Dean’s inaugural lecture led us into the ‘Twilight’ zone…

Christine Jarvis midsize

Thu, 01 Aug 2013 15:37:00 BST

Professor Christine Jarvis, Dean of the School of Education and Professional Development, recently delivered her inaugural professorial lecture at the University, focussing on understanding the appeal of the popular ‘Twilight’ saga for young women and girls. Held in the grand surroundings of the George Buckley lecture theatrewith an audience of friends and family, staff from local partnership organisations and School staff, her lecture was entitled 'The twilight of feminism? Stephanie Meyers' saga as public pedagogy.'

Introduced by the Pro-Vice Chancellor, Professor Tim Thornton, she outlined how her research interests developed from a childhood love of stories and learning and of education.  Her lecture was concerned with public pedagogy, using the books of the Twilight saga as an example. She explained that public pedagogy is a term used to indicate that education and training often takes place outside formal institutions and organisation of learning, that it happens in public places such as museums, libraries and other cultural centres and that it can be located in popular culture such as film, novels, television and cyberspace. Adult educators and researchers and educators more generally have found it useful to examine these sources to understand the kinds of learning they might promote.

She explained that public pedagogy research has an association and affinity with cultural studies and it is from this tradition that she has developed her research over many years.Her research has focused on how popular fictions construct and represent educational institutions, teachers and learners and the way people learn from popular culture, for example from popular romance. She has looked at a wide range of popular texts in the course of her research 

She went onto to use Stephanie Meyer’s work to offer an insight into her research.  She addressed the apparently surprising popularity of books which centre on the repressive and stereotypical romance between Bella and Edward, the main characters in the stories.  Using evidence from a wide range of educational research studies, she went on to explain how the stories may offer girls a resolution to some of the challenges they face in a society where they are expected to be very high achievers academically and economically but are also harshly judged in terms of their appearance and ability to attract admiring male attention,.   Her links with the films and books were well illustrated and were well received - you didn't even need to have read the books! And indeed, she apologised to those members of the audience to whom the books were clearly not targeted!   A really clear example she used was the wedding of Edward and Bella.  Bella abhors all the traditional trappings of a wedding, such as the dress and makeover, but nevertheless the readers (and Bella) get a spectacular wedding.  Bella then experiences the ultimate beauty makeover when she becomes a stunning and ageless vampire.

All in all, the lecture was an accessible, fascinating insight into how she has used popular culture as a basis for educational research; research which has led to her delivering papers at conferences across the world.


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