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Professor Borges: A Course on English Literature

4.40  ·  Rating details ·  383 ratings  ·  53 reviews
In English at last, Borges’s erudite and entertaining lectures on English literature from Beowulf to Oscar Wilde

Writing for Harper’s Magazine, Edgardo Krebs describes Professor Borges: “A compilation of the twenty-five lectures Borges gave in 1966 at the University of Buenos Aires, where he taught English literature. Starting with the Vikings’ kennings and Beowulf and endi
Hardcover, 306 pages
Published May 23rd 2013 by New Directions (first published 2000)
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Jun 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I judge this work not as a scholarly treatise on English literature. Consider how it was put together: One or more students at the University of Buenos Aires taped the entire series of 25 lectures in 1966 and then transcribed the result for use as notes. The tapes themselves are now missing and were probably re-used, according to the editors, for other classes.

This was not intended to be a detailed survey of English literature: Jorge Luis Borges devotes seven lectures to Anglo-Saxon literature,
May 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A really interesting book which goes into the backbone of english literature told from the eyes of a south american legend. Borges goes into the history of english literature teaching you things about the classics like Beowulf and the battle of Maldon and Samuel Johnson, Coleridge, Blake, Carlyle and lots of other classic english writers / english texts. Some of the insights into this book were eye opening. The chapters were different classes that Borges gave on English literature at a universit ...more
Dec 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Available for the first time in English translation, Professor Borges collects a term's worth of lectures delivered by Jorge Luis Borges in 1966 on the history of English literature. It’s a remarkable book, I think, for two quite different reasons.

It's remarkable first of all in offering a survey of its subject that will be almost unrecognizable to most students of English literature. Fully a quarter of the course is spent on the Anglo-Saxon era of Beowulf and Co. Almost no mention at all is mad
Kyle Muntz
Oct 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Ran across this in a used bookstore, never knowing it existed, and am glad I snapped it up. Hearing Borges talk about everything he liked was just fantastic. The lectures are mostly summarized, but suddenly, here, they feel like Borges stories--and, in the connections he makes and the perspectives he takes, it's a reminder of just how good it feels to be trapped in his mind. I would probably suggest the selected nonfiction over this, but for the Borges enthusiast, this is an amazing find. ...more
Jul 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lectures, spanish
A Borges bootleg! Transcripts of recordings of a few lectures on English literature Borges gave in the 1960s in Buenos Aires, before he was internationally famous, which is why the recordings of these lectures don't exist anymore.

Interestingly, it's very conversational in tone, there's very little university related talking going on (of course, there is a possibility that the editors cut this) - Borges talks only once about tests, never again about anything but Anglo-Saxon/English literature; he
Michael Hingston
"Borges is happy to follow his nose, canon be damned. Who else would give 19th-century poet and textile designer William Morris (three full lectures) more space than Chaucer, Milton and Shakespeare (zero, zero and zero, respectively) combined?"

I got to review this for the Globe and Mail a couple weeks back. Read the whole thing here:
Al Bità
Dec 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
During the period 14 October–14 December 1966 inclusive, the Professor of English Literature at the University of Buenos Aires, Jorge Luis Borges, gave a series of 25 lectures on English Literature to a small group of students. Borges was blind by this time, so the lectures were purely oral. The lectures were taped, and quick transcriptions made by the students for their study, and for those students not able to attend. The tapes are no longer extant, but the transcriptions have been recovered, ...more
Tyler Jones
Jan 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Borges was the best kind of professor; one that cared less about imparting specific bits of knowledge than he did about sparking passion. He clearly loved English literature and his excitement is infectious. I love this book.
John Jr.
If you’ve read much of Borges’s work, you know he’s a master not only of short fiction but also of essays and poetry. (No cat lover should miss his cat poem; translations are easy to find, though none I’ve seen strike me as quite right). This book shows him in yet another light, that of the teacher—more properly, the student and lover—of the English language and its literature. The text comes from a series of recordings that were made by students in a class Borges gave at the University of Bueno ...more
Christian Williams
Feb 06, 2020 rated it it was ok
This 1966 lecture series re-establishes Borges are one of the most interesting minds in literature, and one of the most eccentric. It is not a good introduction to his work, that would be the poems (get an edition with Spanish and English on facing pages) and the stories. His long fascination with Old English is fairly bizarre, considering his college kids in Argentina, and his frequent quotations to them in the language makes you wonder how the devil anybody took notes in an alphabet that can't ...more
May 12, 2020 rated it liked it
This was an enjoyable read, and conveniently divided into "lectures" of mostly discrete topics, which lent themselves to reading before bed. The thoroughness varies -- the early lessons have a wealth of historical/contextual info, whereas some of the lectures later in the text seem to be summarizing/recapitulating what is literally happening in the poem or passage. There's a lot of biographical info about the authors themselves which, honestly, sometimes I'd prefer not to know (so many seem to h ...more
Robert Giambo
Oct 19, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: literature
Lectures from the 60's by Borges based on student transcripts, the topics covered by the lectures are quite quirky. An okay book. Read Borges short stories - those are five stars. ...more
Bill Bangham
Jan 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Worth the read for insights into the workings of a great mind. Beyond that, a delight for anyone enamored with English literature and writing in general.
Frederick Gault
Oct 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, nonfiction
Unlike any English class I've ever taken! The depth of Borghes' knowledge is incredible, his interests all over the place and his love of the music in English poetry and prose was profound. ...more
Arthurian Tapestry
I love Borges, particularly his brief and imaginative prose fictions; that said, I was a bit dubious as to how someone without a degree in literature could possibly be fit to teach it. Bit by bit in the book, I noticed the idiosyncratic romantic tendencies which Borges employed to pick and choose the works that he preferred. How could you spend so much time on Old English literature when there was so much turf to cover? I think he could have easily given an entire course on the subject.

