Adult education, popular culture, and women's identity development: self-directed learning with The Avengers



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The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of popular culture, especially prime-time television, on women learner-viewers? identity development. More specifically, this study explores one specific television show, the 1962-64 Cathy Gale episodes of The Avengers as a portal to adult learning. It further explores the ways in which television, as a form of public pedagogy, can help facilitate the formation of a critical or feminist identity among adult learner viewers. The research questions guiding this study were: 1) How and what did women learn from watching The Avengers? 2) How did women incorporate that learning into their lives and into their identities? and 3) How did women interpret and accommodate the feminist example of Cathy Gale? Data for this study was collected over a two-and-a-half year period. Data consisted of interviews with contemporaneous viewers of the Cathy Gale Avengers episodes, interviews with scriptwriters and the actor who played Cathy Gale, Honor Blackman, numerous documents from statistics obtained at the British Film Institute, fanzines, and newspaper articles of the period. Analysis revealed that in particular historical times and situations television viewing can become a form of public pedagogy, facilitating transformational learning in adult viewers that produces lasting, life-changing effects. The investigation revealed that not only did biologically-born women incorporate Cathy Gale?s feminist example into their identities and actions, but biologically born males whose core gender identity was female did also. This dissertation is written in article format. Each of the six sections has been designed as stand-alone pieces to aid accessibility and enhance readers? engagement with the study.