Looking for Class

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

LOOKING FOR CLASS is an amusing account of student life at the two most prestigious universities in Great Britain: Oxford and Cambridge. Feiler spent a year as a graduate student at Clare College, Cambridge, and describes British academic life in a witty and irreverent manner. His chapter titles convey accurately the focus of his experience of student life: rowing, loving, drinking, partying, and debating.

Although student life involved episodes of intense intellectual activity, Feiler is primarily concerned with portraying the cultural differences to which an American must adjust in order to function in Cambridge social life. Although one might assume a common language would make assimilation easy, Feiler amusingly coveys the linguistic traps awaiting the American in a land where a pound is a quid, french fries are chips, and potato chips are crisps.

Much of Cambridge student life revolves around falling in love, and Feiler devotes considerable attention to courtship patterns, especially when these differ from those in the United States. The reader is invited to share in Feiler’s bewilderment when an attractive female student rebuffs his overtures on the ground that he has not read Plato in Greek. Yet social relationships are not the entire story. Feiler’s account of debating in the Cambridge Union and of the humiliating oral examination which marked the completion of his academic year accurately convey the blend of intellectual stimulation and academic seriousness which Cambridge provides.