Log In Start studying!
StudySmarter - The all-in-one study app.
4.8 • +11k Ratings
More than 3 Million Downloads
Free
|
|

Academic and Campus Novel

Academic and Campus Novel

Life at university is teeming with drama. Is it any wonder that readers crave reading about all the action at universities? The academic novel is a popular genre, especially among young adults and teens who enjoy reading about campus life.

Academic and campus novels: definition

This novel genre is referred to as either an academic or campus novel. This article will refer to the genre by the term campus novel.

Campus novel - A genre of fiction set in the fixed location of a university. These novels tend to be comedic and highlight the absurdities of academia.

The campus novel has been a popular genre of fiction since the 1950s. The first modern iteration of the campus novel was Mary McCarthy's The Groves of Academe (1952). These stories centre around the lives of students at university. Campus novels explore the dynamics that can occur in the fixed setting of a university. They are typically satirical novels that poke fun at university institutions and academia. The modern campus novel has expanded on this to occasionally take on a darker tone, an example of which is Donna Tartt's The Secret History (1994).

Academic and campus novels: characteristics

The campus novel is defined by characteristics concerning the plot, characters and themes.

Plot

The plot of a campus novel will centre around the lives of a university's academic faculty and students. Many of these novels are satires so that the story will be presented in a comical (or absurd) way.

Satire - A literary device that uses irony and humour to highlight the faults and vices of people or institutions.

Campus novels typically utilise scenes of drinking, partying and excess to highlight the absurdities of academia. Universities and academia are prestigious institutions, so the campus novel uses its plot to mock the eccentricity of these organisations. This may be done by presenting situations of power, corruption and immoral politics. This is perhaps best seen in the campus novel Lucky Jim (1954) by Kingsley Amis, which is quoted below:

For a moment he felt like devoting the next ten years to working his way to a position as art critic on purpose to review Bertrand's work unfavorably.

In this novel, the plot centres around a history lecturer who is given a job at one of the U.K's most prestigious universities. He does not enjoy the experience and would instead drink and flirt with women. This highlights how the plot of the campus novel will satirise academia and its pretensions.

Characters

No story is complete without characters, and the campus novel uses a host of character archetypes to define this genre.

The anti-hero

The anti-hero is the central character in a novel. They will lack the typical characteristics of a hero, such as courage or honour. Instead, the anti-hero will sometimes lack morals and be driven by an internal struggle. The anti-hero is used in campus novels to highlight some of the flaws in academia. An example of an anti-hero in the campus novel genre is David Lurie, the protagonist of Disgrace (1999) by J.M Coetzee. The novel follows Lurie, a communications lecturer, who loses his job due to his hedonistic behaviour.

He continues to teach because it provides him with a livelihood; also because it teaches him humility, brings it home to him who he is in the world. The irony does not escape him: that the one who comes to teach learns the keenest of lessons, while those who come to learn learn nothing.

The sage

Another literary archetype observed in the campus novel is the presence of the sage character. The sage functions as a scholar or teacher to the protagonist and is a mentor to the protagonist. The sage's purpose in the text is often to pursue knowledge and enlightenment, sometimes to extreme lengths. An example of the sage in a campus novel is seen in the character, William Stoner in John Williams's novel, Stoner (1965).

Sometimes, immersed in his books, there would come to him the awareness of all that he did not know, of all that he had not read; and the serenity for which he labored was shattered as he realized the little time he had in life to read so much, to learn what he had to know.

Themes

Campus novels are set in universities, which are places of learning and growth for young people. Therefore, they can be used to discuss themes of coming of age and the future. These novels are also typically associated with themes of enlightenment and education. These themes can be presented sincerely, or in a satiric way. Campus novels can also be used as the setting for novels with darker themes. In recent years many campus novels have been used to explore themes of death, mystery and corruption. A notable example of this is Donna Tartt's novel, The Secret History (1994). This novel follows a small set of Classics students at a private college in America. The plot of the novel focuses on the events leading up to the murder of one of the students, as well as the fallout this causes amongst the group. This novel explores themes of death, mystery, beauty and enlightenment.

“Does such a thing as 'the fatal flaw,' that showy dark crack running down the middle of a life, exist outside literature? I used to think it didn't. Now I think it does. And I think that mine is this: a morbid longing for the picturesque at all costs.

Academic and campus novels: genre and examples

The campus novel is a wide genre that has existed for years. Due to its age and popularity, many subgenres now exist.

