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Creativity Crisis

Chapter 13

REFLEXION

For many years, reflexion has assumed a position at the top of the canonical educational taxonomy. The historical fortunes of reflexion took off when John Dewey, no less, opined that ‘We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflection on experience.’1 In the next sentence of an influential book, Dewey gives a working definition of reflexion by explaining its educational agency: ‘Reliving of an experience leads to making connections between information and feelings produced by the experience’. Without reflexion, then, you do not learn. It is a necessary element of learning and it works by allowing a replay—‘reliving’ in Dewey’s text—of an earlier experience. Reflexion presupposes two moments, one which is a kind of virgin encounter and the other a review of it.2 The subsequent moment of revisiting the anterior moment (even if they follow hard upon one another) yields a complementary benefit, as the consecutive poles of learning enhance the cognitive pregnancy of an otherwise incomplete encounter. Further, in the aphoristic quote, Dewey suggests how the complementary benefit arises. Fact and emotion (‘feelings produced by the experience’) are somehow drawn together: we link information and feeling, as if data are somehow energized with emotional attachments or reason to be meaningful and hence lodge in memory.

Once this separation of encounter and review had occurred under the seductive name of reflexion, it would become impossible to theorize educational process without it. There is no going back: it is the sine qua non of learning and teaching, as necessary to education as any technique of presentation or explanation. The exigence of reflexion in the learning process would, in time, lead to a theory of student-centredness, where the emphasis in learning and teaching is not on the teacher but the student and her or his interest in the material. The student is the one who reflects, which might be another way of saying what John Biggs declared: learning is what the student does.

It is not surprising, therefore, that reflexion has not only retained its popularity but greatly increased its spread in contemporary theory and practice. In the influential suite of writings by the same John Biggs, reflexion sits alongside theorizing—and sometimes even above it—as the supreme stages of higher-order thinking; and for that reason reflexion is implicitly commended to teachers as the ultimate goal of learning.3 Without a stage of reflexion, students are imagined to have achieved only shallow learning: the very nub of deep learning is the reflexion that the learners make upon the new material or the act of absorbing it. Reflexion is not only highly valorized in theory but for thirty years has been supplied with frameworks; practical methods for attaining or cultivating reflexion are variously put forward for students to reach the greatest phase of educational practice. Mostly, these frameworks, like that of Donald Schön, relate to the teacher’s reflexion rather than the student’s;4 though it seems necessary to see the two in a relationship.

We now live in an epidemic of reflexion. In universities, reflexion is almost ubiquitously recommended as a stage for clinching the syllabus; indeed, reflexion has advanced to proportions that exceed our ability to imagine them, as can be quantified through a Google search. ‘Reflective practice’ scores about 4,750,000 results; even ‘reflective practice definition’ yields c.1,940,000 results. Then there are certain tools in common use, which again Google finds in staggering numbers: ‘reflective essay’ turns up about 1,950,000 results; and ‘reflective journal’ an astonishing 4,030,000 results. Each year, the pages proliferate; and the web engine only covers discrete pages, leaving aside the recommendations in learning management systems and intranets (an enormous local grey web) where lecturers exhort their students to reflect on the various moments of learning, presumably the better to learn or to embed the learning and make it more sustainable or enduring. New pedagogy officially encourages reflexion.

At some point, usually after some task or attendance at a presentation has been completed, learners are encouraged to reflect. Sometimes, for efficiency’s sake, reflexion is folded into assessment (despite the apparent incompatibility of a task that needs to be free of trepidation and another that is full of it) and hence the popularity of a so-called reflective essay. Sometimes, reflexion is suggested consistently throughout the semester and sometimes the moment proposed for reflexion lies beyond assessment, where it is therefore free of pressures, a safe hermitage of altruistic philosophical engagement on the other side of measurement and competition, a high- minded retreat, where the self-sufficiency of the learning experience extends its inspiration to a kind of selfless intellectual regrouping. Consciously or otherwise, reflexion as an educational strategy lays claim to a transcendental condition, a moment of reverie, where the learner—no longer facing an anxious challenge—can function in autonomous engagement with the material that has been learned.

Potentially, at least, there is great resonance between this practice and the subjective basis of creativity. Here, amid the noisy dynamics of active learning—fraught by a tense grid of learning outcomes and marking rubrics—is a beautiful window of private intellectual collectedness, where a meditative enjoyment of thought is encouraged. Reflexion, like a fragile vestige of educational liberality, reminds us that the project of socializing learning is incomplete. Learning ultimately requires a return to the self, a process where the ideas are bounced back or reflected in the mind of the unique individual. Of course it too has been gridded (in education, everything can be de-organicized), so that it is constrained to be about the learning that needs to be done; and that is the rub. Yes, we admit the primacy of a subjective self, a looking back on knowledge in relation to personal experience; but the framework is fixed rather than motile: it does not contemplate the movement of thinking beyond the stimulus, to put knowledge to another use, a moment of disruption, a scruple, a query, a reckoning with discomfort, perchance an eagerness to intervene, an impatience with everything so far encountered. If it did contemplate those wonders, it would be closer to the preconditions of creativity.

So what is reflexion? In fact there is little agreement on what reflexion is and what takes place during its inspired moments of musing, those precious minutes of independent intellectual flight that somehow clinch the learning. One wonders what confessional material is introduced into the framing of the syllabus, what unknown personal curiosity is entertained, what potential is spied for future engagement. Perhaps just because of a great fear of the unknown, the unmeasurable, the possibly specious, there have already been expressions of concern for the vulgarization of the practice, where learners are indiscriminately ordered to reflect; and these reservations have been published by scholars who were among the earlier systematic apologists for reflexion, like David Boud and David Walker,5 who could legitimately worry about the vagueness and self-gratifying qualities of reflexion, especially when encouraged outside a framework of defined benefits: ‘we believe that there are now many examples of poor educational practice being implemented under the guise and rhetoric of reflection.’6 Some of the dangers arise from ‘equating reflection with thinking, and yet others arise from teachers pursuing their own personal agendas at the expense of learners.’ They worry that

some practitioners … translate reflection and reflective practice into such simplified and technicist prescriptions that their provocative features—such as the importance of respecting doubt and uncertainty and distrust of easy solutions—become domesticated in ways which enable teachers to avoid focusing on their own practice and on the learning needs of students.

They identify ‘recipe following’ where students are taken through ‘a sequence of steps of reflection and required to reflect on demand.’ They are concerned about ‘reflection without learning’, with a mechanistic reflex of ‘intellectualising reflection’ where emotions are downplayed or the opposite, where students are unethically encouraged to reveal personal information. They warn about ‘uncritical acceptance of experience’ and exhort us instead to give ‘consideration of the context in which reflective action is engaged’, which ‘is a seriously underdeveloped aspect of discussion of reflection. The context to which we are referring is the total cultural, social and political environment in which reflection takes place. This broader context is so all-pervasive that it is difficult to recognize its influence.’ Their critique is powerful and has remained hard to answer. It implicitly recognizes an important element of the challenge, namely that reflexion is hard to direct: it cannot be another exercise or task to perform, else it loses its Platonic freedoms, where ideas and memories associate without pressure. Unlike ‘self-evaluation’, which in some regards it resembles, reflexion is not metrical, and it therefore frustrates some who would rather see a qualitative process of self-review with an evaluation rubric, possibly even yielding quantifiable standards.

For others, however, that is precisely the appeal of reflexion, a liberal and potentially idle moment that surmounts the strenuous surfeit of details in a stressful course of study and instead enables free thinking. To me the idea of reflexion has a marvellously romantic dimension, where my natural eagerness to meander and ruminate indulgently on subject matter of any kind is justified. At primary school, I would be accused of being a dreamer, of lacking concentration for the lessons that demanded exclusive attention. Now, however, I see that my foibles are valorized; my very waywardness is redefined as a necessary element in research method, a power that imaginative research cannot do without. For me, little could be more gratifying than this widespread approbation of the reflective impulse.

