced as interpretations by the patient."  Fritz, we must recall, refuses interpretation by claiming "I know that."  So, too, does Mrs. Klein in that her answers attempt to install by way of knowledge the reality that eludes Fritz. Balint is interested precisely in where the language is used to miss the other.  He suggests that, at times, the analyst's interpretation cannot be received by the analysand as interpretation. Instead, the analyst's language is felt as if the analyst is chastising, warning, and persecuting the analysand.  This, too, is part of the transference: the psychical conflict carried by language is felt before understanding.  The Oedipal level of language is where difference is mutually assumed, where, even if language may not be quite adequate it can gradually become accepted as a way to construct one's understanding of affective states not easily accompanied by words.  Balint compares the Oedipal level of language-- our facility and interest in the problem of interpretation and difference-- to what comes before it: a terrible literalness, a collapse between the thing and that which tries to represent it. This is a literalness that Klein (1930: 220) would call "symbolic equation," where the symbol is reality.  The problem is that there is, what Ferenczi (1933) noted, "a confusion of tongues" between the adult and the child.  The adult's language cannot gesture toward itself as an interpretation, indeed as a construction.  And so, language is received as if can impose reality.  Klein eventually would understand that there can be no witnessing of the question child if the adult resorts to premature explanations, defend conventionality, or wishes to enlighten.

One can say that where there is language, there is defense against language. This trajectory- a question is asked, an answer offered, and then, feigned ignorance clouds over any attempt a dialogue- is close to how Freud (1900) described the Kettle defense in his Dream book.  There, a man borrows a kettle from his neighbor and returns it in damaged condition.  "The defendent asserted first, that he had given it back undamaged; secondly, that the kettle had a hole in it when he borrowed it, and thirdly, that he had never borrowed a kettle from his neighbor at all.  So much the better: if only a single one of these three lines of defence were to be accepted as valid, the man would have to be acquitted " (Freud 1900:120).  Look at Fritz's defense: your answer is damaged, I never asked that question, I already knew that, anyway.  Alice Pitt's (2001: 99) discussion of the kettle joke, raises a key paradox in educational relations:  "For speech to function as revelation, something happens that is completely new and unforseen; revelation transforms the ego."  If the question is to transform, it must also influence the very nature of the response.  Melanie Klein eventually understood that the question child transforms the adult's knowledge and so, too, her ego and its capacity for working through.  The question child questions the adult's desire and, there is no alibi for our desires.

Originally, Klein put great faith in the value of psychoanalytic education to cure ignorance and perhaps, even, the mistakes of existence.  And, she felt rational persuasion could work to change her son's mind, that she could talk him out of his theories, and so solve for him the mysteries of sexuality.  But as she witnessed her son's questions, she began to realize a certain repetition in what he asked and in how she answered.  We are back to encountering the problem of existence.  Asks Fritz: "Where was I before I was born? . . . How is a person made? . . . . What is a papa needed for? . . . . What is a mama needed for?" (3).  The more Klein explained, the less the child thought.  And Klein observed: "That a certain 'pain', an unwillingness to accept (against which his desire for truth was struggling) was the determining factor in his frequent repetition of the question" (4).  Where there is existence, there is a certain pain, an ambivalence.  Fritz's questions all began with asking, "how was I made, where did I come from?"  The questions, Klein came to suspect, were also an unconscious plea to a history not quite formulated: "What can I make from how I was made?"  To listen to the unconscious question meant, for Klein, turning from reality adjustment, politely called "enlightenment," and to move as close as one could to the analysis of phantasies.  Answering her son's questions with her own conventional truths gave way to interpreting the questions along two lines: along the lines of defense and the unconscious wishes of both the child and the mother.

What then are the qualities of the question child?  First, the question child's questions transport difficult knowledge.  Against all odds, the question child is capable of bizarre thoughts, of returning to the adults the curious resistence of their own Oedipal language. The question unnerves adult knowledge, touches her anxiety and perhaps her impulse to offer the kettle defense.  In Adam Phillip's (1998:40) view, to meet what is unexpected requires turning to, "something of value: an attentiveness to the irregular, to the oddity, the unpredictability of what each person makes of what he is given- the singularity born of each person's distinctive history." We are back to the question of existence: what can I make because I was made?  "It is not a matter of indifference to our freedom," writes Richard Cohen in his discussion of ethics in our own time, "that we are born and not caused, and that of necessity we have parents" (22).  Our freedom is inexplicably tied to the other even as each of us feels the singularity of that tie.

