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The Great Tradition: George Eliot, Henry James, Joseph Conrad

3.35 of 5 stars 3.35  ·  rating details  ·  62 ratings  ·  7 reviews
'The great English novelists are Jane Austen, George Eliot, Henry James and Joseph Conrad...' So begins what is arguably F.R. Leavis' most controversial book, The Great Tradition, an uncompromising critical and polemical survey of English fiction that was first published in 1948. He puts a powerful case for moral seriousness as the necessary criterion for inclusion in any ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published November 1st 2011 by Faber & Faber (first published 1948)
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Adriano Bulla
My opinion on this seminal text is totally split. Of course, I don't agree with large chunks of it; but that goes without saying as we approach literature from two completely different perspectives.

What I cannot make my mind up about The Great Tradition is its impact. On the one hand, this is arguably the most important text in the 'creation' of English Literature as a subject in its own right (let us remember that it only established itself in the 1930s), on the other hand, it does so by layin
Richard Epstein
The Leavises, esp. F.R., were always fun to read and to rail at, and they were capable of wonderful analyses; but they were idiots nonetheless. These are the people who thought Hard Times was Dickens's one novel in the great tradition and Hardy scarcely worth considering. Still, he recognized that Shelley was a ninny, and for that I honor him.
Nicholas Whyte

Back in my Cambridge undergraduate days, we Natural Scientists had a joke about the guy studying English who did not want to look out of the window in the morning, because then he would have had nothing to do in the afternoon. But as I have got more interested in sf criticism, I have felt that maybe I did miss something by not sampling what was on offer in terms of literature studies in the department which was still resting on its laurels from the glory d
"The great English novelists are Jane Austen, George Eliot, Henry James, and Joseph Conrad... Since Jane Austen, for special reasons, needs to be studied at considerable length, I confine myself in this book to the last three."

Except, then he never wrote his book about Austen! F.R. Leavis, I needed you to write about Austen. You let me down.

Also, 1940s literary criticism always seems to come from a slightly different planet than the more modern stuff... which I suppose it does, in a way.
He speaks with a certainty that I do not share about the (very few) books that he considers to be 'great' and the criterion for determining this. I agree that critics should be sifting through literary history to select those books and authors most worth treasuring, though. If 'elitism' simply means deciding that some books are better than others then I too am an elitist. He has some very insightful points to make about Conrad in particular...
Necessary to read if you want to understand the history of literary criticism in English from Johnson to Michel Foucault. Still, Leavis' canonizing impulses make one suspect his local insights--yet he does have local insights, and a point of view worthy of consideration.
leavis begins by preferring richardson to proust. he follows by omitting dickens. any confidence in his literary judgment is, thereby, squashed. intelligent, but too singular to be useful.
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Frank Raymond "F. R." Leavis, CH (14 July 1895 – 14 April 1978) was an influential British literary critic of the early-to-mid-twentieth century. He taught for much of his career at Downing College, Cambridge but often latterly at the University of York.
More about F.R. Leavis...
D. H. Lawrence, Novelist New Bearings In English Poetry A Study Of The Contemporary Situation The Living Principle: 'English' as a Discipline of Thought Revaluation: Tradition and Development in English Poetry (Peregrine Books) Dickens The Novelist

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