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Injuries of Class: Mass Education and the American Campus Novel

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 October 2020

Abstract

Although many believe that “mass higher education” increased opportunity and egalitarianism in postwar American society, the reality has been quite different. While a greater proportion of students are enrolled in higher-educational institutions now than at any other point in history, economic inequality is at an all-time high. Postwar American campus novels largely misunderstand this historical development. While the genre represents the university as an institution that combats social inequality by expanding enrollment, these novels simultaneously obscure the social inequality that the university cannot combat and instead helps to legitimate. The symbolic work of American campus novels has thus been to imagine a system that stages social conflicts between the deserving and the elite when in fact the postwar meritocracy has made the two categories functionally indistinguishable.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Modern Language Association of America, 2015

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