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Professor Borges: A Course on English Literature

4.38  ·  Rating details ·  327 ratings  ·  44 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
Graychin (D. Dalrymple)
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
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
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
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.
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.
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: nonfiction, history
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
João Camilo
Mar 06, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-books
Borges said once that poetry remembers to have been music before. Remembering is what Art does with us. In this case, Borges classes - just like his speeches - remember to be one day literary essays.
Close eyes and listen, not to a typical class of literature, with list of readings and discussion about styles or technique, you are in a class of literature where you remember the emotion of reading.
Borges with his fantastic memory - fantastic because it is impressive and because he will fill the
Jan 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Interesting - he skips from Old-English/Anglo-Saxon literature to about 500 years later. Hardly touches on Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, and never mentions Keats; rather, his emphasis is on the writers that seemed to be of most interest to himself as a short-story writer and poet - writers' visions and the musicality of their prose or verse. Of primary interest to me was his points on Anglo-Saxon meter, the birth of Romanticism (with Macpherson), and his insights into Coleridge and Robert Louis ...more
Seth Kanor
Dec 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A series of lectures transcribed from a course Borges taught on English literature, this book is like a modern day Rosetta Stone: seeming to unlock lost languages and shedding light on poets I'd forgotten, or didn't yet know I was in love with. Whether he is taking a well known passage from a poem like Blake's 'Tyger,' uncovering the mysteries of Anglo-Saxon elegies, or delving into the tumultuous personal life of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Borges seems to have a singular ability to hopscotch betwe ...more
Ogi Ogas
May 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
My ratings of books on Goodreads are solely a crude ranking of their utility to me, and not an evaluation of literary merit, entertainment value, social importance, humor, insightfulness, scientific accuracy, creative vigor, suspensefulness of plot, depth of characters, vitality of theme, excitement of climax, satisfaction of ending, or any other combination of dimensions of value which we are expected to boil down through some fabulous alchemy into a single digit.
Cooper Renner
Sep 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In the grand scheme of things, maybe this isn't a 5-star book, but it's quite entertaining, quite enjoyable to read Borges's angle on English Literature--the authors he admires, why he admires them, etc. It's quite idiosyncratic. If you've read some of his essays or the Spanish Introduccion a la literatura inglesa, some of what he says will seem familiar. But it's still fun.
Pedro Gomes
Sep 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A marvellous read, obligatory for anyone interested in learning. Whether the subject is Borges or not, it's up to you. All I know is that I'm getting a physical copy of this as soon as I can, so a second reading can be done.
Sara Kim
Jan 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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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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