Tomorrow, the day after Labour Day in Canada, is the day I associate with students going back to school because that was usually the day I first met my students for the fall semester. In some places, of course, students have been in classes for a couple of weeks. Nonetheless, the back-to-school season always has me thinking about campus novels.
A campus novel, also known as an academic novel, is a novel whose main action is set in and around the campus of a university. The genre in its current form dates back to the mid twentieth century. Many well-known campus novels are comic or satirical, often counterpointing intellectual pretensions and human weaknesses, but others attempt a serious treatment of university life. As would be expected, the novels are usually told from the viewpoint of a faculty member or a student.
Recently, The Guardian newspaper recommended what they called six of the best campus novels (https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/aug/29/campus-novels-best-books-university-life?CMP=twt_books_b-gdnbooks). I was pleased to see that one of my favourite books (Possession by A. S. Byatt) made the list.
Of course, there are other lists out there. Last year The Huffington Post suggested ten campus novels: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/campus-novels-to-read-this-fall_us_5602e410e4b08820d91b3dcc. Its list includes a title by another of my favourite authors, In One Person by John Irving, though that novel is actually set in a high school.
But if you’re looking for a more extensive list, check out Flavorwire’s list of 50 novels of the genre: http://flavorwire.com/411025/the-50-greatest-campus-novels-ever-written. Though the list is three years old, it is still useful.