Outside the Ivory Tower: The Role of Academic Wives in C.P. Snow’s The Masters, Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim, and Malcolm Bradbury’s The History Man
Academic fiction in its current form—as novels set on university campuses and focused on the lives of faculty—has existed since the mid-twentieth century. The genre explores the purposes and the cultures of universities and the lives of their faculty. Because universities have traditionally been insular communities that interact little with the outside world, the novels contain few non-academic characters. However, one non-academic group does appear consistently throughout the genre—the academic wives. These characters host parties, care for their husbands and children, and remain largely separate from the university structure. Although they appear in nearly all academic fiction, they have escaped notice by critics because they are secondary characters who exist largely in the background. However, a comparison of academic wives and their roles in C. P. Snow's The Masters (published 1951; set 1937), Kingsley Amis's Lucky Jim (published 1954; set in the early 1950s), and Malcolm Bradbury's The History Man (published 1975; set 1972) shows that these characters contribute significantly to the development of universities' cultures. Their roles both influence and respond to changes within the university structure. The academics' anxiety over the wives' potential influence on university affairs in these novels, and these women’s responses to this anxiety, enable the genre to explore the division between academics and non-academics within the university culture.
DegreeMaster of Arts (M.A.)
CommitteeLovrod, Marie; Rochester, Joanne; Meyers, Mark
Copyright DateDecember 2015
The History Man