It would therefore be pleasurable to join in and celebrate our epidemic of reflexion, to enjoy the flattery which it bestows on the romantic learner and patch over the scruples of reflective sceptics like Boud and Walker. But even scrutinizing Boud and Walker’s own texts, it appears that our ability to reflect on reflexion may be limited. In the masterful article cited, there are warnings about the mechanistic but there is no gesture to the contrary: there is no mention of ‘imagination’ nor talk of ‘speculation’, and concepts like ‘the poetic’ are not entertained. There is an acceptance of the emotional but there is no term like ‘subjectivity’ to make it meaningful. Alongside other stalwarts of learning taxonomies, like ‘critical thinking’, we find it difficult to act out the recommended virtue: we do not easily think critically about critical thinking and we do not reflect curiously upon reflexion. For something so widely accepted, it seems inordinately difficult to quiz ourselves about the substance and value of the construct. We readily accept a number of taxonomies, which (I would argue) artificially divide and invidiously rank thinking, about which we should be more suspicious. Thinking is mostly inscrutable and layered in such complicated patterns that we would not even succeed in comprehending a dog’s analysis of a scent much less our excogitations over the mysteries of language. We blithely recommend both critical thinking and reflexion—assuming a relationship between them— without possessing a satisfactory definition that reassures a sceptic that our fondest beliefs are not based on waffle.

I would avoid the crisis of an absolute definition but instead historicize reflexion and from there attempt to fathom some of the phenomenological richness of the concept. I want to know when we first began talking about reflexion as a thinking process and what it meant in its several stages of development. There may be no absolute definition of reflexion. It may be inherently relative, given that even the concept of metacognition—a word synthetically hatched in 1979 by John Flavell—is less than absolute.7 But the great advantage of reflexion is that it can indeed be historicized, yielding a perspective that allows us to be more reflective about it.

If we begin with a provisional general definition, reflexion means thinking about thinking or, more properly, the experience of thinking. It is close to metacognition, which is a more psychological way to describe awareness of thought process, also popularly described as thinking about thinking or learning about learning. It refers to an advanced kind of thinking (‘high- order thinking’), uniquely ambitious and relaxed at the same time, conscious of the internal agency of ideas and their treatment by alternative impulses within the mind.

Reflexion is historically defined because there was a time when there was no word to describe the condition. In ancient Greek, for example, there is no good match for the concept. There are words to describe the physical condition of reflexion, to be sure; but they do not transfer to the intellectual by metaphor. Making use of prefixes like ‘against’ or ‘back’, Greek vocabulary described the reflexion of light with numerous conceptions8 or representation as in a mirror (ἐνόπτρισις, εἰσοπτρισμός); there are verbal forms9 but none of these terms suggested a meditative interval in cognition, where the mind wanders somewhat creatively.10 On the contrary, if anything they suggest the sudden flash of the return of light, the glint or sparkle, which might be associated with polished weapons.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of words that describe thought itself, the condition of cogitation or mindedness (ἔννοια, verb ἐννοέω) or an idea that is turned out for communication (ἐπιλόγισμα) which, at a pinch, could be translated as a reflexion. There are powerful words to describe meditation (σύννοια, συννοέω) which, like ἔννοια, draw from the root of thought or mind (νους);11 one can meditate in the sense of weigh up or deliberate (μητιάω) and care for, be anxious about, think about, and hence meditate upon (μεριμνάω). Another strong root lies again with a synonym for thought (φροντίς, verb φρονέω) which also means care, attention bestowed upon a person or thing, but which can be used more abstractly to mean thought itself, arguably reflexion, meditation, for which lexicographers can adduce examples from the classical drama and histories.12 The poet Pindar uses the word in an abstract sense,13 which is hardly surprising, given that the whole aesthetic of lyric verse is so much constructed around speculative cues, a series of invitations, if you like, to reflexion.

As an example, Pindar’s first Olympian ode begins with the memorable sentence ‘Water is best’. It occurred to scholars of antiquity and more recently to ask the question ‘best of what?’14 Pindar does not say. He just says ‘water is best’. True to the ethos of modern poetry, it is a phrase deliberately constructed to remain without closure, poetically incomplete, to be supplemented by speculation and hence encourage reflexion. In listening to poetry, we latch onto words, images and phrases that suspend the urgency of a narrative and hang around in the mind, as if awaiting more intimate connexions that we might bring to them.

It could therefore be argued that enough of the lexical preconditions of reflexion were met in ancient Greece and that the Greek mind was handsomely supplied with a vocabulary that allowed for ample reflexion. But still the process did not occur by an analogous word and it was impossible to ask a student in the lyceum to reflect upon his or her learning. Socrates could ask you in the agora to think about something, to think deeply, to think prudently and with penetration, even to meditate; but still the concept of reflexion is not quite there. As Bruno Snell argued in his beautiful book on the development of the mind in ancient Greece, the concept of thought or mind or spirit did not arise ready-made but had a long development from the Homeric period, where it was ‘not yet’ apparent (noch nicht).15 It follows that the same ideas continued their development from antiquity to the present time, which is the subject matter of the history of ideas. Reflexion in the current acceptation is a good example. It did not exist in antiquity and there is a question of when it arose closer to our times.

In tracing these histories, it is useful to observe the unique element of reflexion which appears in the tradition of our language. Our word is derived from Latin, with a preposition for ‘back’ or ‘again’ (re-) and the verb to bend (flectere). But the Romans had no substantive form and the verb means ‘to turn around’ or ‘turn back’, like the tusks of elephants or horns of other creatures.16 Romans rarely used the verb metaphorically and, when they did, it seems safest to translate such instances as ‘turn around in the mind’.17 As in Greek, to describe what we mean by reflexion, they would say ‘thinking’ (cogitatio, with the famous verbal form cogito and even adverbial, cogitate, thoughtfully), meaning considering, deliberating, thought, reflection, meditation, imagination. Or they could invoke consideration (consideratio) which also had moral overtones, a ‘sitting together’ with an implicit sympathy for others. As for the physical dimension of reflexion, the Romans used different words, just like the Greeks.18

Our reflexion, even when abstracted from the physical image of the mirror, is rooted in a physical motif of bouncing back an image. The reflexion presupposes three elements: the object, the image of the object as returned by a mirror and the subject who sees. In the case of Narcissus and all self-admirers who follow, the object and the subject are collapsed as the one person, the unique individual whose image is bounced by the mirror and who simultaneously sees the image. In that instance the mirror turns the subject into an object (a specimen to be examined by someone) and vice versa: the object who is seen becomes animated as the person who sees.

Mirrors are spooky and loom large in the language-oriented psychoanalytical theory of Lacan, proposing the mirror phase as a kind of archetypical constant in human development. As applied to thinking in education, the mirror also seems uncannily more than a metaphor: it returns a useful image of thinking itself in that moment when it is reflexive. The quest for insight necessarily involves reflexion. In order to redeem ‘thoughts of great value, worthy cogitations’, Shakespeare’s Cassius asks: ‘Tell me, good Brutus, can you see your face?’ To which Brutus says, ‘No, Cassius, for the eye sees not itself / But by reflexion, by some other thing.’19 This ‘other thing’ is the shiny mirror, the surface so perfect and hard that it has no comfort in it, no permeability, so that it immediately turns the rays back. The strategic Cassius offers to be that crystalline membrane himself: ‘And since you know you cannot see yourself / So well as by reflexion, I, your glass, / Will modestly discover to yourself / That of yourself which you yet know not of.’ This glass or mirror for inner knowing is a precursor to reflexion in the contemporary sense.

At a similar time, the King James translators of the Bible rendered the lines of Paul with the same image: ‘For now we see through a glass darkly’.20 The rendering is colourful, because there was no ‘darkly’ in the Greek text, which reads: now we see through a mirror as by enigma (βλέπομεν γὰρ ἄρτι δι’ ἐσόπτρου ἐν αἰνίγματι). But for the baroque interpreters, the mystery of the mirror is enigmatic because the image which is a mere semblance contains the truth: it is not the truth in a literal sense but an image of the truth, effectively a reflexion but which is still enigmatic because it is not itself the thing that it shows. So the King James translators installed darkness into the image of the glass, which in a shadowy way yields the sight that cannot be obtained from the mortal position that we occupy, so far beneath divinity. The enigma or symbol is like the reflexion in a mirror: it is ‘there’ but ‘not there’, showing something as more than a sign but still not actually being the thing that it shows.

