Towards Standards of Criticism - selections from The Calendar of Modern Letters, 1925-7

By: Leavis, F.R. (chooses and introduces)

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First edition. Small 8vo, pp (4), 200, very slightly age-toned and slightly dusty internally, cloth rather faded and a little marked and worn, the binding leaning slightly. [VERY SCARCE. The introduction runs to 26 pages.] Frank Raymond Leavis was an influential British literary critic of the early-to-mid-twentieth century. He taught and studied for nearly his entire life at Downing College, Cambridge. Leavis in his writing was one of the most influential figures in twentieth-century English literary criticism. He introduced a "seriousness" into English studies, and some English and American university departments were shaped very much by Leavis’s example and ideas. Leavis appeared to possess a very clear idea of literary criticism and he was well known for his decisive and often provocative, and idiosyncratic, judgements. Leavis insisted that evaluation was the principal concern of criticism, and that it must ensure that English literature should be a living reality operating as an informing spirit in society, and that criticism should involve the shaping of contemporary sensibility. Leavis's criticism is difficult to directly classify, but it can be grouped into four chronological stages. The first is that of his early publications and essays including New Bearings in English Poetry (1932) and Revaluation (1936). Here he was concerned primarily with reexamining poetry from the seventeenth to twentieth centuries, and this was accomplished under the strong influence of T. S. Eliot. Also during this early period Leavis sketched out his views about university education. He then turned his attention to fiction and the novel, producing The Great Tradition (1948) and D. H. Lawrence, Novelist (1955). Following this period Leavis pursued an increasingly complex treatment of literary, educational and social issues. Though the hub of his work remained literature, his perspective for commentary was noticeably broadening, and this was most visible in Nor Shall my Sword (1972). Two of his last publications embodied the critical sentiments of his final years; The Living Principle: ‘English’ as a Discipline of Thought (1975), and Thought, Words and Creativity: Art and Thought in Lawrence (1976). Although these later works have been sometimes called "philosophy", there is no abstract or theoretical context to justify such a description. In discussing the nature of language and value, Leavis implicitly treats the sceptical questioning that philosophical reflection starts from as an irrelevance from his standpoint as a literary critic - a position set out in his famous early exchange with Rene Wellek. Though his achievements as a critic of poetry were impressive, Leavis is widely accepted to have been a better critic of fiction and the novel than of poetry. Much of this is due to the fact that a large portion of what he had to say about poetry was being said by others around him at the time. Nonetheless, in New Bearings in English Poetry Leavis attacked the Victorian poetical ideal, suggesting that nineteenth-century poetry sought the consciously ‘poetical’ and showed a separation of thought and feeling and a divorce from the real world. The influence of T. S. Eliot is easily identifiable in his criticism of Victorian poetry, and Leavis acknowledged this, saying in The Common Pursuit that, ‘It was Mr. Eliot who made us fully conscious of the weakness of that tradition’ (Leavis 31). In his later publication Revaluation, the dependence on Eliot was still very much present, but Leavis demonstrated an individual critical sense operating in such a way as to place him among the distinguished modern critics. The early reception of T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound's poetry, and also the reading of Gerard Manley Hopkins, were considerably enhanced by Leavis's proclamation of their greatness. His dislike of John Milton, on the other hand, had no great impact on Milton's popular esteem. As a critic of the novel, Leavis’s main tenet stated that great novelists

Title: Towards Standards of Criticism - selections from The Calendar of Modern Letters, 1925-7

Author Name: Leavis, F.R. (chooses and introduces)

Categories: Literary Criticism, Philosophy,

Publisher: London, Wishart & Co.: 1933

Seller ID: 006313

Keywords: PHILOSOPHY. LITERARY CRITICISM.