Lodging a complaint

February 12, 2015

David Lodge’s novels deal with the relations between academia and the outside world (“Laughing from the inside”, Features, 29 January). They are highly realistic in terms of detail but questionable for the values that they promote. In Nice Work, Robyn Penrose, a young lecturer in English literature, is supposed to be brought into the real world (industry) by shadowing Vic Wilcox, the manager of a small factory. She heartily dislikes the boredom and repetitiousness of industry, but the alternative to labour – automation – horrifies her (and her author) with its “lightless and blind” machinery.

The question is what values does academia have to offer against this? Robyn is typically book-making (and on the industrial novel, ironically) not because she has anything to say but because she wants to promote her career. Lodge is quoted on this: “Much academic publication is done merely to maintain the author’s position in the profession”, and he appears to endorse this “value” in his heroine. The novel fails in my view because it does not incarnate an academic world that supplies a satisfying alternative to industrialism. Lodge is said to be a satirist – but a satirist has to take a scalpel to things. He seems more like a Doc Martin – can’t stand the sight of blood.

Nigel Probert
Porthmadog

Times Higher Education free 30-day trial

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

Laurel and Hardy sawing a plank of wood

Working with other academics can be tricky so follow some key rules, say Kevin O'Gorman and Robert MacIntosh

Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford will host a homeopathy conference next month

Charity says Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford is ‘naive’ to hire out its premises for event

women leapfrog. Vintage

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman offer advice on climbing the career ladder

Woman pulling blind down over an eye
Liz Morrish reflects on why she chose to tackle the failings of the neoliberal academy from the outside
White cliffs of Dover

From Australia to Singapore, David Matthews and John Elmes weigh the pros and cons of likely destinations