Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Redbrick university

Redbrick university. Unnamed provincial university at which Dixon lectures in history. Kingsley Amis first conceived the idea for Lucky Jim while visiting his friend Philip Larkin at the University of Leicester. He realized that the fictional portrayal of such an insular and parochial community had not previously been attempted. Before Lucky Jim, novelistic treatments of English university life had involved either Oxford or Cambridge, but with the return of so many soldiers after World War II, both as pupils and teachers, provincial universities, commonly referred to by their construction of red brick (as opposed to the dreaming, granite spires of “Oxbridge”), became much more significant in the intellectual life of the country.

Originally called Hamberton, Jim’s unnamed university is fairly generic, as is the city in which it is placed, unspecified by region and minimally described. Amis borrowed one symbolic detail from the University of Leicester: its location across the street from a cemetery. Otherwise, the campus is strictly portrayed in functional terms; it has a library, common rooms, laboratories, but nothing seemingly worth describing in anything but generalities. At the end of the novel, the campus does not even inspire Jim to take one last look when he leaves. Although the university is a fitting location for the “crappy culture” that Amis later noted as an important element in...

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