The motif of reflexion as a mental process is riddled with enigma in the senses that we most want to identify. If Dewey and others position reflexion as the prime and indispensable circumstance of learning—and in turn we consider learning to be something like absorption, taking in material, embedding ideas and methods in our minds—the process of reflexion is an uncomfortable match. In learning, material is indeed absorbed, as if entering a permeable membrane and thence obtaining intercourse with the substrates of memory and marrying the material already embedded within it by the urging of will and imagination. The mirror, on the other hand, has no quality of absorption. It entertains the rays only to deflect them immediately through the same glass. The light never sees the tain side of the glass: nothing is embedded. As the mirror remains impenetrably hard and unyielding, the moment of reflexion is of infinitesimally tiny duration, inscrutable, occurring in no space, a complete virtuality of impact and return that no one has ever witnessed. And yet the image is there, ‘in the glass’, as Lucretius says.21 The paradox is the enigma already suggested: the reflexion—which in a sense is nothing, an immaterial event of imperceptible physics—is metaphorically the neuronal magic, potentially the moment of epiphany.

If the physical mirror bounces back rays in space, the optical phenomenon is called reflexion. If the reflexion is understood as a metaphor, the element through which events are bounced back is time. What is past has been; but when we reflect, it comes back—somewhat differently and regardless of how quickly—to memory, which is the salvageable record, so to speak, of events, sights, sounds or language. The reflexion is not simply an act of opening the door to the repository. It is a bend in time where the event or condition is apparently wilfilly reconnected with your perception, so that you get to interpret it.

Reflexion as a physical phenomenon had been used in English since the renaissance and, if you examine the beautiful entry in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), you could imagine that the motif proliferated in linear fashion from Gutenberg to Google. In fact, the uses of reflexion even as a physical phenomenon are relatively rare throughout early modern European literature. Reflect or reflexion does not appear in key writers like the fourteenth-century Petrarch, nor high-renaissance authors like Guiccardini or Castiglione, nor poets like Boiardo and Tasso. In the same sixteenth century, Ariosto uses the term once in describing extreme heat22 but the instances even in baroque authors like Giambattista Marino are exiguous, given the enormous volume of their production and the temptations of visual seduction, where reflexion involves glowing light in a dynamic interchange between luminaries and surfaces. In his long poem, L’Adone, Marino mentions the harmonious reflexion of rays only once23 which, however, is not metaphorical. Reflexion tends only to arise when the visual spectacle of light bouncing around inspires the poet. It is not yet a figure of language, where one thing is compared to another as a reflexion, a critical moment of recall. As in Milton, the discourse is light itself.24

Following the physical side of reflexion, however, the seventeenth century distinguishes itself by attention to light in the art of painting. Of particular note is the development of still life, where the scene is contrived to relish reflexions in subject matter of little account by itself. The purpose of the painting is to devote attention to the form and surface of various objects in light, like the shine of grapes from one sphere to the next, a gourd, a silver charger or a glass or bottle. It also belonged to the genres of portraiture and figure-painting to register reflexions, as the proximity of the skin to a radiant textile would pick up heightened tone and colour. These subtleties were acknowledged in contemporaneous texts, such as in Francis Junius who goes so far as to propose that the very atmosphere becomes a vector of colour by reflexion: ‘Goe to then, Painter, confound red roses with good store of lillies, and what reflexion the aire taketh of them, let that be the colour of her face.’25

In art, the seventeenth century loves spectacle and therefore relishes reflexions, almost like painting with paradoxes, because the reflexion is a part of a body which is not essential but contingent on a coincidental closeness to something else. Given the superb pictorial skill of modelling, chiaroscuro and reflexion, it is curious that there are so few baroque poetic rhapsodies on reflexions. In a beautiful amorous sonnet by Giuseppe Artale, a woman wearing glasses is described as heating up the ardours of the poet’s love: ‘if the sun nourishes heat with its reflexions, she—in order to make glances more fervid—wears two lenses so that lightning vibrates in place of wild flames’.26 As a joke, a piece of wit or argutezza, the lines are perhaps reflective in another sense, because we are caused to ponder the curious attraction that the male poet finds in the sight-challenged lass, some layer of cuteness through her minor disability, a source of titillation not so much because of relish in a girl’s disadvantage but the poet’s command of hyperbole. This toying with attraction and witty gamesmanship is echoed in Shakespeare’s concern for a woman, that ‘her beauty and her brain go not together. She’s a good sign, but I have seen small reflexion of her wit’;27 to which a lord says as an aside to us, the audience: ‘She shines not upon fools, lest the reflexion should hurt her’, almost as if the utterance is an inverted reflexion of the insult, bouncing it back upon its rude originator.

In fact, the great metaphor of reflexion—where the beam is a bounce- back in the mind—predates Shakespeare and belongs to the sixteenth century. In a letter that prefaces one of his novelle, Bandello describes

the appetite for revenge, which appears so sweet that little by little it draws a person beyond the limits of reason and somehow igniting anger, that with a blinded intellect, she or he cannot turn the mind to anything but thinking always how to offend the enemy; nor does she or he reflect upon the evaluation of so many and such diverse dangers that present all day long.28

It is a wonderful passage to introduce reflexion in the metaphorical sense, not merely a scintillation of light or heat that is bounced back, reflected or ‘retorted’, which Shakespeare once uses as a synonym, where man ‘cannot make boast to have that which he hath, / Nor feels not what he owes, but by reflection; / As when his virtues shining upon others / Heat them, and they retort that heat again / To the first giver.’29 Bandello’s beautiful intuition that the physical word can be used to describe a psychological moment is also telling. He still needs the word ‘evaluation’ to fit alongside the term reflect (né mai riflette la considerazione): one never reflects, he says, the consideration of the many dangers. One is supposed to reflect not on the reality but on the thought of the reality, as if the act of reflexion is intrinsically deferred, as if tentative. And in any case, his usage is negative. It is a failure to reflect (a finite condition: reflexion did not occur) rather than a realization of the act (which is a potentially infinite realm of speculation). A similar example is cited in the OED from the end of the sixteenth century: ‘To this all the company answered, that they had never much thought, nor made reflexion, upon any such circumstance.’30

In the tumultuous flow of history, the vigorous creative period from the renaissance to the end of the baroque was the wrong time to define reflexion as a thought process. The word existed and had occasionally been used metaphorically; but the times were showy, not reflective; they were energetic, glamorous and brilliant but not rich in absorption or intellectual intimacy. Voltaire summed up the spirit of the times in addressing his great satirical predecessor Boileau: ‘I witnessed the tail-end of your brilliant century, a time of great talents rather than light’.31 By Voltaire’s estimation, then, the baroque had little light in the metaphoric sense of ‘enlightenment’ and less reflexion of it in the intellectual sphere. We could verify the suspicion philologically, because the eloquent masterpieces of Racine, for example, have no reflexion in them; and when the word is used in Racine’s prose, the phrase could be translated equally by ‘observation’ or ‘remark’: ‘here is the reflexion that Dio Cassius makes on the intentions of Mithridate’.32 It is reflexion as a product rather than an activity; it is the result of thinking, the expression of a judgement rather that the thinking that might have led to it, and in fact might have led elsewhere pending a resolution.

It was left to the eighteenth century to discover reflexion. Known charmingly as ‘the enlightenment’, with light installed in the very epithet, the eighteenth century brought forth an enormous and adorable emphasis on reflexion. In the same way that the eighteenth century discovered the conversational and the intimate,33 it clinched the metaphoric potential of reflexion to describe a process of mental review, a moment of contemplation or perhaps second thoughts, thinking back, and used the word prolifically. Most tellingly, reflexion appears on the comic stage which is dedicated to conversation, richly elaborating the spontaneous talk among individuals who are subject to somewhat chaotic impulses in the drama. Through amusing episodes, reversals of fortune and accidents, the act of reflexion presents a note of counterpoise, where the busy motives on stage are referred to second thoughts, thinking back, speculation, reservations, gentle relish or analysis.

