“Between Seduction and Inspiration”: Elizabeth Strout Meets Jean Laplanche

Social Science

Course Description

“[The writing instructor said:] “This is a story about a mother who loves her daughter. Imperfectly. Because we all love imperfectly. But if you find yourself protecting anyone as you write this piece, remember this: You’re not doing it right…You will have only one story. You’ll write your one story many ways. Don’t ever worry about story. You have only one.”

- Elizabeth Strout

The phrase quoted in the title of this course is lifted from the work of the French psychoanalyst Jean Laplanche and alludes to his view of the priority of others relative to both the early formative experiences of human beings and their possibilities for self-transformation. Laplanche proposed that infants originally orbit passively around their parents and are subject to their overwhelming gravitational attraction, from which they defensively recoil. He also claimed that individuals may be drawn out of their insulated retreats into encounters and exchanges with others which inspire fresh thinking about the forces shaping their lives.

This course will consider the innovative ideas of Jean Laplanche and will bring them into conversation with Elizabeth Strout’s Lucy Barton novels. Some of the questions we will explore are: In what ways might it be useful to extend the concept of psychic trauma to include the impact of the initial extreme helplessness, powerlessness and exposure to influence of all human beings? What follows if we take seriously the idea that, in addition to the necessary, responsible attentiveness they set out to provide, the adult caregivers of infants also have a repressed unconscious that infiltrates and contaminates their communications? Why is it that individuals (siblings, for example) seem to respond very differently to what, on the surface, appear to be comparable early circumstances? And, how is that some people, sometimes, come to make use (while others do not) of social, artistic or cultural resources in a way that permits them to step beyond entrenched positions by forging more nuanced accounts of their history and more vital visions of their future?

Books to Purchase (will be available at Argo Bookshop during the weeks prior to the course beginning):

  • Elizabeth Strout, My Name Is Lucy Barton, Random House (ISBN: 9780812979527)

  • Elizabeth Strout, Anything is Possible, Random House (ISBN: 9780812989410)

  • Elizabeth Strout, Oh William!, Random House (ISBN: 9780812989441)

  • Elizabeth Strout, Lucy by the Sea, Random House (ISBN: 9780593446065)

Please note that this course has a maximum enrollment of 18 students.

Please note that we do not allow participants to audit courses for free.

Course Details

Location: Atwater

First Session: Monday, September 18th, 2023

Course Length: 12 weeks, Mondays, 6:15 to 8:15 p.m.

Instructor: Imogen Brian, Carol Fiedler, Daniel Schouela 

Degree Credit: 3.0 credits

Course Fee: 

$150.00 (standard tuition)

$100.00 (promotion for new students)

Administrative Fee:



$185.00 (standard tuition)

$135.00 (promotion for new students)


Course fees are refundable in full before the second session. After the second session, a fee of $50 for the withdrawal will be applied. Refunds will not be issued after the third session. Please note that non-attendance does not constitute a withdrawal.

Students pursuing studies for credit are encouraged to consult with their advisers as they register for courses.

Course leaders, and students wishing to use credit vouchers, should call (514) 935-9585 to pay by phone or to schedule an appointment to pay in person.

Fill the following form to register

Questions? Stuck? Give us a call at (514) 935-9585
or email us at info@thomasmore.qc.ca