Pictures from an Institution

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Pictures from an Institution
Randall Jarrell Pictures from an Institution UCP cover (1986).jpg
Cover of the first Phoenix Fiction edition (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1986)
Author Randall Jarrell
Cover artist John Sandford
Country United States
Language English
Genre Satire, novel
Publisher Alfred A. Knopf, University of Chicago Press
Publication date
Media type Print
Pages 290
ISBN 978-0-226-39375-9
OCLC 285285

Pictures from an Institution is a 1954 novel by American poet Randall Jarrell. It is an academic satire, focusing on the oddities of academic life, in particular the interpersonal relationships among the characters and their private lives. The nameless narrator, a Jarrell-like figure who teaches at a women's college called Benton, makes humorous observations about his students and, especially, his fellow academics, in particular the offensively tactless novelist Gertrude, modeled on Mary McCarthy.

Some believe Benton was modeled after Sarah Lawrence College, where Jarrell taught. However in an interview with the New York Times, Jarrell stated that "Benton is supposed to be just a type ... I've taken things from real places, but mostly have made them up."[1]


  • Unnamed narrator, a professor of literature
  • Gertrude Johnson, a visiting novelist
  • President Robbins, a former Olympic diver
  • Gottfried Rosenbaum, composer in residence


Pictures from an Institution was a finalist for the National Book Award.[2]


  1. ^ Nichols, Lewis. "Talk With Randall Jarrell", "The New York Times", May 2, 1954, accessed April 1, 2011.
  2. ^ National Book Foundation. "National Book Awards - 1955" 2007, accessed April 1, 2011.

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