[ilds] The Education of a Writer

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Sat Oct 10 16:01:42 PDT 2009


Sumantra,

Nabokov is an excellent example of what a good education can do for a  
young writer.  As you know, he came to the States and taught a course  
in European literature at Cornell for a while.  He was a rigorous  
teacher, demanding, and his exams were reportedly horrific, requiring  
a lot of specific knowledge.  I think Durrell suffered from not having  
such training and discipline.  Some of his writings are just fatuous  
and outlandish, to wit, the gnomic remark in Justine about "French  
thought."  I'm sure he couldn't have made that sally to a Cambridge  
tutor, or a Nabokov, and gotten away with it, unless, as I said, it's  
intended to be taken as an example of Darley's naïveté.


Bruce

On Oct 10, 2009, at 5:15 AM, Sumantra Nag wrote:

> Bruce: "Durrell  probably got a good education at his, before he  
> went out
> into the  world.  He seems to know his Latin. What he missed and  
> could have
> profited from, I think, was the critical exercise of going one on  
> one  with
> a tutor."
>
> I found it interesting to take the case of Vladimir Nabokov who was at
> Cambridge University between 1919 and 1923, getting a good honours  
> degree
> and even sometimes excelling in Russian and French, subjects to  
> which he
> changed after having initially started with zoology. His brother  
> Segei was
> also with him in Cambridge and so, it seems, were other Russian  
> students, at
> least some of whom, like Nabokov himself, were from aristocratic
> backgrounds. But Vladimir Nabokov seemed to have had a capacity for  
> hard
> work which he applied to his academic field while he continued to  
> write
> poetry. His early training in French, Russian and English may have  
> also
> helped him to perform well. Although Nabokov's family was immensely  
> wealthy
> in Russia, they came to England as emigres after the Bolshevik  
> revolution so
> money was not available in excess. An interesting point is that with  
> his
> family members in England or in Europe (Berlin) Vladimir Nabokov  
> spent his
> holidays in their company. His father was shot dead in Berlin while  
> he was
> still in Cambridge.
>
> Sumantra
> -----------------------------
>> Message: 2
>> Date: Wed, 7 Oct 2009 14:15:39 -0700
>> From: Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>
>> Subject: [ilds] English Public Schools
>> To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
>> Cc: Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>
>> Message-ID: <0AB939D4-797B-4B89-8809-05044F253D24 at earthlink.net>
>> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"
>>
>> Sumantra, yes, the English public schools ("private" in American
>> terms) are superior educational institutions and excel at preparing
>> their students for the university.  They have other reputations,
>> however, and it's always interesting to read Orwell's "Such, such  
>> were
>> the joys" for another perspective.  The essay describes the social
>> climate at St. Cyprian's, before Orwell attended Eton.  Durrell
>> probably got a good education at his, before he went out into the
>> world.  He seems to know his Latin.  What he missed and could have
>> profited from, I think, was the critical exercise of going one on one
>> with a tutor.  A situation where one writes a weekly essay and then
>> has to defend it word for word, assuming that was and is the process
>> at one of the Oxbridge colleges.  If he had done that, he might have
>> avoided some of his questionable remarks on literature and the  
>> sciences.
>>
>>
>> Bruce
>>

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