That Time Tolkien Was Your English Professor
The introduction to Lucky Jim contains this little nugget that might interest you if you’re a literature nerd like myself.
Kingsley Amis, who wrote Lucky Jim, went to Oxford with his friend and fellow writer, Philip Larkin. The Jim character was actually based on a hybrid of the two friends.
Anyway, as you might know, J.R.R. Tolkien taught at Oxford. And, as luck would have it, Amis and Larkin took one of his classes. The intro concludes with this little nugget about Tolkien’s teaching style:
“At Oxford, both young men spent a good portion of their time abusing the literature they were supposed to study. “I can just about stand the filthy lingo it’s written in,” Larkin wrote Amis about Old English poetry. “What gets me down is being expected to admire the bloody stuff.” Their professors had nothing to say, and could hardly be heard saying it. J.R.R. Tolkien, Amis explained, “spoke unclearly and slurred important words, and then he’d write them on the blackboard but keep standing between them and us, then wipe them off before he turned around.”
In other words, Tolkien’s self-awareness while teaching was akin to that of your 9th grade English teacher.
Can you imagine sitting in J.R.R. Tolkien’s class at Oxford? Tolkien is your literature teacher! What? Sadly, I don’t think they even realized the magnitude of what they were experiencing.