Title page for ETD etd-0417102-144640

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Watson, Margaret M.
URN etd-0417102-144640
Title Doing Homework: Negotiations of the Domestic in Twentieth-Century Novels of Teaching
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department English
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Michelle Masse Committee Chair
Patrick McGee Committee Member
Petra Munro Committee Member
Richard Moreland Committee Member
John Whittaker Dean's Representative
  • contemporary novels
  • representations of teachers
Date of Defense 2002-04-15
Availability unrestricted
In this project, I analyze seven twentieth-century novels of teaching in order to investigate how notions of “home” and “school” are constructed, connected, and perpetuated in popular teaching narratives. Images of teachers in much of this century’s fiction often rest on views of the school as home that are derived from stereotypes of gender, race, and nationality—stereotypes that can be both inaccurate and repressive. For this reason, I examine these texts in light of how they negotiate school space with domestic space (“domestic” both as personal or familial, and as public or national). I contend that many of these narratives offer little more than simplistic, nostalgic views of what “home/school” space can be, and even fewer question the very equation of “school as home.” In those narratives that do probe the school/home connection, the teacher-protagonists often fail to emerge as the sentimental heroes that the teachers of the more conventional novels prove to be. Nevertheless, I argue that the most promising depictions of teachers and their work are those that acknowledge and engage the rich complexities of “home” and its (sometimes problematic) relation to the classroom, for the very tensions and conflicts that problematize the school’s classification as a domestic “safe haven” are the very tools that can facilitate growth, learning, and self-discovery.

The approach for my analysis draws from feminist and cultural studies, as well as educational history. The works I discuss include the following: The Blackboard Jungle; Good Morning, Miss Dove; To Sir, With Love; Spinster; The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie; Up the Down Staircase; and Election.

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