Naked Lunch | Study Guide

William Burroughs

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Naked Lunch | Chapter 10 : Campus of Interzone University | Summary



Interzone University features an assortment of barnyard animals milling around as male students sit on park benches in front of a lecture platform. The Professor arrives on a bicycle and opens with a story about his sexual activities the night before and then recounts a series of other sexual experiences. The Professor instructs the students to show him their penises to ensure they are all biologically male before they are admitted to university. The Professor encourages them to behave in dominant ways, as baboons do. He delivers a rambling speech about "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" (1834), a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and how talking is more important than listening. He offers the students buckets of pearls poured into a feeding trough as they rush forward to eat them.


This section reads primarily as an indictment of the value of a university education. Students line up to take courses and study under professors with sterling reputations. What they learn in their education is primarily how to be dominant. This emphasis on domination differs little from the hierarchies seen in animal communities, where dominance and perception of dominance create the social order. The Professor's fleeting focus on the Ancient Mariner, whose dialogue takes up nearly the entirety of Coleridge's poem, illustrates the emphasis on extroversion and control. Dominance is also closely associated with masculinity, hence the demonstration of penises in this scene.

The students mingling with barnyard animals at the start of the scene underscores the idea little difference exists between the two groups, a concept confirmed by the scramble at the feeding trough. The Professor distributes pearls, meant to represent "pearls of wisdom," which the students thoughtlessly consume. Only at the end of the story does one student observe the Professor may have clay feet. The idiom indicates someone may not live up to their reputation—raising the possibility this whole process here might be an elaborate sham.

In addition, this scene acts out a metaphor from the biblical Sermon on the Mount. Jesus tells his followers, "Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces" (Matthew 7:6). Burroughs illustrates this idea of the "swine" potentially turning upon the Professor: "A hundred juvenile delinquents [...] switch blades clicking like teeth move at him." The Professor senses the danger and changes tack quickly, pretending to be taken over by another personality.

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