F. R. Leavis

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Leavis, F. R.

(Frank Raymond Leavis) (lē`vĭs), 1895–1978, English critic and teacher. Leavis was one of the most influential literary critics of the 20th cent. A formidable controversialist, he combined close textual analysis with a commitment to moral seriousness and provided a carefully constructed canon of worthwhile recent English literature. His works include New Bearings in English Poetry (1932), The Great Tradition (1948), The Common Pursuit (1952), D. H. Lawrence, Novelist (1955), and Anna Karenina and Other Essays (1968). He was editor and cofounder of the influential quarterly Scrutiny from 1932 until its demise in 1953. From 1936 to 1962, Leavis was a fellow at Downing College, Cambridge. He excoriated "mass culture" in his writings on education and society: Mass Civilization and Minority Culture (1930), Education and the University (1943), and English Literature in Our Time and the University (1969). Nor Shall My Sword: Discourses on Pluralism, Compassion and Social Hope (1972) was a collection of lectures. He was married to Q. D. LeavisLeavis, Q. D.
(Queenie Dorothy Leavis), 1906–81, British literary critic; wife of F. R. Leavis. After studying at Cambridge, she wrote Fiction and the Reading Public (1932), which analyzed the market for different types of fiction among readers).
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See studies by F. Mulhern (1978), and F. P. Bilan (1979).

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Rather it meant a shared Re-cultivation of the common land Long since enclosed by critics who declared Themselves uniquely fit to take a stand On matters that required the exercise Of literary judgment, not the hand Me-down ideas that took the Theory prize (They liked to joke) for ways of passing off Some half-baked notion in the splendid guise Of some new jargon coined by some new prof At the Sorbonne, or Yale, or any place Except (as Leavisites were prone to scoff] The kinds of native habitat by grace Of which the star-struck theorists might have learned That well-trained readers didn't need to chase After strange gods.
The modernists, dispirited by the turn to a kind of bland, welfare-state realism in literature after the war and by the threat of commercial mass culture, sought rejuvenation and kindred spirits among a group of emigre writers from the Caribbean and Anglophone Africa who had been educated in the literary curriculum exported to the colonies by the Leavisites and modernists who had seized control of English literary studies before the war.
Verity (1910) and the other by Alastair Fowler (1968)--and especially in critical contributions by William Empson, Eliot, Leavis, and above all Ricks, who once and for all "routed the Leavisites," in Christopher Hill's martial phrase (251).
Through Arnold and the Leavisites we catch glimpses of the emergence of democracy and mass culture; with the Frankfurt School, Hoggart and Williams, of reactions to it by the mid-twentieth century; with the Birmingham Centre on subcultures and Quadrophenia we are prompted to "think historically" of post-war Britain again (152-55), and the historical contexts of East is East return us to contemporary multicultural and multiethnic Britain (261-69).
By the end of first year, things had changed in the English department, and anthropology, compared with the pieties of the Leavisites, seemed quite compelling.
But no one had warned me that literary study at Cambridge was under the sway of Frank Raymond Leavis (1895-1978), the editor of the English journal Scrutiny, or that many of the supervisors were Leavisites, a term I had never heard before.
He came out as a Leavisite, or rather a Leavisian since Leavisites, he would tell us, are a cult that clings too tightly to the word of the Father.
While the first half of the twentieth century was rich with academics from the Leavisites to the New Critics eager to assert that modernism was either indifferent or hostile to mass culture, around the time of Andreas Huyssen's now-famous contention that "Mass culture has always been the hidden subtext of the modernist project" (47), many critical studies began to clarify how mass culture offered modernist authors a rich source of inspiration both for stylistic innovation and for subject matter that reflected contemporary life practices.
In this version of the primal scene of contemporary literary studies (compare this with John Docker's far more racy account in his 1984 In A Critical Condition) what follows is a late vindication of Wilkes, Riemer and others' rout of the overreaching Leavisites. Riemer reads the events as Elizabethan melodrama, at times bordering on Shakespearean tragedy with Goldberg's fatal flaw undoing him in the end.
Leavis, many of whose followers--the Leavisites of the postwar years--were part of an intellectual shift to the right.
Singh (1968 and 1986), and on into the large secondary literature on Leavis, the Leavises, and the Leavisites.