Books Articles

Student-professor relationships in literature

Getting to *know* your lecturer is a common student fantasy (probably only second to that one about the library stacks), but how does it pan out in literature?

Frederica and Raphael

from Still Life by AS Byatt (Vintage, £8.99)
Up at Cambridge in the 1950s, Frederica Potter falls unrequitedly in love with Raphael Faber, a don, a poet and a German-Jewish refugee, the only male in his family not to die in a concentration camp. Their relationship consists of intense intellectual conversation and undefined moments.
Verdict: In the later novels in A.S. Byatt’s series you see that the two have remained friends. Not bad as these things go.

Bryony and Ollie

from The Seed Collectors by Scarlett Thomas (Canongate, £8.99)
Bryony is a mature student being taught by her brother-in-law. Ollie has been in trouble for inappropriate contact with a student before. Bryony has a drinking problem and an unmet need for attention.
Verdict: Come on, how is this going to end well?

Howard and Victoria

from On Beauty by Zadie Smith (£8.99, Penguin)
Howard is cheating on his wife with an 18 year-old student. Victoria is also the daughter of his academic rival. Howard has spent his career trying to deny and intellectualise the beauty in Rembrandt’s paintings, but it’s Victoria’s beauty that undoes him.
Verdict: a painful tangle.

Roger and Zoe

from Zoe and the Pedagogues in Helen Simpson’s short story collection Two Bare Legs In A Bed (Vintage, £8.99)
Zoe is young, unsure and learning to drive. She’s recently moved in with Roger, her lecturer, who treats her like an object, whirling around and squeezing her breast before a calming blast of Radio 3. Zoe finds confidence via a new driving instructor and leaves him.
Verdict: Best off out of it, Zoe.

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