Academic satire novels

The most popular form of the campus novel is the satiric campus novel. Many campus novels function to highlight the negative aspects of academic life. An early example of the campus satire novel is Lucky Jim (1954) by Kingsley Amis. These novels tend to discuss sex, politics and corruption and may feature scenes of excessive drinking or drug use. Campus satire novels will use literary devices such as irony and sarcasm, as well as present exaggerated characters. An example of a campus satire novel is the text The War Between the Tates (1994) by Alison Lurie. This novel follows two married professors in the 1960s and is a satire of academia, marriage, and feminism.

Brian knows the affair is wrong. He's known from the moment Wendy first undressed in his office.

Modern campus novels

While the campus novel has been a popular genre of fiction since the 1950s, it has experienced a growth in popularity during the 1990s and 21st century. Due to the popularity of the modern campus novel, many different subgenres of the novel have been created. One of the most popular types of modern campus novels is the dark academia novel. These texts will focus on aesthetics, and morally complex characters and their plots often involve murder. An example of this subgenre can be found in the novel If We Were Villians (2017) by M.L Rio. The novel follows a group of Shakespearean drama students at a prestigious art school following the death of a classmate.

What is more important, that Caesar is assassinated or that he is assassinated by his intimate friends? … That,’ Frederick said, 'is where the tragedy is.

Academic and campus novels: relevance and effect

The campus novel remains a popular genre of fiction due to the wide variety of novels that exist within the category. The campus novel can be satirical and funny or it can be serious and dark. This means that readers are able to connect to multiple aspects of the genre. The campus novel can be an effective way to interrogate academia and its failings. The genre is frequently used as an effective tool to satirise university life as well as criticise its politics and corruption.

Academic/Campus Novel - Key takeaways

  • The campus novel is a genre of fiction that is set in the fixed location of a university.
  • The first modern campus novel was Mary McCarthy's The Groves of Academe (1952).
  • The genre frequently satirises academic life.
  • Campus novels typically use archetypes such as the anti-hero or the sage.
  • They explore themes of coming of age, enlightenment and corruption.

Frequently Asked Questions about Academic and Campus Novel

The term campus novel was first used in relation to Molly McCarthy's novel, The Groves of Academe (1952).

Campus novels use their settings in order to highlight some of the absurdities, pretensions and flaws of academia. 

This is a genre of novel that is set in the fixed location of a university. These novels tend to be comedic and highlight the absurdities of academia. 

Campus novels are important as they highlight specific time periods in academia and their flaws.

Themes such as coming of age, enlightenment, mystery and death can all be explored in the campus novel.

Final Academic and Campus Novel Quiz

Question

What is a campus/academic novel?

Show answer

Answer

These are novels that take place in a fixed location of a university. 

Show question

Question

True or False: Academic novels and campus novels are separate genres.

Show answer

Answer

False! They are the same genre.

Show question

Question

True or False: Campus novels are often satires. 

Show answer

Answer

True! Campus novels are often satires. 

Show question

Question

What is satire?

Show answer

Answer

 A literary device that uses irony and humour to highlight the faults and vices of people or institutions. 

Show question

Question

Are character archetypes used in the campus novel?

Show answer

Answer

Yes! Character archetypes are used in the campus novel. 

Show question

Question

What two character archetypes are often seen in the campus novel?

Show answer

Answer

The sage

Show question

Question

What book is viewed as being the first campus novel?

Show answer

Answer

Molly McCarthy's The Groves of Academe (1952) is viewed as the first campus novel. 

Show question

Question

What does the plot of a campus novel typically focus on?

Show answer

Answer

The plot of a campus novel will centre around the lives of the academic faculty and students of a university. 

Show question

Question

What theme is not typically explored in a campus novel?

Show answer

Answer

Nature

Show question

Question

True or False: Campus novels can also function as mystery novels.

Show answer

Answer

True! Campus novels can also function as mystery novels. 

Show question

More about Academic and Campus Novel
60%

of the users don't pass the Academic and Campus Novel quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

Start Quiz

Discover the right content for your subjects

No need to cheat if you have everything you need to succeed! Packed into one app!

Study Plan

Be perfectly prepared on time with an individual plan.

Quizzes

Test your knowledge with gamified quizzes.

Flashcards

Create and find flashcards in record time.

Notes

Create beautiful notes faster than ever before.

Study Sets

Have all your study materials in one place.

Documents

Upload unlimited documents and save them online.

Study Analytics

Identify your study strength and weaknesses.

Weekly Goals

Set individual study goals and earn points reaching them.

Smart Reminders

Stop procrastinating with our study reminders.

Rewards

Earn points, unlock badges and level up while studying.

Magic Marker

Create flashcards in notes completely automatically.

Smart Formatting

Create the most beautiful study materials using our templates.

Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.