Seductress or schoolmarm: On the improbability of the great female teacher

Year: 1994

Author: McWilliam, Erica

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper explores the question of the relation of gender and pedagogy by inquiring into the importance of male diction in the construction of the great teacher as a cultural phenomenon. I ask whether the same mobilising of desire becomes malediction (seduction) when it is produced out of the pedagogical performances of women.

In examining this question, I do not adhere to the predictable tradition of critical feminist scholarship, given the extent to which, paradoxically, this tradition has made examination of the issue more difficult. I do allude to the newer tradition of psychoanalytic feminism, but, in the main, I draw on literary theory as a more fertile theoretical terrain because of its potential to disrupt theory and to disturb the disciplinary boundaries which prevent feminists from "saying it otherwise". Questions raised include: Must the image of a great female teacher be a contradiction in terms? Has it been otherwise? Could it again be so? What conditions would be necessary to achieve this?