Pondering Randall Jarrell’s “Pictures from an Institution”

Jottings on Randall Jarrell’s “Pictures from an Institution”


I am loving Randall Jarrell’s Pictures from an Institution, a comic novel set at Benton College, which is based loosely on Sarah Lawrence College, a progressive college where Jarrell briefly taught. In this rare video, I speak of my impressions of the book.

Here is a little background: Pictures from an Institution is partly a roman à clef, featuring such celebrities as Mary McCarthy, who, in Pictures, is portrayed as Gertrude, a creative writing teacher who turns all experiences into biting satiric novels. Indeed, McCarthy’s brilliant The Groves of Academe, a hilarious satire of Sarah Lawrence College, was published in 1952, two years before Jarrell’s. Was there some rivalry between the two writers?

Worth reading for all who love satires!