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The Great Tradition: George Eliot, Henry James, Joseph Conrad (Pelican)
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The Great Tradition: George Eliot, Henry James, Joseph Conrad (Pelican)

3.46  ·  Rating details ·  98 ratings  ·  11 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
Paperback, 304 pages
Published August 31st 1972 by Penguin Books Ltd (first published 1948)
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3.46  · 
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 ·  98 ratings  ·  11 reviews

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Jul 12, 2016 rated it liked it
I read this book because Leavis' name was coming up a lot in research about non/inherent heroism. This book was not about that. Imma be honest, I seriously skimmed the last quarter of the book, because I have other stuff on my research pile that I need to get through that is more focused on what I need. However, I did rather enjoy this book. Leavis oscillates between throwing shade on other critics and authors, seriously studying his chosen authors, and something akin to fanboying. It was nothin ...more
Jun 04, 2018 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Mentioned in Leland Ryken's forward to Karen Swallow Prior's On Reading Well.
Richard Epstein
Dec 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
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.
Gui Freitas
Nov 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
A work which very much stands as a landmark in the New Criticism/Practical Criticism school of thought, F.R. Leavis offers in a clear style his controversial opinions.

He claims that there are four major novelists in the English language: George Eliot, Henry James, Joseph Conrad, and Jane Austen (who is too special and varied, and for Leavis merits her own book). This is not to say, as many caricatures of Leavis would have you think, that he doesn't think that there are any other authors worth r
Paul Edward
Jul 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoyed reading this. Thanks to the Guardian list for recommending it and loved the print on demand copy from Faber and Faber direct.
This book will influence my reading going forward.
Nicholas Whyte
Oct 21, 2007 rated it liked it

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
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
Mar 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, favorites
It's hard to admit that I don't agree with everything this great critic has to say - but he draws attention to lesser known titles that deserve it (and explains why, very convincingly), and it's hard to argue with what I don't agree with, because he makes so much sense. The chapters on James and Conrad are, of course, to me the most fascinating, and his insights on The Secret Agent, Nostromo, and fin de siécle James (certain of my favorites that go neglected for the most part). A brilliant mind.
"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.
Aug 24, 2012 rated it liked it
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...
Robert Corbett
Jun 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.
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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.