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Academia in Fact and Fiction

Edited By Ludmiła Gruszewska-Blaim and Merritt Moseley

«Academia in Fact and Fiction» comprises twenty-eight essays on the relationship(s) between the university and the practice of belles lettres. The collection includes studies of the teaching of fiction by university professors; the fit – or misfit – between the creative writer and the academy; the depiction of the university, its staff and atmosphere, in literature, cinema and new media; and the varieties of academic fiction ranging from the ludic and satirical to the tragic. Most of the works addressed in the volume are British or American, modern or contemporary, but the historical range extends to Victorian and Shakespearian works, and the geographical range includes novels and poems from Russia, New Zealand, and Nigeria. Among the genres discussed are, in addition to the «literary novel», plays, detective fiction, fanfiction, utopias, mysteries and alternative history. The contributors are international and cosmopolitan.

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‘Ghost of the Old Joy’: The Vocation of Literary Scholarship, According to Stoner (Joseph Ballan (University of Copenhagen))


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Joseph Ballan

‘Ghost of the Old Joy’: The Vocation of Literary Scholarship, According to Stoner

Synopsis: John Williams is best known for his three novels – Stoner, Butcher’s Crossing, and Augustus (excluding an early effort that Williams wanted forgotten). He taught creative writing at the University of Denver. Before writing these novels, however, he wrote a Ph.D. at the University of Missouri on the poetry and drama of sixteenth-century English writer Fulke Greville. He also edited an anthology of English Renaissance poetry. This paper investigates some intersections between Williams’s scholarly life and the portrayal of scholarship as vocation in his academic novel, Stoner. It suggests that the first half of the novel can be read as a conversion narrative. This novel is set at the University of Missouri at Columbia. While details of local Missouri history are few, the paper argues for a significance of this setting that goes beyond the biographical fact that Williams, like his eponymous protagonist, studied and taught at this school.

Stoner by John Williams is an academic novel that, though first published in 1965, has enjoyed a kind of critical and popular second life in recent years, in America as well as on the European continent. Its author was a scholar as well as a fictionist; in this brief essay, I consider some of the points of connection between his scholarly points of view and the picture of a life in literature in modern America as...

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