In the plays of Marivaux, reflexion arises in all complexions. It is not necessarily confined to an encounter in the past but can be used of the future: hence the phrase, ‘making reflexion on the pleasure that he is going to have’.34 There is often a judgement involved in reflexion but sometimes not. Reflexions can be negative, not just in their subject matter but their value in occupying attention: there are ‘sad reflexions for which there is no longer any time; when I am lost, wisdom lightens me up’.35 Reflexions can be fallacious and unjust, as when the female sex is underrated.36 Reflexion can argue a negative case or can be used to convey rejection: ‘I’ve reflected that it’s quite pointless for us to see one another’.37 Consternation over a bad turn of events could lead to reflexions that might embarrass you.38 A reflexion can put you in a bad mood;39 reflexions might disturb you when someone talks in a maudlin or depressive manner.40 A reflexion can be arresting because of wicked contradictions, as when ‘it’s cruel to be suspected of joy when one has nothing but trouble’.41 Reflexion can be a way of being guarded and politely hedging your bets. Asked by the ambassador if he is rejecting a marriage proposal, Lélio says: ‘I don’t reject it at all; but it requires reflexion’, meaning careful consideration.42

Though we identify reflexion with private mulling, it is expected that reflexions enter the social domain and are wilfully communicated as observations. No sooner is reflexion discovered than it is used for profit or broadcast. Once discovered, the private source of introspection is appropriated by the social, which is exactly what would happen in our own epoch in education, where the intimacy of the individual’s private reflexions would be pressed into service through various exercises. But even so, reflexions are never public insofar as they are never owned by the social. If they are not yours, they are someone else’s and you can be jealous of them, impatient, irked. They are obdurately removed from your control. You might find them importunate: I’m done with your reflexions;43 and then, as Pasquin calls for, ‘a little politeness in your reflexions!’44 Constance advises Lisette to make her reflexions in private and not in communal conversation.45 Against this, Arlequin can be seized by prudence and ‘make a reflexion’, that is, an observation with a considered dimension.46 Lisette is not so sure, however, as to where this reflexion might lead.47 Trivelin himself will cast some doubt on their merit by the degree of his enthusiasm for them: ‘by deuce, your reflexions are rich stuff’.48

In the social realm, reflexions can be made, dispensed with, doubted. They are like a thing or act to which one reacts, evaluates, with which one possibly disagrees, like the Countess: ‘as for me, I find the heart of woman is correct and does not deserve your satirical reflexion’.49 Reflexion is an artefact produced for social consumption rather than an internal process; and for that reason it can be resented. Reflexion touches on the moral and is socialized conscience. Trivelin can abandon his non-materialistic principles; he will seize the opportunity to take property in spite of his reflexions,50 literally ‘despite the shame of my reflexions’. A man’s heart, he adds, is a right rogue (fripon). The same crisis occurs with Marton in Les fausses confidences. Dorante suggests that she is tempted by 1,000 shillings in a failure to reflect (faute de réflexion) on the moral or sentimental consequences. But Marton replies ‘On the contrary, it’s thanks to reflexion that the shillings tempt her. The more I dream of them, the more I like them’.51

Amid the mystifying charades and mascarades of the comic drama one can have a thought that all one’s reflexions corroborate something,52 as if reflexions are a suspicion. Reflexions find their place in a transactional economy of messages. Someone’s reflexions can be to your advantage,53 meaning your arguments or position or decision. Reflexion can be calculating, where wisdom is very much on the pragmatic side: ‘a little reflexion … you’re young, beautiful and a girl of means? Who can hold out against these three qualities?’54

Elsewhere, imperative verbs are used to command reflexion; because if individuals have proprietorship over their thoughts, you aim your effort to control them at the innermost squishiest core. This protected zone, the sanctum, the intimacy that is morally quarantined from social control, is precisely the target of anyone who wants to have power over you. With an air of urgency, the word ‘reflect’ means ‘think about it’ (faites-y réflexion). In bossy discourses, the word arises without much sense of the meditative: make your reflexions on that (faites vos réflexions là-dessus); or ‘pay attention to the fact that I’m talking to you’.55 Reflexion is also capable of being severe with remonstrations. Often, reflexion is a reckoning, stated in a slightly threatening way, to get a grip on yourself: ‘make some serious reflexions of yourself; try to become aware of your foolishness’.56

However, the pragmatic and mediocre use of the concept in the social domain should not detract from the purer philosophical structure of reflexion, which remained in perfect credit at its core. A Marquis, pointing to his forehead, batches together ‘judgement, reflexion, phlegmatism and wisdom’.57 And later, completing the reflexive character of reflexion, the Chevalier says to the Marquis that one needs plenty of judgement to know that one has none; isn’t that the reflexion that you want us to make?58 Equally, reflexion can describe discretion, as when Parmenès says that ‘we won’t say what we think’, to which the Countess replies: ‘make reflexion, however’.59 Reflexion can be a sweet and diplomatic way to point something out: ‘I would be very upset to displease you; I would ask only to reflect on it’.60 When reflexions are described as serious, it seems pompous, as when the Marquise asks what is in your book, to which Hortensius answers that it contains nothing but serious reflexions;61 though this gravity would not compromise the seriousness of a husband who abuses his wife.62 In life, according to the drama, there are instants and reflexions that suddenly determine our actions.63 You expect a reflexion to have something of the momentous. According to Silvia, her boyfriend thinks that he will shame his father in marrying her, betraying his fortune and birth: ‘behold great subjects of reflexion’.64

Reflexion is the history of second thoughts. By the eighteenth century, the styles, manners, religiosities and patronage were ready for overhaul. From the painter Boucher to Greuze, the age would become more dialectical; its enchantment and loveliness would have a moral edge, where the care of the mind, relationships and personal property would be a topic of poetic scrutiny. It was an age of reflexion, where vanity would be subject to the judgement of satirical comedy. Following the baroque in the century of light, extravagance has its reckoning; and among all the jokes, the wit, the crazy plots and misunderstanding, the comic stage increasingly devotes itself to the stern redress of frivolity. Marivaux is far from an exception. If we go to Venice, whose baroque talents in architecture and painting rivalled those of Paris, the stage is also charged with reflexion, the need to countenance all stimuli—from good advice to errant behaviour—with some imaginative deliberation, an urge to ponder, to weigh up but also to rhapsodize, to extend, to muse upon. In that sense, we go beyond ‘second thoughts’, reflexion as the tempered moderation of impulse. Nor is reflexion merely a matter of testing assertions or subjecting them to proofs; it is an open-ended speculation that discovers how far the mind can enjoy the concept that is put before it, either the concept in its naivety or the critique that a contrary impulse prepares for it.

Among the authors in whom reflexion flourished is the Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni. In Goldoni’s drama, reflexion is demonstratively acted on stage, with stage-directions specifying reflexion for the actors, as with Geronte who, in a note within the text, ‘reflects for a moment and then calls out (riflette un momento, indi chiama)’.65 Reflexion is utterly part of the drama and is therefore not always a serene or rhapsodic affair. Facing the prospect of creditors repossessing his assets and establishing a dowry, Pancrazio says: ‘I’m thinking, reflecting and don’t know which side to grab onto’.66 But like an actor who makes claims, reflexion is not to be believed without testing. Sometimes, the reflexion is part of the farce. And sometimes, it reveals an impatient character who is incapable of it. The audience often has to decide if the named reflexion is worthwhile or not. Reflexion is often dismissed as idleness: ‘this is no time to lose heart nor to form reflexions on the events of the world’.67 We have to remember that reflexions can be empty and in vain.68 One can have second thoughts about reflexion itself.

