Thumbnail Image

"I my own professor": Ashton-Warner as New Zealand educational theorist, 1940-60.

The invitation to contribute to this volume addressed me as a New Zealander who had written about how Sylvia Ashton-Warner's fantasies, theories, imagery, and life-history narratives threaded their way through my own. I had written of my youthful encounters with her work in Educating Feminists (Middleton 1993), in which I looked back on reading Spinster in 1960 at age thirteen and reflected on my teenage dreams of life as an artist and beatnik in Parisian cafes and garrets: confined to an Edwardian boarding school hostel in a provincial New Zealand town, I had plotted my escape to what Ashton-Warner described in Myself as "some bohemian studio on the Left Bank in Paris or over a bowl of wine in Italy, me all sophisticated and that, with dozens of lovers, paint everywhere and love and communion and sympathy and all that" (Myself, 212). When, in the early 1970s, I began secondary school teaching and read Teacher, that book built bridges between the frightening urgency of classroom survival, the enticing theories but alien classrooms described by American deschoolers and free-schoolers, and "what I believed myself to be when a girl on the long long road to school, a vagabond and an artist" (I Passed This Way, 307). As a young teacher I, too, had poured my impassioned soul into writing journals and poetry, painting, and playing the piano. Like Ashton-Warner, I had hoped that artistic self-expression could keep the mad woman in my attic at bay, for "asylums are full of artists who failed to say the things they must and famous tombs are full of those who did" (Incense to Idols, 169).
Chapter in Book
Type of thesis
Middleton, S. C. (2006). "I my own professor": Ashton-Warner as New Zealand educational theorist, 1940-60. In J. P. Robertson & C. McConaghy (Eds), Provocations: Sylvia Ashton-Warner and Excitability in Education (pp. 33-62). New York, Unite State: Peter Lang Publishing.
Peter Lang Publishing
This article has been published in the book Provocations: Sylvia Ashton-Warner and Excitability in Education. ©2006 Peter Lang Publishing. Used with permission.