Our question child returns the adult to her own prescriptions and anxieties, maybe even to her own parents.  In this exchange, all sorts of things can go wrong or right.  The question child offers the adult an unusual reality test: to use the child's question to find the truth of the adult's existence. The question child tests the adult's reality by way of questioning the adult's knowledge and its proximity to phantasy.  If all goes well, to paraphrase Pitt, speech can function as revelation, indeed as the beginnings of ever new ways to interpret the fact of existence. What Klein noticed as "a certain pain," an unwillingness to accept truth and a desire for truth all at the same time, animates desire.  The particular truth at stake is, after all, how each of us comes to understand our unpredictable singularity in relation to the other's unpredictable singularity.  The particular and necessary mistake, and this brings us back to the question of omnipotence, is that "The ego mistakes itself for me." (Green 200, 19).  If we can call this sort of truth, "existence as such," it must, after all come with a warning, even as it telegraphs what Klein saw as "a particular pain."  Any attempt to settle its meaning can end up sounding a bit like the Kettle defense.  Yes, things get absurd, language loses its object, there is what Ferenczi witnessed as "a confusion of tongues." But also, delight can be made.

The Moving Picture 

If in the archive time stands still, then go to the movies.  There, too, one will meet a question child and her family.  The film, Ma Vie En Rose, (translated as "My Life in Pink" or maybe "My Good Life") stars another question child who wonders continually, "what is the nature of my existence for me?"  And then, "What does this nature have to do with recognition and mis-recognition?"  The opening scene tells the whole story in miniature: a seven-year-old boy has carefully and quite beautifully dressed himself up as if he was a girl and he wants others to see him.  The film seems to be asking the viewers, how will you watch this story unfold, as you also watch the characters unfold, as you witness the history of your own learning unfold?  What is the nature of education here?

Our seven-year-old Ludovic has an urgent question: "Am I a boy or girl?"  Then, his next question is a sort of reply: "when will I become a girl?"  He tells his mother what he believes will happen because he falls in love with Jerome:  "He's going to marry me when I am not a boy."  Does love transform the ego? Later, Ludovic tries to predict the future by way of referencing what history has discarded; he elaborates a theory of sex from his sister's biology lesson of X and Y chromosomes. In this offer of enlightenment, biology is destiny, not interpretation.  To this she adds an authority: a school textbook.  The confusion of tongues makes for a strange encounter because Ludovic still wonders, what are the chances of chromosomes?  Are they like dice thrown in one's way? Ludovic gambles with this lesson when he tells Jerome, after demonstrating his enjoyment of urinating while sitting on the toilet: "I'm a girlboy. My X for the girl fell into the trash. It was a scientific mistake."  Through no fault of his own, Ludovic must wait for his lost chromosome to find its way home.  If nature can get lost, he seems to say, it is only Science that is mistaken.

For a while, Ludovic's parents are caught in the kettle defense.  They slowly move to their wit's end: neighbors are beginning to talk and to shun the family.  The neighbors seem to blame the parents for not being in control, for allowing Ludovic's identifications, and for having Ludovic in the first place!  It is not until the mother catches Ludovic wearing his underpants backward that she calls on a psychologist, with Father and Ludovic in tow. The psychologist asks the parents: "Did you want a boy or a girl?"  And there was a moment in the psychologist's office where the parents' confronted their confusion of desire with an unasked question:  " What does the parent's unconscious wish mean for the child?"  What do parents want?  The question has too much force and their reply is a confusion of tongues.  How is the parent's unconscious desire returned by way of what the child loves? In a second scene, the psychologist suggests the parents wait and see and allow Ludovic to decide if he wants to come back to her office.  Her suggestion is subtle: defer any answer to allow for Ludovic's elaboration of his question.  Let him have time to make a history before he must worry about making a history.

Ludovic's grandmother, who refuses to grow old, tells the family, "I think we should let him live out his phantasy."  And why not?  After all, everyone else in the motion picture is doing just that; some live out their phantasies of persecution, others, like the captivating dolls, Pam and Ben, are magical and neurotic.  Listen to the words of Pam's song that Father and Ludovic belts out: "I long to be happy, its like a neurosis!"  The family does try the grandmother's advice but only as failed aversion therapy.  They go to a party with Ludovic in party dress and explain to the neighbors:  "We're letting him enact his phantasy so it becomes banal."  But of course, the banality resides in the cruel thoughtlessness of others.  Ludovic, after all, is always thinking.

Ludovic is suspended from school because of a parent petition and the principal's answer, "His tastes are too eccentric for this school." The neighbors flee as well; the father loses his job, someone sprays paints on the family garage the warning: "Bent boys get out" and our question child asks, "Why do bent boys have to go out?" His mother's answer repeats the logic of the threat: "Bent means boys who like other boys." Then, the mother cuts Ludovic's long hair.  Many other events occur and the parents seem to take turns with their breakdowns.  And yet the film does inch toward new possibilities: Ludovic and his parents are left with their questions.  The future of Ludovic, how he will learn to live, what strategies he will make, and how others greet him, must wait for another film although in this moving picture, the future can hardly wait.  If, for many adults, the future has already arrived by way of their anxiety over the presence of Ludovic, there is still Ludovic's exquisite question: what becomes of this history?