There is therefore an issue in every case as to whether reflexion redeems stupidity or is the cause of it. There is no saying that reflexion will be automatically self-vindicating. As in the earlier Marivaux reflexion is sometimes conceived communicatively; it overlaps with advice and hence requires tact: I’m happy that that you’re taking things so well; I praise and admire you. But allow me to make a reflexion.69 And if there is no tact, there is sometimes rudeness. Reflexions in the transactional domain can be harsh. ‘Daughter, if I show myself to be frank, it proceeds from the reflexions that your circumstances deserve’.70 Because they closely reveal the integrity of a person’s deliberations, reflexions are handled anxiously in the social setting of the drama. There are legion exhortations to reflect before speaking or acting rashly.71 ‘Excuse me, for the love of heaven! These reflexions need to be done before giving the word’.72 Timeliness in reflexion is everything: ‘These wise reflexions would have been opportune before promising’ what cannot be delivered.73

Goldoni, one of Italy’s most entertaining moralists, is also conscious that literature itself is a source of reflexion, that one contemplates it in a discursive conversation with others, which must be very close to what we mean by reflexion as the higher faculty in education: ‘we were accustomed to make reflexions on some fine book’.74 The proper mood and occasion are important for reflexion, as important as the content. An event needs the right timing to achieve reflexion. When a letter arrives, Pantalone immediately wants to read it; but the Dottore says ‘let’s read it this evening with greater ease and with reflexion. For now, it’s necessary to pay attention to looking after what is pressing.’75 Often, however, the reflexion is the thing being reflected, reified as utterance, analogous to a poem which is beautifully written; hence Lelio’s exclamation: ‘what eloquence, what reflexions!’76 For that reason, a cleverly stated observation can be called ‘the best reflexion’ (Ottima riflessione!).77 Ottavio says: ‘This business deserves some reflexion (or scrutiny)’, to which Aure says: ‘I have forestalled all your reflexions’.78 The reflexion in that case is like a vote, a calling out, which can be prevented or annulled by someone else being ahead of the game.

Pictorially, Venice in the eighteenth century had a curious relationship with reflexions. In the paintings of masters like Canaletto and Guardi, the waterways cast gentle reflexions, weak traces of buildings on the canal—almost shadows rather than reflexions—as if the painter does not entirely trust them. They are far from the centre-stage that they would occupy during the nineteenth century with impressionism. Optical reflexions are of course not the issue, even if perhaps the concept played on a writer’s mind by a tempting analogy. But if we can examine one contrast in the history of ideas, the evidence of painting might still be helpful as a touchstone. Reflexion, whether physical or metaphorical, is not solid, like the architecture. In the same way that a painter must use observation and conjecture rather than measurement in depicting reflexions, so we use our intuition and imagination in concert with memory to reflect on what we have learned. And in this somewhat tentative intellectual space, we depart from the rock of prudence, the knowledge and computational certainties that apply to objective fact and instead draw meaning from a comparison between realities and the subjectivity that interprets them.

In the eighteenth century, the place once held by prudence yields to reflexion. As witnessed in Titian’s Allegory of prudence in the London National Gallery from c.1565, the concept of prudence is iconic, mystical, Serapic, with recondite associations in Hieroglyphic texts. In this haunting painting from renaissance Venice, the three-tiered composition portrays an old man’s profile on the left, a mature man’s frontal visage in the middle and a young man’s profile looking to the right.79 Below these archetypes of the three ages of man, there are respective depictions of a wolf, a lion and a dog; and above the human register, there is a Latin inscription which reads ‘Out of the past the present acts prudently lest it spoil future action’. In many ways, this marvellous patriarchal statement of ancestral authority and wisdom represents the opposite mind-set to reflexion. We see prudence as priestly, a vision into the preordained which projects the future. The old man has prudently paved a path favorable for the mature man, who in turn reciprocates for the young man, making a kind of cycle of good fate for one another, a wilful destiny of powerful beasts and humans with links to the supernatural. These three figures are gifted with the quality of foresight (prouidentia) or prudence, a looking into the future with the oracular art of the soothsayer.

Reflexion is the opposite in that it casts a mirror back onto the recent past. It is a way of bringing the recent past into a vivid connexion with the present. We live in the present and make decisions that have an impact on the future; but while reflexion propitiates our next phase, it refers to the previous phase and enlivens it with relevance to further thought. It thus contributes to making the future, obliquely, as if through a glass darkly; and as Goldoni says of a decision based on reflexion: ‘the choice will not be capricious nor ill-advised but the child of good reflexions, just and assiduous’,80 where of course any decision affects the future. Usually, reflexion contains prudence: he has the right point of view; one must reflect upon it.81 In Goldoni, reflexion is often a stage of precaution, facing a deal or commitment. ‘One shouldn’t sign the papers so quickly’, says one character. ‘One has to reflect, to see if someone advises thus’.82 One must not be precipitate: ‘if I have said something without reflecting on what you said … I have some good news for you’.83 You expect a reflexion to be wise and memorable.84 Reflexion is in essence identified with reason, especially whenever there is a contrast between reason and emotion, which is not to be trusted. ‘Ah, reason and the heart speak to me in two different languages. This one prompts me to deceive myself and that one inspires me to the most justifiable and virtuous reflexions’.85 Reflexions relate to balance, to a perception of things having a relationship when none is immediately apparent. In rhyming verse, Goldoni explains how the fortune of twin brothers is analogous, even though one serves at war and the other labours in court; the one task, if you reflect upon it, is equal to the other.86 Reflexion means prudent council; the reasons deserve more time and more reflexion.87 It is therefore identified with moral astuteness: whoever has a blotted conscience is always afraid of being discovered, whence I need to reflect and establish some resolution’.88 But failing to reflect is not in itself a sign of bad character. ‘He always speaks without reflecting: it’s his defect and I’ve corrected him many times. He doesn’t seem to have a bad heart. He has protested a hundred times his gratitude and love’.89 Sometimes reflexion is close to consideration or interest: ‘What do you say, sir? Is my daughter worthy of your reflexions?’ as if referring to interest in buying a property.90

We cannot trace every reflexion in every epoch. Into the romantic period, the word is more often physical than metaphorical, where, however, it takes on the uncanny glow of its luminary. A favourite is the reflexion of moonlight, as in a sublime passage in Goethe’s Werther: ‘when the moon appeared and rested over the black cloud, and the tide swelled and roared in fearful and awesome reflexion (Widerschein), then a shudder overcame me and a desire as well.’91 The reflexion is physical, because made by the rays of the moon, but metaphysical because echoing in the psyche, as also in Goethe’s Letters from Switzerland92 or the spooky figure of a man who appears most pictorially in a mirror-like brook in Goethe’s play Torquato Tasso.93 Still on the precipice of mystical metaphor, in the second half of Faust, Goethe evokes the memory of blood spilled on the earth which the earth breathes back as a reflexion,94 or similarly wasted human spirits.95 It is also the way that Nietzsche uses reflexion, as an echo of something psychological or cultural, as in his invocation of dreams as more pressing than reality, which involves a description of the painter Raphael’s Transfiguration, where the figures in the lower half are the reflexion (Wiederspiegelung) of eternal original grief, the only reason for the ‘appearance’ of things as the reflexion (Widerschein) of an eternal contradiction.96 The poetic, throughout the nineteenth century, would seek some overlap between the physical and the psychological. For Baudelaire the word is preferred, for instance, when the wan complexion of his muse reflects cold and silent madness and horror,97 or a mysterious eye reflects the indolence and pallor of the sky.98

Through this history of reflexion, several aspects of the concept are revealed which are congruent with creative processes and invite certain educational corollaries: first, the inscrutable relationship with physical reflexion where, like a mirror, the absolute impermeability of the surface furnishes an image that is paradoxically positioned for absorption. Second, reflexion emerges in dialectical circumstances, where things reflected could be good or bad and not necessarily helpful. Third, reflexion is stressful when socialized, where remarks proceeding from personal intuition are introduced into conversation under the name of reflexion, to be absorbed by others or debated and rejected. These observations all point to reflexion requiring imagination. To reflect means to energize intuitions across complicated matrices of information, opinion and experience, where one matches the several stimuli in lively connexions. It is not without reason that it has been highly esteemed in educational discourse as an advanced form of cognition. It is advanced because it is imaginative and yields consciousness as a creative act. It is similar, in that sense, to learning which I consider advanced at any dedicated level.

