Eric Griffiths (critic)

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This article is about the literary critic. For the guitarist, see Eric Griffiths.
Eric Griffiths
Born Liverpool, England
Occupation Academic and literary critic

Eric Griffiths is a British academic and literary critic.


He was born in Liverpool into what he describes as a 'Welsh-speaking, chapel-going family', and educated at The Liverpool Institute High School For Boys, Cambridge University and Princeton University. He has been a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge since 1980. Before that he was a Research Fellow of Christ's College, Cambridge.

Griffiths has not published extensively but is a reputable teacher. He has made numerous appearances in television documentaries and in 1992 gave The Chatterton Lecture at the British Academy, on 'Dryden's Past'.


Griffiths' PhD thesis, 'Writing and Speaking' was submitted in 1980 and consists of studies of Eliot, Yeats and Pound. The Printed Voice of Victorian Poetry, published by Clarendon Press in 1989, 'looks at the ways nineteenth-century English poets responded creatively to the ambiguities involved in writing down their own voices and the melodies of their speech'. The book is formed of four chapters: 'The Printed Voice', 'Tennyson's Breath', 'Companionable Forms', and 'Hopkins: The Perfection of Habit'. Griffiths is a sceptic of literary theory, and a follower of William Empson and Christopher Ricks, who taught him as an undergraduate. Griffiths has written extensively in the TLS, on Delia Smith, William Burroughs and productions of Shakespeare and Beckett, alongside further writings on nineteenth and twentieth century poets. He admires the works of Giacomo Puccini, Marcel Proust and Geoffrey Hill.


Griffiths is a noted academic controversialist. Antagonists have included Helen Vendler, after criticising his long Introduction to Dante in English (2005),[1] Roger Scruton, who had taught him and whom he liked, and Terry Eagleton.[2]

In December 1997 Griffiths interviewed college student Tracy Playle for a place for a BA in English at Trinity. Playle afterwards complained that she had been treated unfairly during the interview and had been mocked for her Essex accent and her inability to recognise ancient Greek. The event was reported in the media causing some controversy regarding the nature of Oxbridge interviews. Subsequently, Griffiths' role as an interviewer was discontinued.[3]

Griffiths has an excellent knowledge of popular music, and often uses lyrics by Bob Dylan, Talking Heads and other artists in lectures and tutorials. In May 2008 a Tripos question in the Practical Criticism examination exam included song lyrics, from Love Is a Losing Game, by Amy Winehouse.[4][5] Widespread attention in the national press prompted the identification in some papers of Griffiths as the examiner responsible.[6]


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