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This interview is taken from PN Review 85, Volume 18 Number 5, May - June 1992.

Catherine Belsey in Conversation Nicolas Tredell


Nicolas Tredell: Could you begin by telling us about your development through home, school and university?

Catherine Belsey: My father was a socialist and was deeply critical of everything that my school was teaching me, so from the beginning I suppose I encountered difference, cognitive dissonance. My school was very respectable, very conventional, and affirmed all the values that you would therefore expect, and my father produced a radical critique of the system. He was dubious about what education was doing and didn't like all this good manners and deportment and elocution I was being taught. He was an atheist, and so I was doing prayers every morning and being told that this was an important thing and coming home and doing the washing up with my father who was saying, I don't know how anybody can believe in this nonsense. I went on doing what was conventional: I went to Oxford and I did English, but I went from Oxford, not to an academic setting, but to precisely the opposite. This was the early sixties, when you didn't have to worry about jobs or take them seriously, so I became a casual labourer at the London Zoo. This was more dissonance. Oxford had been very respectable - a women's college, with pretty conventional values. Of course there were always lost causes in Oxford, but I don't remember it as a centre of dissidence, even though ...

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