A cynic might argue that method is hereby advanced very little, because one vague term (reflexion) is triangulated with another vague term (imagination). That is why our task has not been to define reflexion but rather to analyse aspects of its phenomenology, especially as separated naturally through its historical development. In the process, however, the exigence of imagination emerges. Up to a point, the overlap of reflexion and imagination is implied in the way that Boud and Walker (cited above) speak of the complexity and power of context in conditioning the way we reflect:

Individualistic conceptions of reflection fail to take account of the subtle and powerful ways in which context legitimises and frames particular forms and approaches to reflection, and defines those outcomes from reflection which are accepted as valid. There are many circumstances in education and training in which it is inappropriate for teachers to be encouraging particular reflective activities …

Many discussions of reflection imply that it is a universal process which can be considered independently of context. However, if reflection is regarded as universal it more easily lends itself to abuse than if it is construed as a cultural practice located in a particular time and place.

The way that Boud and Walker address context is useful, describing the way all processes are framed and situated; but the discussion ends in a slightly mediocre way:

Teachers need to consider themselves, the learners with whom they are working, the local context in which they operate, the processes they use, and the expected outcomes as defined by each party (including external ones, for example, the institution or accrediting body). They need to create a micro-context within which the kinds of reflection acceptable to learners and consistent with the values of learners and teachers can occur and which does not reproduce those aspects of the dominant context which impose barriers to learning.

The monitory outline is well and good; but the text already pulls away from the imagination and instead defaults to protocols. In recognizing the centrality of imagination to the reflective process, this chapter instead opens up the poetic side of reflexion in any discipline, which is also the primacy of imagination. European literature first discovered reflexion and then celebrated it in poetic forms which all, in one sense, are imaginatively dedicated to reflexion. All the plays, poems and paintings reflect upon the world in a way that encourages humorous and imaginative reflexion in us. If reflexion furthers thought, it does so by enjoining the imagination to extend an idea—possibly no further than into the stock of our own experience—and enlarging the contact with a new idea into the already received but freshly activated. Reflexion is a marriage of the new and the dormant, the stimulus and the sleeping, the fresh encounter and old potential. It is not imaginative to the extent of invention; but it is nevertheless a powerful motif in learning and research as well.

Reflexion occurs to a magical degree in a moment, say, when you put down a book and muse on the contents, perhaps repeating a refrain within it, and think: ‘that’s funny … that’s curious; there’s something in this’. The thought is not immediately engaged in solving a problem or building a new construction but is the cue for a possibly inspired investigation. Reflexion is not as forceful as invention, which has an assertive dimension, envisioning something as yet unseen. It might be a precondition of invention; but that illustrious trajectory belongs to another investigation. Reflexion is more intimate and conversational within the person: it is a conversation that you have with yourself. And for that reason, it is hard to extricate from the self and take to the social. In reflexion, you recognize your thought, which enables you to become an interlocutor, to treat yourself as if you were another person; as Horace says, ‘how often do you see someone else when you look at yourself in the mirror’.99 This gentle dynamic which momentarily polarizes the psyche fulfils what Schiller hoped for in the genre of tragedy, where a person can deal with himself or herself as if a stranger.100

We have succeeded in making several reflexions on reflexion, none of which constitutes a comprehensive definition. But the element that emerges most vitally through the historical investigation is that reflexion is a poetic condition where an event in memory talks back to itself. It makes no sense to recommend that students perform some activity and then to reflect on it unless there is a cue to reflexion already installed in the material to be reflected upon. The material must, to some extent, be itself reflective— poetically so—else it will fail to induce reflexion in the metaphorical sense that we have identified as imaginatively productive. Boud and Walker are correct in their suspicion that reflexion cannot be handled mechanistically, as if syllabus is presented and students are subsequently told to reflect upon it. The command is hollow because no part of the initial circumstance is reflective. Reflexion presupposes two moments that look at one another, an encounter and an aftermath; but the subsequent period of pondering what might have occurred in the mind only takes shape by virtue of anticipation, an expectation that something is occurring that will require a fulfilment, something more inspiring than I can handle right now but which clearly has in it some beautiful potential, a great intellectual pregnancy that will warrant exploration, an activity in which I can enjoin my imagination. The corollary is that the teaching must itself have a reflective dimension for reflection to be induced naturally upon the student. It cannot be conceived as a completely distinct phase, to be activated by the command to reflect.

In today’s climate of blended approaches to learning and teaching, the concern that Boud and Walker entertained—that reflexion had become an unthinking add-on without educational benefit—is heightened. As programs are increasingly structured around pre-class, on-campus and post-class elements, it is convenient to fill up the post-class activity with an invitation to reflect. But if nothing reflective has occurred from the overture to the denouement, the instruction to reflect is fake, artificial and vain. The reflective component has to be built in with every aria, so to speak, so that each element is suggestive, colourful, has a promise of intellectual growth and speculation. These suggestive moments of an inconclusive kind, where closure is deliberately resisted among cues to further questions, are difficult to express as learning outcomes. In a sense, they are not learning outcomes but learning itself as a continuum, as a lifelong source of wonder, the very openness and lack of finality that goad us into research. These structures of reflexion, wonder, research, creativity and imagination cannot be detonated by command and may be suspected of being antithetical to learning outcomes and the constructive alignment that serves them.

Reflexion means imaginatively matching ideas and experience, in no particular order but the one folded into the other in a fruitful rhapsody. In structure, reflexion depends on a special continuity of thought that has a fold in it, a point about which the ideas turn back on themselves. But just as in physics, where the angle of incidence equals the angle of reflexion, the reflective calibre of thoughts that come out is prefigured by the encounter that stimulates them. It is poetic because it involves a relaxation of semantic rules, where one thing equates with another through a jump, a fold, an uncertain parallel, which is symbolic: the return of a reality as an image, which creatively invites other realities and images in its train. It is always poetic, because the mind manages two conditions in one connexion, a memory and a desire to do something with it, to match it, to extend it, to marry it to a vision which includes emotional investments. In reflexion, one understands that all thoughts, no matter how much they reflect on the tangible, are themselves immaterial. This awareness is poetic and, at a certain point, transcends the most immediate purpose that we imagine we will put it to, and yields insight and pleasure that belong to a richer world.


1 J. Dewey, How we think: A restatement of the relation of reflective thinking to the educative process, Chicago, Henry Regnery, 1933, p. 78.

2 Donald Schön has attempted to divide reflexion into two phases, one during an experience and one after the event (The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action, Basic Books, New York, 1983) but this distinction in timing frames the discourse in terms of functional process, which is not necessarily helpful in probing what reflexion is.

3 ‘To achieve most intended learning outcomes a range of verbs, from high to low cognitive level, needs to be activated. The highest would refer to such activities as reflecting and theorizing, the lowest to memorizing and recalling’, John Biggs and Catherine Tang, Teaching for quality learning at university: What the student does, 4th edition (first edition 1999), Open University Press, McGraw-Hill, Maidenhead, 2011.

4 As in the four lenses of Stephen Brookfield, Becoming a critically reflective teacher, San Francisco, Jossey-Bass, 1995.

5 David Boud and David Walker, ‘Promoting reflection in professionals courses: the challenge of context’, Studies in Higher Education, vol. 23(2), 1998, pp. 191–206.

6 loc. cit.

7 John Flavell, ‘Metacognition and cognitive monitoring. A new area of cognitive-development inquiry’, American Psychologist, vol. 34, no. 10, pp. 906–911 (doi:10.1037/0003-066X.34.10.906).

8 ἀντανάκλασις, ἀνταυγασία, ἀντίλαμψις, ἀντιφάνεια, ἀντιφωτισμός, κατάλαμψις, φραστύς.

9 ἀντιστίλβω, ἀνακυλίνδω, ἀντανακλάω, ἀνταυγέω, ἀντιφαίνω.

