The problem of agency: Posthumanist theory and English teaching
Many of the major movements in English teaching over the last twenty-five years have drawn on posthumanist/poststructuralist theory, filtered through work in cultural studies, predicated on the social construction of identity. While this has been enormously productive in many ways, there has been a nagging problem with the question of agency. How can subject English enable students to be agentic, able to shape their lives actively, rather than simply being aware of and/or resistant to the shaping society imposes?
This paper will discuss this problem of agency, and propose that in fact there has often been an underlying concern in much theory with affirming the importance of the “art of living”. Some answers as to the shape this might take are to be found in perhaps one of the most unexpected places, the work of Lacan.