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The Journal of English Language and Literature , Vol.64, No.4, 565 ~ 585, 2018
From Jane Eyre to Eliza Doolittle: Women as Teachers
Aegyung Noh
The pedagogical dynamic dramatized in Shaw’s Pygmalion, which sets man as a distinct pedagogical authority and woman his subject spawning similarly patterned plays many decades later, has been relatively overlooked in the play’s criticism clouded by its predominantly mythical theme. Shaw stages Eliza’s pedagogical subordination to Higgins followed by her Nora-esque exit with the declaration, “I’ll go and be a teacher.” The central premise of this article is that the pioneering modern playwright and feminist’s pedagogical rewriting of A Doll’s House sets out a historical dialogue between Eliza, a new woman who repositions herself as a teacher renouncing her earlier subordinate pedagogical position that is culturally ascribed to women while threatening to replace her paternal teacher, and her immediate precursors, that is, Victorian women teachers whose professional career was socially “anathematized.” Through a historical probe into the social status of Victorian women teachers, the article attempts to align their abortive career with Eliza’s new womanly re-appropriation of the profession of teaching. With Pygmalion as the starting point of its query, this article conducts a historical survey on the literary representation of pedagogical women from the mid to late Victorian era to the turn of the century. Reading a wide selection of novels and plays alongside of Pygmalion (1912), such as Jane Eyre (1847), A Doll’s House (1879), An Enemy of the People (1882), The Odd Women (1893), and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), it contextualizes Eliza’s resolution to be a teacher within the history of female pedagogy. This historical contextualization of the career choice of one of the earliest new women characters in modern drama helps appraise the historical significance of such choice.
Key Words
women teachers, pedagogical dynamic, gendered pedagogical role, Pygmalion, Victorian literature
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