10 Greek words dated in Liddell, Scott, Jones (LSJ) A Greek lexicon, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1968.

11 Sophocles, Antigone 279, Plato, Republic 571d, Laws 790b, Aristotle, Problems 917b39.

12 Aeschylus, Agamemnon 912, Persians 142, Suppliants 407, Sophocles, Oedipus the King 67, Oedipus at Colonna 170, Xenophon, Cyropaedia 6.2.12, Herodotus 2.104, Euripides, Fragments 684.4, Hippolytus 436.

13 Olympian odes 1.19.

14 William H. Race, ‘Pindar’s “Best is water”: Best of what?’, Greek, Roman, & Byzantine Studies, vol. 22, 1981, pp. 119–124.

15 Bruno Snell, Die Entdeckung des Geistes, Studien zur Entstehung des europäischen Denkens bei den Griechen, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 5th ed, 1980, p. 10. Snell is circumspect: ‘Wenn in Folgenden etwa behauptet wird, die homerischen Menschen hätten kein Geist, keine Seele und infolgedessen auch sehr viel anderes noch nicht gekannt, ist also nich gemeint, die homerischen Menschen hätten sich noch nicht freuen oder nicht an etwas denken können und so fort, was absurd wäre: nur wird dergleichen eben nicht als Aktion des Geistes oder der Seele interpretiert: in dem Sinn gab es noch keinen Geist un keine Seele’.

16 Instances given in Lewis & Short, A Latin dictionary, s.v.: ‘(elephantorum) dentes reflexi.’ Pliny 11.37.62; ‘cornu (with adunco aere)’, Seneca Oedipus 731: ‘cornicula (scarabaei)’, Pliny 30.11.30; and, of the nape of the neck, Virgil, Aeneid 10.535.

17 I turned it around—or reflected—in my mind, ‘animum reflexi.’ Virgil, Aeneid 2.741.

18 Their idea of a reflexion was a bright flash, where things shine (refulgeo), are refulgent, to use our archaic word; they glitter, glisten (renideo) and are resplendent, with a certain revibratio.

19 Julius Caesar 1.2.

20 1 Corinthians 13.12.

21 ‘speculis apparent simulacra’, Lucretius 4.98.

22 ‘del calor che si riflette a dietro’, Ludovico Ariosto, Orlando furioso 8.20,1–4.

23 ‘meco amica e concorde i rai riflette’, Adone 11.17.

24 ‘that side which from the wall of Heav’n / Though distant far some small reflexion gains / Of glimmering air less vexed with tempest loud’, Paradise lost 3.427–29.

25 Francis Junius, Painting of ancients, London, R. Hodgkinsonne, 1638, p. 285.

26 ‘Se co’ riflessi il sol nutre il calore, / questa, per far più fervide le occhiate, / l’oppon due vetri, acciò che ’l suo folgore / vibri in vece di rai vampe adirate,’ La donna con gli occhiali 5–8.

27 Cymbeline 1.2.

28 ‘E questo credo io che avvenga perciò che l’appetito de la vendetta che par cosí dolce, a poco a poco tira l’uomo fuor dei termini de la ragione e in modo l’ira accende che, accecato l’intelletto, ad altro non può rivolger l’animo che a pensar tuttavia come offender possa il suo nemico, né mai riflette la considerazione a tanti e sí diversi perigli che tutto ‘l dí occorrer si vedeno.’ (Il Bandello al molto illustre e valoroso signore il signor Cesare Fregoso) Novelle 2.13.

29 Troilus and Cressida 3.3.

30 s.v. cited as ‘1595 R. Parsons et al. Conf. Next Succession ii. 33’.

31 ‘De ton siècle brillant mes yeux virent la fin; / siècle de grands talents bien plus que de lumière,’ Voltaire, À Boileau, ou mon testament, 6–7.

32 ‘Voici la réflexion que fait Dion Cassius sur ce dessein de Mithridate’, Préface to Mithridate.

33 See my article ‘The development of intimacy: history of an emotional state in art and literature’, Australian Journal of Art, vol. 4, 1985, pp. 15–35.

34 ‘faisant réflexion au plaisir qu’il vient d’avoir’, Marivaux, Arlequin poli par l’amour, single act, 11.

35 ‘Tristes réflexions, qu’il n’est plus temps de faire! / Quand je me suis perdu, la sagesse m’éclaire’, Annibal 3.6.

36 ‘un récit que j’accompagne ordinairement de réflexions où votre sexe ne trouve pas son compte’, La surprise de l’amour 1.7.

37 ‘Monsieur, depuis que nous nous sommes quittés, j’ai fait réflexion qu’il était assez inutile de nous voir. Oh! très inutile; je l’ai pensé de même. Je prévois que cela vous gênerait’, La surprise de l’amour 2.2.

38 ‘tout cela amènerait des réflexions qui pourraient vous embarrasser,’ Le Prince travesti 3.7.

39 ‘cette réflexion-là me met de mauvaise humeur’, La surprise de l’amour 2.5.

40 ‘Ce butor-là m’inquiète avec ses réflexions,’ Le Prince travesti 1.13.

41 ‘Cette réflexion m’arrête; mais il est cruel de se voir soupçonné de joie, quand on n’a que du trouble.’ Le Prince travesti 1.8.

42 Le Prince travesti 2.8.

43 ‘Taisez-vous; je n’ai que faire de vos réflexions.’ Le Prince travesti 2.11.

44 ‘un peu de politesse dans vos réflexions,’ La joie imprévue, single act, 5.

45 ‘Faites vos réflexions à part, et point de conversation ensemble,’ La Joie imprévue, single act, 14.

46 ‘Oui, mais la prudence m’a pris, et j’ai fait une reflexion’.

47 ‘à quoi vous a conduit cette réflexion-là?’, Le Prince travesti 3.2; elsewhere, Trivelin’s reflexions can be discounted in favour of the facts (‘Tu m’obligerais de retrancher tes réflexions et de venir au fait,’ La fausse suivante 2.3).

48 ‘Diantre ! tes réflexions sont de riche étoffe,’ La fausse suivante ou le fourbe puni 2.5.

49 ‘ne mérite pas votre réflexion satirique’, L’heureux stratagème, 2.10.

50 ‘j’en prendrais, à la honte de mes réflexions’, La fausse suivante ou le fourbe puni, 1.1.

51 ‘Au contraire, c’est par réflexion qu’ils me tentent. Plus j’y rêve, et plus je les trouve bons.’ Les fausses confidences 1.11. The same phrase arises when La Comptesse is threatened with innuendo of infidelity which looms large in the absence of reflexion (faute de réflexion). L’heureux stratagème 1.4.

52 ‘Ce qu’il me dit là me fait naître une pensée que toutes mes réflexions fortifient’, La fausse suivante ou le fourbe puni 3.1.

53 ‘vos réflexions sont à mon avantage’, La fausse suivante 3.7.

54 ‘Madame, un peu de réflexion. Ne savez-vous pas que vous êtes jeune, belle, et fille de condition ? Citez-moi une tête de fille qui ait tenu contre ces trois qualités-là, citez-m’en une.’ L’Île de la raison ou les petits hommes 2.6.

55 ‘faites donc réflexion que je vous parle’, La fausse suivante ou le fourbe puni 3.6.

56 ‘faites de sérieuses réflexions sur vous ; tâchez de vous mettre au fait de toute votre sottise’, L’Île de la raison ou les petits hommes 1.10.

57 ‘de jugement, de réflexion, de flegme, de sagesse, en un mot, de cela (montrant son front)’, L’Île de la raison ou les petits hommes 1.1.

58 ‘il faut avoir bien du jugement pour sentir que nous n’en avons point. N’est-ce pas là la réflexion que tu veux qu’on fasse?’ L’Île de la raison ou les petits hommes 1.1.

59 ‘nous ne disons point ce que nous pensons … Faites pourtant réflexion que je suis étrangère … ’ L’Île de la raison ou les petits hommes 2.8; cf. ‘faites-y vos réflexions’, Les Serments indiscrets 4.4, and ‘faites réflexion à ce que je vous dit’, Le Petit-Maître corrigé 1.12.

