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Extra info for Conflict in the Academy: A Study in the Sociology of Intellectuals

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Beaton, 1981: 199) One of the more drastic solutions proposed by members of the pros’ performance team in order to overcome the evident fractures within the Faculty was the possible foundation of a break-away Department of Modern English Studies headed by Frank Kermode (Heath, SHD: 331; a proposal seconded by Clemmow, SHD: 362), and the primary reason offered for this radical proposal again centred on English Studies’ ambivalent relationship to the social sciences. As Williams put it, In Cambridge especially we have to ask a hard question: can radically different work still be carried on under a single heading or department when there is not just diversity of approach but more serious and fundamental difference about the object of knowledge (despite overlapping of the actual material of study)?

This chapter highlights the importance of the rise of the social sciences that occurred alongside the explosion in scale and demographic heterogeneity of students within British universities during the 1960s (Savage, 2010). 1 This section also intends to show how English Studies’ late establishment in England, and especially in Cambridge where the subject initially faced resistance, combined with Cambridge’s subsequent influence in defining what came to be seen by many as an almost paradigmatic approach across the discipline in the United Kingdom (the situation was more complicated in the United States and elsewhere), contributed towards creating a situation in which perceived threats to this particular centre of the discipline, and its established approach towards criticism, were felt particularly acutely.

Eagleton, it is worth mentioning in light of this discussion of networks and institutional settings, had been a doctoral student of Raymond Williams, and subsequently went on to take up a research fellowship at Jesus College, Cambridge, too. 14 Beyond the manner in which Cambridge’s actual institutional form may have influenced the shape of the affair, later on we will also discuss how cultural ideas of Cambridge circulating within the public imaginary – what we might call the university and its colleges’ popular ‘symbolic form’ – also helped organise and frame the conflict that took place.

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