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John Carey: the constant reader by Matthew Reisz

So, although it is a very amiable book, The Unexpected Professor contains a good deal of implicit and sometimes explicit criticism of both Oxford and literary studies. What was it like for Carey to have nonetheless spent most of his life within them?

Now emeritus professor of English, Carey no longer has a room in his old college, Merton. When he invites me to lunch there, we have to go through its vast medieval door to the hall, up and down staircases, through a beautiful 17th-century panelled room – although it is probably not, he explains, the room where Charles I’s wife, Henrietta Maria, held court during the Civil War – to find a perch for our interview.

Furthermore, he continues, he “tried to change Oxford” from within and, for example, “corresponded with a lot of teachers in non-public schools and, other things being equal, certainly tried to move towards an intake with non-public-school undergraduates. Not many other people were doing that in the early 1960s.

“I don’t like to see people coming to Oxford who are not serious about the subject. If you come for social reasons, because daddy came or because friends from school are going or because of the social cachet, I think that’s unfair to the kids from poorer backgrounds who would love to come to a place where work is serious and they get a lot of help. If you come for anything other than academic reasons, you should go elsewhere.”

 

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Despre Claudiu Degeratu
Expert in securitate nationala, internationala, NATO, UE, aparare si studii strategice

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