'The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie:' Scottish TV's 1978 Series Considered as an Educational Resource for Teachers to Become Better Teachers

221 Pages Posted: 19 Apr 2018

Date Written: April 2, 2018


Every classroom teacher should read, as part of her or his education to become a teacher, the 1961 novel "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie," by Muriel Spark; should watch (on DVD) the 1969 Hollywood movie version, an adaption based on the novel, by Jay Presson Allen (also a woman), starring Maggie Smith (the movie closely follows the 1966 West End and Broadway stage adaptation, also by Allen); and, most importantly, should watch (on DVD) the 1978 Scottish TV seven-episode version, starring Geraldine McEwan.

Jean Brodie is an inspiring, authority-resisting, but in several important ways damaging, teacher; and the education of a real-life teacher cannot be complete without seeing and thinking carefully upon this in-person example of a "fictional" a teacher in her classroom setting. Jean Brodie teaches teachers in the way that literature teaches everyone: by presenting coherent fictional examples of the kinds of people we are in real life, and that we meet in real life.

Muriel Spark pronounced the Scottish TV version to be better than the stage or screen versions. Yet because the Scottish TV version was neither rebroadcast after 1978, nor ever released to VHS, nor released to DVD until 33 years later, in 2012, it has not been available for critical analysis of its presentation of one of literature's most prominent teacher-characters.

The character of the charismatic and inspiring, but also deeply misguided, school-teacher has captivated readers and audiences. This present study compares the novel, play, film, and Scottish TV versions, identifying areas of difference, and examines how the series is by far the best source for exploration of a kind of character that matters to everyone: our teachers in our youth.

How can they be inspiring, but avoid being misguided and hurtful?

The present study examines these issues in the concrete environment of the many new characters developed in the Scottish TV series. The study also examines ways in which new scenes, and different scenes, could lead to a re-made and expanded series, that would be highly beneficial to every teacher, and to all their students, male and female, in the years going forward from 2018 and after. Even if no such series is made, the examples described in the study will be of practical benefit to today's classroom teachers, in suggesting ways to avoid the problems that Jean Brodie makes for herself, and for her students.

Viewing the 1978 Scottish TV series on DVD likely will not appear to be as educational to teachers as it ought to be, due to the video production technology of the time, and the limited budget available to make the series. The benefit to teachers of reading the present study is that the study will aid teachers to realize that there is much more to the series than strikes the viewer on first viewing.

Jean Brodie is a woman teaching at an all-girls school, and her vision of what a young woman should aspire to become -- in the 1978 series more than in any other version, a "heroine" -- contributes to today's discussion on the role of women in Western society.

Jean Brodie is a woman of 1930, and her attitudes are "period correct," but her antagonism to the "STEM" fields for women, present in all versions but especially in the Scottish TV version, is problematic, and the author (himself an architecture graduate of MIT) proposes ways in which the character "Jean Brodie" in a remade series could learn to abandon her anti-"STEM" attitudes. The author also notes that two of the student characters in the series, Rose and Juliet, show great promise in mathematics (Juliet) and in engineering (Rose), and that in a remade series, they could be developed into inspiring role-model characters themselves.

Keywords: women students,women teachers,women in fiction,Jean Brodie,teacher

JEL Classification: I20,I21

Suggested Citation

Sisson, Edward H., 'The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie:' Scottish TV's 1978 Series Considered as an Educational Resource for Teachers to Become Better Teachers (April 2, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3154755 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3154755

Edward H. Sisson (Contact Author)

Independent ( email )

No Address Available

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