Literary Criticism

F. R. Leavis: The university and the sage

Richards’s sense of the narrowness of literary scholarship is apparent in the direction taken by his career. After the publication of Practical Criticism in 1929, he spent relatively little time in Cambridge: in 1934, he was commissioned by the General Education Board in New York to recom- mend a set of improvements in the teaching… Continue reading F. R. Leavis: The university and the sage

Literary Criticism

I. A. Richards: Meaning and value

Eliot’s rejection of the ‘lemon-squeezer school of criticism’ also adds an ironic twist to Tillyard’s claim that Eliot was himself a central figure in the development of such a school, promoting critical rigour and the need for the ‘minute exegesis’ of difficult texts. By 1956, Eliot had become con- vinced that criticism should be directed… Continue reading I. A. Richards: Meaning and value

Literary Criticism

Personal authority and the retreat from scholarship

Such a focus on language gives many of Eliot’s writings a characteristic structure that is at once an echo of Walter Bagehot’s notion of the ‘review-like essay’,33 and a potential blueprint for an academic essay that could demonstrate the capacity for judgement as well as know- ledge that he praised in the work of W.… Continue reading Personal authority and the retreat from scholarship

Literary Criticism

Methods and Institutions: Eliot, Richards and Leavis

My discussion of the work of Woolf, Murry and Orage in the previous chapter indicates that the personal authority of the Victorian men of letters continued to be used well into the twentieth century, to underwrite judgements about literature that were set in opposition to the values of scholarship. All three of these critics drew… Continue reading Methods and Institutions: Eliot, Richards and Leavis

Literary Criticism

Woolf and Murry: Impressionism and authority

Woolf’s opposition to scholarship and the canon, and her upholding of a method of reading that was emphatically non-institutional, make her search for an authorial persona and an appropriate critical method- ology seem less the product of gender alone than the result of a complex set of intellectual and institutional factors, in which gender neverthe-… Continue reading Woolf and Murry: Impressionism and authority

Literary Criticism

The common reader: Leisure and idealism

Woolf’s attempt to validate a non-academic approach to literature is best exemplified by her championing of Samuel Johnson’s figure of the ‘Common Reader’. For Woolf, this figure ‘dignifies [the] aims’ of the ‘private people’ who read in rooms ‘too humble to be called libraries’, the mass of ordinary, non-academic readers.45 The common reader differs from… Continue reading The common reader: Leisure and idealism