F. R. Leavis

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Frank Raymond Leavis CH (14 July 189514 April 1978) was a highly influential English literary critic and academic, based at Downing College, Cambridge.

Sourced[edit]

  • A good deal of Paradise Lost strikes one as being almost as mechanical as bricklaying.
    • Revaluation: Tradition and Development in English Poetry (1936; repr. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1964)
  • The only way to escape misrepresentation is never to commit oneself to any critical judgement that makes an impact – that is, never to say anything. I still, however think that the best way to promote profitable discussion is to be as clear as possible with oneself about what one sees and judges, to try and establish the essential discriminations in the given field of interest, and to state them as clearly as one can (for disagreement, if necessary).
    • The Great Tradition: George Eliot, Henry James, Joseph Conrad (London: Chatto & Windus, 1948) p. 1
  • It is well to start by distinguishing the few really great – the major novelists who count in the same way as the major poets, in the sense that they not only change the possibilities of the art for practitioners and readers, but that they are significant in terms of the human awareness they promote; awareness of the possibilities of life.
    • The Great Tradition: George Eliot, Henry James, Joseph Conrad (London: Chatto & Windus, 1948) p. 2
  • Not only is he not a genius; he is intellectually as undistinguished as it is possible to be.
    • Nor Shall My Sword: Discourses on Pluralism, Compassion and Social Hope (London: Chatto & Windus, 1972) p. 42.
    • Of C. P. Snow
  • He doesn't know what he means, and doesn't know he doesn't know.
    • Nor Shall My Sword: Discourses on Pluralism, Compassion and Social Hope (London: Chatto & Windus, 1972) p. 43
    • Of C. P. Snow

Criticism[edit]

  • He is a critic of great gifts, insight and integrity; but those who are not entirely for him are wholly against him; he seeks not pupils but "disciples"; those disciples he has attracted who have not broken away have been, like the master, rancid and fanatic in manner.
  • A powerful critical talent who destroyed his own sense of proportion, Leavis was our brush with totalitarianism: we caught it as a mild fever instead of the full attack of meningitis. His career was the clearest possible proof that the course the arts take is not under the control of criticism.
    • Clive James From the Land of Shadows (London: Picador, 1983) p. 206.
  • The "great tradition" does not brook even the possibility of libidinal gratification between the pages as an end in itself, and FR Leavis's "eat up your broccoli" approach to fiction emphasises this junkfood/wholefood dichotomy.
    • Angela Carter Expletives Deleted: Selected Writings (London: Chatto & Windus, 1992) p. 9

External links[edit]

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