60 ‘Madame, je serais bien fâché de vous déplaire; je vous demande seulement d’y faire réflexion.’ La seconde surprise de l’amour 2.5.

61 ‘Ce ne sont que des réflexions très sérieuses,’ La seconde surprise de l’amour 2.8.

62 ‘du malheur d’une femme maltraitée par son mari, je lui citais celle de Tersandre que je trouvai l’autre jour fort abattue, parce que son mari venait de la quereller, et je faisais là-dessus mes réflexions’.

63 ‘des instants et des réflexions qui nous déterminent tout d’un coup’, La seconde surprise de l’amour 3.8.

64 ‘Ce qui lui en coûte à se déterminer, ne me le rend que plus estimable: il pense qu’il chagrinera son père en m’épousant, il croit trahir sa fortune et sa naissance, voilà de grands sujets de réflexion’, Le Jeu de l’amour et du hasard 3.4.

65 Il burbero benefico 2.1.

66 ‘Penso, rifletto e non so a qual partito appigliarmi,’ I mercanti 1.3.

67 ‘Signor padrone, ora non è tempo né di perdersi di animo, né di formare riflessi sulle vicende del mondo,’ I mercanti 2.6.

68 ‘Vani riflessi e tardi: dovea pensarci in prima.’ Il Cavaliere di spirito ovvero La donna di testa debole 2.4 or they can be downright useless in a despairing exlamation (Inutili riflessi!) Il Moliere 2.2.

69 ‘mi piace che voi prendiate la cosa in buona parte; vi lodo e v’ammiro. Ma permettetemi di far un riflesso. Chi si prenderà il pensiero de’ preparativi necessari per una giovane che si fa sposa?’, Il burbero benefico 2.5.

70 ‘Provien da quei riflessi che merta il caso vostro.’ Il padre per amore 4.4.

71 ‘Quando così si parla ci si riflette in prima.’ L’amante di sé medesimo 3.7.

72 ‘Per amor del cielo, scusatemi. Queste riflessioni si dovevano fare prima di dargli parola.’ L’impostore 3.10.

73 ‘Tutti questi saggi riflessi sarebbono stati opportuni prima di promettere.’ La donna di maneggio 1.10.

74 ‘Avendo io avuto la fortuna di conoscere la signora Rosaura, quando era in casa della signora sua zia, ed essendo noi accostumati a far delle riflessioni su qualche buon libro, era venuto per non perder l’uso di un così bello esercizio.’ Il padre di famiglia 1.18.

75 ‘Una lettera? Lassemela veder’ … ‘La leggeremo poi questa sera con comodo, con riflesso. Per ora è meglio badare a sollecitar quel che preme.’ La bancarotta, o sia il mercante fallito 1.13.

76 La donna di garbo 1.8.

77 La donna di maneggio 2.16.

78 ‘L’affare merita qualche riflesso’ … ‘Tutti i vostri riflessi io li ho prevenuti’, La madre amorosa 2.3.

79 See the masterful study by Erwin Panovsky, ‘Titian’s Allegory of prudence: A postscript’, in Meaning in the visual arts, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1982 ed. See also Simona Cohen, ‘Titian’s London Allegory and the three beasts of his selva oscura’, Renaissance Studies, vol. 14, no 1, 2000, p. 46.

80 ‘La scelta ch’io farò non sarà capricciosa, né sconsigliata, ma figlia di buoni riflessi, giusta e doverosa.’ La vedova scaltra 3.25.

81 ‘Egli ha il punto di vista. Riflettere conviene’, Il Moliere 3.3.

82 ‘Ah, non dovea sì presto scriver la carta ingrata’ … ‘Riflettere conviene, se alcun l’ha consigliata.’ Il Cavaliere di spirito ovvero La donna di testa debole 3.3.

83 ‘Ma se l’ho detto senza riflettere a quello che mi dicessi! Signora Beatrice, ho da darvi una buona nuova.’ Il contrattempo 1.6.

84 ‘mi ricordo il vostro saggio riflesso’, Il ritorno dalla villeggiatura 2.4.

85 ‘Ah! la ragione ed il cuore mi parlano con due diversi linguaggi. Questo mi stimola a lusingarmi, quella mi anima ai più giusti, ai più virtuosi riflessi.’ Il ritorno dalla villeggiatura 2.11.

86 ‘L’una e l’altra incombenza, se si riflette, è uguale.’ Il padre per amore 1.2.

87 ‘alcune ragioni dell’avversario, le quali meritano maggior tempo e maggior riflesso’, L’avvocato veneziano 2.1.

88 ‘Chi ha la coscienza macchiata, ha sempre timore d’essere scoperto, onde mi conviene riflettere e stabilire una qualche risoluzione.’ L’impostore 2.10.

89 ‘Egli è solito parlare senza riflettere. Questo è il suo difetto, e l’ho corretto più volte. Non mi pare poi ch’egli abbia un fondo cattivo. Mi ha protestata cento volte la sua gratitudine, l’amor suo.’ Il contrattempo 2.2.

90 ‘Che dice, signore? Le pare che mia figliuola sia degna de’ suoi riflessi?’ Il matrimonio per concorso 2.19.

91 ‘Und wenn dann der Mond wieder hervortrat und über der schwarzen Wolke ruhte, und vor mir hinaus die Flut in fürchterlich herrlichem Widerschein rollte und klang: da überfiel mich ein Schauer, und wieder ein Sehnen!’ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Die Leiden des jungen Werther 2, 12 December.

92 ‘Durch Fichtenwälder stiegen wir weiter den Jura hinan, und sahen den See in Duft und den Widerschein des Mondes darin.’ Goethe, Briefe aus der Schweiz 2, 24 October.

93 ‘Und zeigt mir ungefähr ein klarer Brunnen / In seinem reinen Spiegel einen Mann, / Der wunderbar bekränzt im Widerschein / Des Himmels zwischen Bäumen, zwischen Felsen / Nachdenkend ruht,’ Torquato Tasso 1.3.

94 ‘Der Boden haucht vergoßnen Blutes Widerschein’, 2 Faust 2, Klassische Walpurgisnacht. Pharsalische Felder.

95 ‘Verzeih, o Herr, das sind die Spuren / Verschollner geistiger Naturen, / Ein Widerschein der Dioskuren, / Bei denen alle Schiffer schwuren; / Sie sammeln hier die letzte Kraft.’ 2 Faust 4.

96 ‘die Wiederspiegelung des ewigen Urschmerzes, des einzigen Grundes der Welt der “Schein” ist hier Widerschein des ewigen Widerspruchs, des Vaters der Dinge.’ Friedrich Nietzsche, Die Geburt der Tragödie 4.

97 ‘Ma pauvre muse, hélas! qu’as-tu donc ce matin? /Tes yeux creux sont peuplés de visions nocturnes, / Et je vois tour à tour réfléchis sur ton teint / La folie et l’horreur, froides et taciturnes.’ Les fleurs du mal 7, La muse malade 1–4.

98 ‘On dirait ton regard d’une vapeur couvert; / Ton œil mystérieux (est-il bleu, gris ou vert?) / Alternativement tendre, rêveur, cruel, / Réfléchit l’indolence et la pâleur du ciel.’ Les fleurs du mal 50, Ciel brouillé; cf. ‘Nos deux cœurs seront deux vastes flambeaux, / Qui réfléchiront leurs doubles lumières / Dans nos deux esprits, ces miroirs jumeaux.’ Les fleurs du mal 126, La mort des amants 6–8.

99 ‘quotiens te in speculo videris alterum’, Horace, Carmina 4.10.6.

100 ‘uns dadurch in den Stand setzt, mit uns selbst wie mit Fremdlingen umzugehen’, Friedrich Schiller, ‘Über die tragische Kunst’, Sämtliche Werke, Winkler Verlag, Munich n.d., vol. 5, p. 147.

Creativity Crisis

   by Robert Nelson