Faculty Towers: The Academic Novel and its Discontents by Elaine Showalter - review by Valentine Cunningham

Valentine Cunningham

Perilous Professors

Faculty Towers: The Academic Novel and its Discontents


Oxford University Press 166pp £12.99

Elaine Showalter’s subject isn’t any old campus fiction – novels about universities in general or student life at large: that mass of fiction beginning, it might be, when Thomas Hughes’s hero left Rugby and ‘went up’ to Oxford in Tom Brown at Oxford, the genre coming of age in Evelyn Waugh’s deliciously malicious Decline and Fall. Professor Showalter’s concern is, rather, that much smaller corner of this unforeign field which academics have dubbed the Professorroman – novels about university teachers, the doings of lecturers and professors in their departments and faculties, in particular those written from the Fifties to the present day.

Our very lively and likeable Dante to this educational Purgatory and Inferno – mapped decade by decade as the novels appeared – says this is her favourite reading. Since she’s been a professor of English (at Princeton most notably) it comes as no surprise that she seems to like reading

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