Our Moral Educators : Educational Debate and Representations of Teachers in the Mid-Century Victorian Novel Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/9z9033034

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  • In this thesis, I read the teachers in four mid-century Victorian novels--Charles Dickens' David Copperfield (1850) and Hard Times (1854), Thomas Hughes' Tom Brown’s Schooldays (1857) and Charlotte Brontё's Villette (1853)-- within the context of mid-century English educational debate in an effort to explicate the ways in which these characters represent the prevailing educational ideologies in discussion during the period. Although many scholars have discussed the ways in which these novels' students and schools reflect educational trends, teachers are often small parts of the conversation. I contend that the teacher characters in these novels are worth focus because of the uniqueness of their role in the cultural imagination as the shapers of the future. Thus, their representations reveal much about what a culture values and desires to instill in its progeny, as well as how said culture feels they can go about instilling said values. With this in mind, Chapter 1 of this thesis will use critic Elizabeth Gargano's definitions of standardized and domestic pedagogy to bring into conversation the political and pedagogical writings of educators in the nineteenth century with the four novels listed above. Here, I argue that while teachers and educational reformers either emphasized standardization or attempted to look for compromise, the novels privilege teachers that ascribe to a kind of portable domestic ideology that can be transplanted into the school, while, in contrast, any standardized school culture that is brought into the home is inherently destructive. In Chapter 2, I discuss how this divide is a commentary on larger ideological divides among the Victorian middle-classes. Standardization, with its associations with industry, represents a starkly amoral and capitalistic model of education that many of the newly-empowered middle-class wanted to move away from, while the privileged portable domestic pedagogy combines middle-class industriousness with the aristocratic gentility valued as a marker of cultural capital. Through analyzing this conflict, I will argue that the teachers in these novels are expected to be the exemplars of this ideology of genteel work, an ideology that, even in the domestically-biased fictional world of the novel, they have trouble navigating.
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