Memoirs of Teaching in the Sixties and Beyond: Teaching , Writing, and Self-Reliance

Soalt, Jennifer, Department of English, University of Virginia
Department of English, University of Virginia

Many memoirs of teaching were published in the sixties and early seventies. Sylvia Ashton-Warner, Jonathan Kozol, Herbert Kohl, George Dennison, Jim Haskins, James Herndon, Frank Conroy, and Philip Lopate, as well as many less well-known authors, all published memoirs of teaching between 1963 and 1975. Popular when they were first published, most of these books are still in print, or have been recently reissued, yet little has been written about them as a group or about their influence on either life writing or education. In the memoirs of teachers from the sixties and seventies, self-reliance as personal practice becomes self-reliance as plot. Repeatedly, teacher writers build their narratives around accounts of pedagogical self-reliance, which correspond to Emerson's account of personal self-reliance. Precedents for the sixties and seventies memoirists' transformation of self-reliance from practice to plot can be found in the work of Thoreau, Dewey, and Tolstoy. The transformation of self-reliance from practice to plot, from personal philosophy to public narrative, from an individual approach to growth to an educational approach to growth, challenges us to think of self-reliance, somewhat unconventionally, as a collaborative, rather than a private, method of bringing about change and development in people and society. Each of the four chapters of the dissertation looks at a different teaching practice or pedagogical stance intrinsic to the representation self-reliance in teachers' memoirs: the practice of challenging educational injustice; the practice of teaching writing in meaningful ways in poor communities; the practice of crossing borders between ii communities; and the practice of placing relationships at the center of teaching and learning. Each chapter begins by focusing on memoirs of teaching from the sixties and seventies, and ends by looking at how some of the issues raised in sixties and seventies memoirs have been played out in contemporary memoirs.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
memoirs, teaching, 1963-1975, self-reliance
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