Zachary Littrell
Apr 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
We should all be lucky enough to be loved by someone -- as much as that old, blind Argentinian loved English literature. I feel pretty darn jealous of Borges's students at the University of Buenos Aires (while also feeling a little bit of pity for them, too), because he was clearly a wonderful, enthusiastic, funny, and frustrating professor.

It sure doesn't resemble any literature survey I've sat through, and that's probably for the best. Borges gleefully chucks canon to curb and walks his class
John Pistelli
This recent volume (published by New Directions, translated by Katherine Silver, and edited and annotated by Martín Hadis and Martín Arias) is derived from student recordings and transcriptions of a lecture course on the history of English literature that Borges gave in 1966 at the University of Buenos Aires (where he had been hired on the strength of his literary reputation, despite not having an advanced degree, about a decade earlier). Irrespective of the Borgesian contents, it is a good book ...more
Elizabeth Pyjov
"In every instance, poetry comes before prose. It seems that man sings before he speaks." (4)

[about Scandinavian poetry] "As a shield was the 'pirate's moon' - shields were round and made of wood - and a spear was the 'shield's serpent,' for the spear could destroy the shield, that spear would be the 'serpent of the pirate moon." (6)

"As far as the religious conversion of the Germanic peoples, it is worth nothing that being polytheistic, they had no problem accepting yet another god: one more is
Sep 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book, its purpose, is like sticking one’s hand into a sack of various, intermixed seeds, seeds which are all related to each other somehow, even if the fist you pull back out does not contain all the variants in the sack. Now, you may choose to plant these seeds and further discover for yourself how the leaves or flowers or fruits of their offspring are similar and different in their ways, or you may decide you prefer to just look at the seeds every now and then, and so you lock them in a c ...more
Varapanyo Bhikkhu
Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing

Emile Cioran
Letter to Fernando Savater
Paris, December 10, 1976
Dear Friend.

In November, during your visit to Paris, you asked me to collaborate on a volume of tributes to Borges- My first reaction was negative; my second . . . as well. What is the use of celebrating him when the universities themselves are doing so? The misfortune of being recognized has befallen him. He deserved better. He deserved to remain in obscurity, in the Imperceptible, to remain as ineffable and unpopular as nuance itsel
Hannah Krueger
Aug 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Don’t judge me for how long I took to finish this book - it was over at the boyfriend’s, and with the pandemic I haven’t been able to be over there as much. This book is a transcription and translation of ~25 English literature lectures that Borges gave in 1966 at the University of Bueno Aires. It’s fascinating to see his opinion of the English canon, and especially how he teaches it to the students. (There are admittedly a few lectures I would have slept through, but hey, you can’t always have ...more
Juliana Lira
Loved it very much! It was a very entertaing reading and Borges is such a good teacher. It is amazing how much he has a good memory since most quotes he mentions he didn't consult the books. Borge's English literature lectures at the University of Buenos Aires are transcribed in the book and I felt it was more like a conversation than classes.
Katharine Duckett
Oct 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Have you ever wanted Jorge Luis Borges to take you on a charmingly digressive tour of English literature from Anglo-Saxon poetry up until right about Wilde? I know I have. Will certainly return to this again and again.
J Murnaghan
Oct 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Superb. Chronicles his personal enthusiasms.
Nick De Voil
Jul 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Yeah I like it! Good summary of English literature in an interesting fashion. Not familiar prior to this - feel far more knowledgable, probs the best book I could read but im narrow
Antonio Delgado
Jun 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In a semester, Borges offers several lectures on English Literature through the perspective of Comparative Literature or World Literature. The reader, like the attendance once, witness the mastery of literary topics, that even though are quite conservative, are necessary to have good foundation in English Literature, particularly for the inclusion of Spanish, Italian and German Literature. A good Borges reader, on the other hand, will notice important contributions to understand Borges stories s ...more
bella gaia
Aug 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, lit-crit
An absolutely marvellous book. I fell in love with all of Borges’ favourite writers.
Miriam Chiaromonte
Nov 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
25 lessons about English literature, taken by Jorge Luis Borges at the Universidad de Buenos Aires. They were recoded and therefore transcripted; then, the text was published, after several revisions. The book maintains the form of a spoken discourse and for this reason the repetitions and the expressions maintained highlight their being transcripted and are sometimes quite annoying and disturbing. The text shows Borges's ardor and enthusiasm about English literature (arcaic, medieval and modern ...more
Aaron Arnold
Nov 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
If you're a fan of literature, meaning that you get pleasure out of not only reading but also thinking over and talking about books, then this is a must-read simply because it's one of the greatest writers of all time talking about some of the other greatest writers of all time with his customary immense insight and analytical ability. Idiosyncratically composed, far-ranging in scope, and unbelievably erudite, this collection is all the more amazing because it was compiled from a series of lectu ...more
Sean Carman
Nov 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This recently translated collection of lectures on the history of English Literature that Borges gave at the University of Buenos Aires in the 1960s is a really fun read. It's basically a brief survey of English literature, from Beowulf to J.D. Salinger. Each lecture touches briefly on its subjects, and provides a few key insights into the works in question. Borges speaks in a grandfatherly tone. The book is fun to read both for the fantasy it offers (sitting at Borges' feet, listening to his wo ...more
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Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo, usually referred to as Jorge Luis Borges (Spanish pronunciation: [xoɾxe lwis boɾxes]), was an Argentine writer and poet born in Buenos Aires. In 1914, his family moved to Switzerland where he attended school and traveled to Spain. On his return to Argentina in 1921, Borges began publishing his poems and essays in Surrealist literary journals. He also wo ...more

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