Tag Archives: soci-cultural

Genres of Literature – Varsity or Campus Novel


campus

Although these two ‘titles’ are dependent on subject rather than genre, I have merged them into one. As you can see the definitions are very alike.

In a varsity or campus novel, the main action is set in and around the campus of a university.  The varsity novel focuses on the students rather than faculty, while the campus novel centers on the faculty. The novels are told from the viewpoint of a faculty member or, of course from a student’s point of view. The novels can be comic or satirical and often counterpoint intellectual pretensions and human weaknesses. These narrative are also called academic novels. The novels exploit the fictional possibilities created by the closed environment of the university, with idiosyncratic characters inhabiting unambiguous hierarchies. They may describe the reaction of a fixed socio-cultural perspective (the academic staff) to new social attitudes (the new student intake).

This genre is largely an Anglophone tradition. Mary McCarthy’s The Groves of Academe (1952)  is usually thought to be the first campus novel. However there are others predating that. Examples include Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, Tom Sharpe’s Porterhouse Blue and Stephen Fry’s The Liar and Making History. 

Although the genre may seem limited because of the location, there are numerous characters to utilize with their backgrounds, personalities and ambitions enabling an author to create dozens of possibilities.

Do you have a varsity novel favorite?

Brideshead Revisited is mine by far, with it’s social expectations and damaging secrets.