The Case of the Disappearing/Appearing Slow Learner: An Interpretive Mystery


  • W. John Williamson University of calgary
  • James Colin Field University of Calgary



fiction, hermeneutics, mystery


This interpretive essay attempts to demonstrate the potential good that might come from approaching a hermeneutic phenomenological study as a hard-boiled detective story in the tradition of Raymond Chandler. The authors attempt to explain the hermeneutic warrants for such an adventure—that is, for how and why a topic like the categorization and treatment of students in the public education system as “slow learners†might be approached as a detective story. The parallels between detective fiction, Chandler’s work as a noir novelist, and hermeneutics are drawn out. Attention is drawn to the ground of our interpretive relationship with the world in Heidegger’s notion of the “as structure†of interpretation. A case is made for seeing the hard-boiled detective story as a hermeneutic venue for shaking up commonsense understandings of how we have come to see and do education with those students designated as slow in their learning.



Author Biographies

W. John Williamson, University of calgary

W. John Williamson is a teacher/coordinator of special education services at a Calgary high school and a PhD candidate in interpretive studies in education at the University of Calgary.

James Colin Field, University of Calgary

Jim Field, PhD is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Calgary.


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