The Great Tradition

F. R. Leavis
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ISBN 9780571243624 Format Paperback
Published 29/05/2008 Length 304 pages

About Book

'The great English novelists are Jane Austen, George Eliot, Henry James and Joseph Conrad.'

So begins F. R. Leavis's most controversial book, The Great Tradition, an uncompromising critical-polemical survey of English fiction, first published in 1948. Leavis makes his case for moral seriousness as the necessary criterion for an author's inclusion in any list of the finest novelists. In the course of his argument he adds D. H. Lawrence to the pantheon, and singles out Hard Times as Dickens' one 'completely serious work of art'; while Lawrence Sterne, Henry Fielding, and James Joyce are among those weighed in the balance and found wanting.

'[Leavis] gave one a new idea of what it meant to read... the whole business of criticism acquired a new and exhilarating quality.' Frank Kermode, London Review of Books

  • About F. R. Leavis

    F.R. Leavis was born in 1895 in Cambridge, where he would live and teach for most of the rest of his life. He volunteered as a stretcher-bearer in the First World War, and was badly gassed on the Western Front. Appointed Director of Studies in English at Downing College, Cambridge, in 1930, he remained there for the next thirty years, often at odds with the University establishment. In 1932 he and his wife Queenie Roth founded the hugely influential journal Scrutiny, which ran until 1953. He was one of the most important figures in the development of modern literary criticism, and in the elevation of English as a serious academic subject. He died in 1978.

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