[ilds] Durrell and the Academy

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Wed Jul 18 10:08:50 PDT 2007

On Jul 17, 2007, Marc writes,

>Since when has there been a relation between 
>"autodidact" and "intellectual development"?
>Surely not, rather on the contrary it means not 
>under the "stifling" influence of....
>On the contrary many people have become statesmen 
>and regarded intellectuals despite their lack of 
>schooling: Churchill never completed his 
>schooling, André Malraux never got his 
>bacaleaureat... just to name two that are very 
>different but had an impact on their time and 
>I have a feeling that we are being led astray from 
>the heart of the matter by recent posts....
>Surely quality writing has nor necessarily 
>anything (sorry) to do with education!

It would be nice to think so, that higher education has no bearing on a writer's reception.  But nowadays things may not be so simple.  The Academy takes it upon itself to be the arbiter in these matters, what's good and not.  It establishes the "Canon."  Lawrence Durrell did not get the keys to the kingdom with a degree from Cambridge.  Indeed, he failed his entrance exams to that university (maths, I think, did him in) and had to go out and create his own kingdom of the imagination.  Now, LD is not, with isolated exceptions, taught in English speaking colleges and universities.  And Charles further tells us that for a scholar to specialize in Lawrence Durrell is definitely not a good career move.  Studying him is something a college professor does on the side, probably surreptitiously so his/her academic colleagues won't find out and raise their eyebrows.  I detect a preponderance of academic hostility to LD, and Dr. Terry Eagleton's vilification of MacNiven's biography, an ad hominem attack on Durrell himself, typifies that attitude.  You have to ask yourself what prompts that amount of disdain.  So, I'm wondering, had Durrell gone to Cambridge and conformed to its standards, would he now have a different standing in British literature?  I think so, but he wouldn't be the writer we now know.


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