Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

William F. Pinar


The purpose of this study was to reconsider what has historically been called "Romantic" in American education. What I discovered was the ubiquity of organicism--an organicism which, when applied to education, promises to heal divisions with connection and integration. A reading of Romanticism as organicism is a traditional interpretation which fails to acknowledge the revisionist work of critics like de Man, Hartman, Bloom, and McFarland, who regard the Romantic recognition of language and self-consciousness as providing alienation, not unity. However, education continues to regard the Romantics as organicists and to provide organic remedies, such as the organic reforms proposed in the work of John Dewey, Harold Rugg, Caroline Pratt, Paul Goodman, Ivan Illich, and John Willinsky. These educators adopt mechanistic metaphors in describing traditions they wish to see replaced and organic metaphors in urging their proposals for integration and connection. In chapters four and five, I focus on organic theories of writing and reading suggested by Dewey's aesthetics and by Willinsky's theories of language arts. Emerson's influence on American education is pervasive, but educators read him in a traditional way--as an organicist--disregarding his recognition of language and self-consciousness as creating the division between humankind and nature. This organicist interpretation of Emerson has especially dominated the process rhetoric endorsed by Willinsky. Regarding language and the imagination as implements of mediation, both Dewey and Willinsky assume a symbolic theory of language, and they argue, metaphysically, that reading and writing result in communication and shared meaning. Assuming an autonomous, centered subject, they see writing and reading as vehicles for connecting self with self and self with a community of others. In chapter five I propose an interpretive model inspired by Shoshana Felman's reading of Lacan, one recognizing an asymmetrical triadic configuration of student, teacher, and Otherness--a triad which questions the mirrored narcissism of the organic model by suggesting the introduction of the unconscious as a source of new knowledge, a model which seeks the return not of a confirming sameness but of difference. In straining to effect connection, organicist educators have ignored Otherness, language, and difference.