The Question of History

What then is the time of history? "As far as psychoanalysis is concerned," writes the analyst André Green (2000:2) in a lecture on experience and thinking, "the historical is a very difficult notion to handle."  The reason for this difficulty has to do with what history is for the psyche and that in psychoanalytic views there are competing realities.  Green's definition summarizes some of what Melanie Klein and maybe the adults who surrounded Ludovic tried to encounter.  At least in the psyche, history is experienced as a strange combination of "what has happened, what has not happened, what could have happened, what happened to someone else but not to me, what could not have happened, and. . . a statement that one would not have even dreamed of as a representation of what really happened" (2-3).  In Green's dreamy account, it is difficult to separate once and for all the experience of an event and our hopes and disappointments.  These libidinal choices are dazzling and at times, persecuting, in their reach.  They suggest another view of what Melanie Klein thought of as "a certain pain" where one both wants and does not want one's truth.  In that other place, conventional time is displaced; in its stead there is a curious calculous of the question I have been calling, existence as such.  It is this calculous, again, what Phillips calls "an attentiveness to the irregular. . .of what each person makes of what he is given" that also seems to animate a great deal of confusion in the world. Ludovic's parents are worried about how Ludovic lives and what will become his future.  Perhaps they wish to spare him ostracism, the pain of living difference in so many directions.  Perhaps they feel failure in not being able to understand or influence his desire, and maybe even a certain mourning for losing what they would want for their child.  But there is no enlightenment for Ludovic; he is as stubborn as his paper predecessor, Fritz and so resistant not to what Melanie Klein first called "the dangers and mysteries of sexuality" but rather to the idea he has to choose a history before it can even be attempted.  It seems to me that Ludovic wants to be recognized as he recognizes himself.  And he may reply, "I know that!" as easily as his paper predecessors, Fritz and Little Hans.

If history is so complicated, if it is that knot made between the mixup of reality and phantasy, there is also, in psychoanalysis, something utterly simple about it.  Around the time that Melanie Klein was completing the second part of her case study on Fritz, Sigmund Freud returned to his " Little Hans" to add a postscript.  Freud first reported the case in 1909.  In 1922, a nineteen-year-old "Little Hans" found Freud again, to say he had read his case study but hardly recognized himself.  Nor could he remember anything about his intellectual inhibition and sexual researches, even if he also told Freud that when he read "Little Hans," he wondered if Freud was describing his five-year-old self.  What exactly did the teenage Hans remember? Freud wrote: "So the analysis had not preserved the events from amnesia, but had been overtaken by amnesia itself" (148-149).  Except that there was something Hans remembered and his memory was stirred when he returned to a town he once visited as a child and associated that town with Freud.

This postscript brought together two pieces of history: First, Freud used this occasion to remind his readers that when Little Hans was first published, it caused social indignation; many blamed psychoanalysis for robbing the child of innocence and for speaking about the child's curiosity and theories of sexuality.  The public had feared the future and felt psychoanalysis, in digging up the past, ruined what would come later.  But there was Hans, all grown up and quite all right.

The second bit of history referenced by Freud is paradoxical.  We have history because we have forgetting.  And the way we forget is close to what Freud called, "sleeping."  The postscript concludes: "Anyone familiar with psychoanalysis may occasionally experience something similar in sleep.  He will be woken up by a dream, and will decide to analyze it then and there; he will then go to sleep again feeling quite satisfied with the results of his efforts; and the next morning dream and analysis will alike be forgotten" (149).  How strange, then, to meet a question child and confront not the child but the history of a question.  Perhaps we should revise Green's last description of history for the psyche.  There, Green wrote, ". . . a statement that one would not have even dreamed of as a representation of what really happened."  Here, we can write "a statement we dream and then forget."  Still, there is the question of existence offered by way of archive and moving picture: what happened to me without my noticing?


Balint, Michael. The Basic Fault: Therapeutic Aspects of Regression. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1992.

Britzman, Deborah P. After Education: Anna Freud, Melanie Klein and Psychoanalytic Histories of Learning . State University of New York Press, Albany, In Press.

Cohen, Richard. Ethics, Exegesis and Philosophy: Interpretation after Levinas. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Ferenczi, Sandor. "Confusion of Tongues between Adults and the child: The Language of Tenderness and Passion (1933)." Contemporary Psychoanalysis 24, 2 (April 1988): 196-206.

