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Analysis of A Texan at Oxford by Willie Morris

Purpose of a university or collegiate education

For this assignment, read and reread carefully the essay “A Texan at Oxford” by William W. Morris (Willie Morris), which was published in the Special Issue: Britain 1 of The Texas Quarterly in Winter 1960, and consider one (1) of the following topics to write about:

• What, in general, is the purpose of a university or collegiate education? Consider what you think the answer to that question is (or should be), and what you think Willie Morris’s answer is. Are your and Mr. Morris’s answers the same? What might be some of the reasons why your answers are the same, or are different if they are different?

• Oftentimes, students entering a university or college for the first time feel nervous about or intimidated by their experience. What is the root cause of this nervousness or intimidation? What, in your opinion, is the best advice for one to give these students regarding their nervousness or intimidation? What is Willie Morris’s advice in this essay? Do you think he is right in his advice? Why is he right, or why is he not right?

• In his essay, Willie Morris describes how the student body at Oxford University had been changing in the fifteen years since the end of World War II — admitting students who possessed great talent but who came from modest economic backgrounds (and who in previous generations would never have experienced a place such as Oxford University). What are some of the social, familial, and emotional challenges “first generation” students face, in America or elsewhere? How does Willie Morris’s essay address their situation? Do colleges do the right thing by encouraging young people from all walks of life to attend university or college— and to succeed there according to the values of the institution and those who support it?

• In the concluding paragraphs of his essay on Oxford University, Willie Morris refers to “the haunting loneliness of the place.” What do you think he means by “haunting loneliness”? Is “haunting loneliness”, in your opinion, good or bad? If you think it’s bad, why do you think Willie Morris seems to be praising or honoring it? If you think it’s good, what could possibly be good about being lonely?

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