PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Mark FordLetters And So It Goes
Letters from Young Mr Grace
(aka John Ashbery)

(PN Review 239)
Henry Kingon Toby Martinez de las Rivas
(PN Review 244)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Tim Parksin conversation with Natalia Ginzburg
(PN Review 49)
Next Issue Subha Mukherji Dying and Living with De la Mare Carl Phillips Fall Colors and other poems Alex Wylie The Bureaucratic Sublime: on the secret joys of contemporary poetry Marilyn Hacker Montpeyroux Sonnets David Herman Memories of Raymond Williams
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PNR 250 Poetry Archive Banner
PN Review New Issue

This interview is taken from PN Review 89, Volume 19 Number 3, January - February 1993.

in Conversation with John Barrell Nicolas Tredell


Nicolas Tredell: What do you feel were the cultural and intellectual influences that shaped you through home and school, prior to going to university?

John Barrell: I think I was far more influenced by school than I was by home. Neither of my parents was university educated and though my mother was a voracious reader, so that good books were coming through the house, she didn't talk about them at home in any way which might have produced some kind of an interest in studying literature. I still think that probably the most decisive influence was studying Classics at school. I didn't do English 'A' Level, I did Latin and Greek, and most of the things I found myself interested in doing with literature when I got to university seemed to come out of the kind of interest in Greek and Latin versification, and the kind of concentration on syntax, which my teachers of Latin and Greek at school cultivated in me. I did the scholarship examination to Cambridge in English as a kind of spare-time hobby, because I'd decided I wanted to read English, and felt it would be a good way of preparing myself for that to try, while I did my classical 'A' Levels, to mug up on English and take the scholarship exam in that. But all the time I was reading, and to some extent I still do read, Latin and Greek for work ...

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image