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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 320

Changing Places is a 1975 novel by David Lodge (born 28 January 1935), an English author and literary critic. It is part of a trilogy of which the subsequent two novels were Small World: An Academic Romance (1984), and Nice Work (1988). The novel is of the genre known as the "academic novel," set on university campuses and filled with details and jokes about the lives of professors. It is a strongly satirical novel and has many thinly veiled references to real universities and well-known professors of literature. It is set in English Departments and includes many references to the "theory wars" over competing strands of literary criticism that occupied academic English departments in the 1960s and 1970s.

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The premise of the novel is a fictional exchange program between two English Departments, University of Rummidge (based on University of Birmingham in England where Lodge himself taught) and Plotinus State University of Euphoria (modeled on the University of California at Berkeley). The two characters who are involved in the exchange are Philip Swallow and Morris Zapp,

Swallow is an unassuming, somewhat mediocre, and conventional British academic and Zapp (modeled to a degree on Stanley Fish) is a brash American "star" in his field. Both men at first contrast dramatically with their new environments. Zapp's extroverted attention seeking and overt competitiveness make his British counterparts uncomfortable and he struggles to understand English reserve and the subtle indicators of status in English life. Eventually, though, Zapp begins to thrive in England and even has an affair with Swallow's wife. He is eventually offered the post of Chair of the department at Rummidge.

Swallow is a more passive character, who almost accidentally becomes part of California protest culture and has an affair with Desiree Zapp. He finds the energy of California invigorating.

At the end of the novel the two couples must confront whether they want to return to their original places or leap into their new lives permanently.

Summary

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Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 824

In a very real sense, Changing Places is a situation comedy chronicling the clash of several different cultures, clashes which are set in motion by the faculty exchange program between the University of Rummidge and the State University of Euphoria. Set in fictional equivalents of San Francisco, California, and Birmingham, England, the story revolves around several prominent cultural oppositions involving British and American culture, the generation gap, men and women, and, ultimately, the age of the book and the age of film. Set in 1969, the novel embraces the height of the student protest movement in the United States and the beginning of a similar movement in Great Britain, the early days of the women’s liberation movement, and the end of the so-called golden age of academe, before the glut of Ph.D.’s changed the dynamics of being a university professor. In this highly charged atmosphere, the faculty exchange of Morris Zapp and Philip Swallow sets off a chain of complications that address most of the practical dilemmas of modern existence.

For Philip, the exchange means a spring semester in Plotinus, the university town across the bay from idyllic Esseph. The situation that greets him at Euphoric State, however, is in stark contrast to the image he had had of the easygoing city on the bay. Competitiveness seems to dominate every facet of life. From the social snobbery of cocktail parties, to the mysterious machinations of tenure committees, to the conflict between students and the authorities, to the bedroom, the urge to exceed dominates every aspect of American culture. This orientation toward conspicuous achievement is in direct contrast to the comfortable,...

(The entire section contains 1144 words.)

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