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Campus Novel


Subject Literature » Twentieth Century and Contemporary Literature

Key-Topics Britain and Britishness

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405192446.2011.x


In David Lodge's Deaf Sentence one professor tells another that “‘It wouldn't surprise me if we both turn up lightly disguised in a campus novel one of these days’” (2008, 286). This novel must be recent, for though “campus fiction” often is used today to describe imaginative literature set in British universities, the term's origins are American (Edemarium 155). Thus its growing presence against the native descriptor “university novels” ( Kenyon 1980 ) signifies changes over time within British academic life – and in novelists' responses to these changes. Three features mark fictional accounts of British university life. First, conservative comedy is the dominant mode (Moseley 18–19). Second, some institutions are massivelyoverrepresented relative to staff and student numbers. Thus 145 out of 204 novels published between 1945 and 1988 were set in just two smallish universities – Oxford (principally) and Cambridge (Carter 4). Third, most novels were written by English graduates, and many authors themselves taught in university English departments. If they were not members of English departments, most were in any case associated with the humanities; fictions written by natural, life, and social scientists are not common. Not surprisingly, therefore, and taking succor from particular readings of Matthew Arnold's Culture and Anarchy (1869), many fictions conjure universities as ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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