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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 ...

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