Changing Places

by David Lodge

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

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.

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.

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