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Loneliness and Solitude in Education

How to Value Individuality and Create an Enstatic School


Julian Stern

Analysing loneliness and solitude in schools and exploring how to deal with them is a vital task. In recent research for the author’s Spirit of the School project, a number of pupils, teachers and headteachers described times when they felt lonely and times when they felt the need for healthy solitude. The causes of loneliness are numerous and its consequences have a significant unrecognised impact on education. How do schools deal with people when they are lonely, and how can they overcome loneliness? How can they create opportunities for healthy solitude, a welcome alternative to loneliness? Schools can sometimes try to include people by being intensely social, but end up making them feel even more excluded. A school that teaches solitude well and helps individuals deal with loneliness can be called an ‘enstatic’ school: a school in which people are comfortable within themselves. The objective of this book – the first comprehensive study of the subject – is to help us all understand loneliness and solitude and thereby to reinvigorate debates on personal, character and values education.
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Chapter 4: The Poetics of Loneliness and Solitude: Philosophical and Theological Accounts



The Poetics of Loneliness and Solitude: Philosophical and Theological Accounts

I can tell when I am lonely when I begin to feel shame that i cannot share this feeling with anyone— RACHEL (aged 30–49)

Introduction Poetical

This chapter and its predecessor are contrasted in a rather exaggerated way: one as ‘scientific’ and the other as ‘poetical’. Really, there is a great deal of overlap between the approaches. It might make more sense to write of a spectrum, at one end of which is science, with poetry at the other end, and various combinations in between. Even that could mislead. We need both – all – approaches if we are going to understand this topic. Poetry is needed, not just because poets have written of aloneness in all its forms for as long as they have been writing poetry, but also because ‘poetics’ is a powerful description of all work that is imaginative, original and insightful. A poem may be a verse, but ‘poetics’ are so much bigger. They are ‘[t]he creative principles informing any literary, social or cultural construction, or the theoretical study of these; a theory of form’ (OED 2005). Aristotle described the difference between poets and historians, or things poetical and things scientific, in this way:

The distinction between historian and poet is not in the one writing prose and the other verse – you might put the work of Herodotus into verse, and it would still...

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