Freud, Anna. "The Theory of Child Analysis (1928[1927])." In The Writings of Anna Freud, Vol 1, 1922-1935. New York: International Universities Press, 1975.

Freud, Sigmund. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Ed and trans. James Strachey. In collaboration with Anna Freud. Assisted by Alix Strachey and Alan Tyson. 24 vols. London: Hogarth Press and The Institute of Psychoanalysis, 1953-1974.

-----. The Interpretation of Dreams, 2nd part 1900. SE 5.

-----. "Analysis of a phobia in a five-year-old boy (1909)." SE X, 3-149.

-----. "The Dynamics of Transference (1912)." SE XII, 97-108.

Green, André. "Experience and Thinking." In André Green at the Squiggle Foundation, edited by Jan Abram. 1-15. London: Karnac Books, 2000.

----- . "Object(s) and subject." In André Green at the Squiggle Foundation, edited by Jan Abram. 17-38. London: Karnac Books, 2000.

Klein, Melanie. "The Development of a Child (1921)." In Love, Guilt and Reparation and Other works 1921-1945. pp. 1-53. Delacorte Press/Seymour Lawrence, 1975.

-----. "The Importance of Symbol-Formation in the development of the ego (1930)." In Love, Guilt and Reparation and Other Works, pp. 219-232.

Phillips, Adam. The Beast in the Nursery: On Curiosity and Other Appetites. NY: Pantheon Books, 1998.

Pitt, Alice. "The Dreamwork of autobiography: Felman, Freud and Lacan." In Kathleen Weiler, ed. Feminist Engagements: Reading, Resisting, and Revisioning Male Theorists in Education and Cultural Studies. Pp. 89-108. NY: Routledge, 2001.

Pontalis, J.-B. Frontiers in Psychoanalysis: Between the Dream and Psychic Pain. Trans. Catherine Cullen and Philip Cullen. NY; International U.P, 1981.

Robertson, Judith P. and Keon, Nadene. "'The Question Child' and Passing on Inter-generational Tales of Trauma: A Conversation with Elaine Kalman Naves". Canadian Children's Literature 95, Vol. 25:3 (1999): 29-49.

1 A shorter version of this paper was originally given at the Reconstructing Early Childhood Education Conference, Bank Street College, New York, New York on October 3, 2001. Research for this paper was supported by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada under the title, "Difficult Knowledge in Teaching and Learning: A Psychoanalytic Inquiry," Grant # 410-98-1028. The views expressed here do not represent the Council. I also want to thank Jonathan Silin for the invitation to participate on this panel.

2 While over the course of the paper I will be citing a number of analysts who use the figure of the question child to open the stakes of the psychoanalytic dialogue, I also want to note the very interesting use of this figure in Roberston and Keon (1999). There, the question child is curious about family history, specifically, the family survival of the Holocaust. The child's questions unnerve the adult: "When the nightmare has actually touched the lives of family members and inscribed its haunting melody of pain on survivors, questions of how to answer the powerful demands of young family members "to know" becomes even more entangled and confused" (30).

3Freud's "Analysis of a Phobia in a Five-Year-Old-Boy (1909)" is also a strange account in that Freud did not actually see the boy, except on a single occasion.  The case study is comprised of Hans' father's letters to and consultations with Freud. Thus Freud wrote it in two parts: a description and then, an analysis. Little Hans was, at the time, aware of his father's consultations with Freud. The figure of "Professor Freud," is a part of the father and son discussions. Hans used this figure as a way to signal his own psychoanalytic thoughts.  For example, Hans' father wrote: "On May 1st Hans came to me at lunch-time and said: "D'you know what? Let's write something down for the Professor." (97) Hans wanted his father to record a phantasy.

4 I trace these very interesting arguments in my forthcoming book, After Education: Anna Freud, Melanie Klein and Psychoanalytic Histories of Learning to be published by The State University New York Press, Albany.

5 Mrs. Klein paraphrases most of these questions. The original phrasing of them can be found on pages 8-9 in "Development."

Deborah P. Britzman is Professor of Education and currently is serving as the Graduate Program Director of Social and Political Thought at York University (2001-2004). Her research interests are in psychoanalysis and education. She is author of Lost Subjects, Contested Objects: Toward a Psychoanalytic Inquiry of Learning (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998), and the soon to be published book, After Education: Anna Freud, Melanie Klein and Psychoanalytic Histories (Albany: State University of New York Press, In Press). Britzman also has a book series at SUNY Press titled, "Second Thoughts: New Theoretical Formations" which is an interdisciplinary book series that focus on rethinking persistent social dilemmas, debates, controversies, with new terms. She may be contacted at: