F. R. Leavis: the development of a critical vocabulary
Keys, Kevin John
This thesis demonstrates the development of F.R.Leavis's critical vocabulary through an examination of his critical practice. The socia] and political dimension of his critical orientation is examined by means of a reading of his own early pamphlets and articles; and of Q.D.Leavis's Fiction and the Reading Public (1932). This chapter indicates the nature of Leavis's approach to literature and criticism. An analysis of Leavis's preliminary considerations on poetry illustrates the gradual advancement of his critical terminology under the influence of T.S.Eliot. The judgements produced are examined and their value and reasoning are ,accounted for. Leavis's work on the novel is examined, showing how the critical terminology was transferred from criticism of the poetry to criticism of the novel. The source and function of Leavis's categories of 'tradition' and 'morality' are analysed. The ensuing critical judgements are assessed to show how and why such judgements were of ambiguous value. Leavis's study of Lawrence demonstrates centrally the advantages and disadvantages of Leavis's critical method. A discussion of the 'two cultures' debate illustrates Leavis's continuing polemical engagements and how this affects his critical priorities. Finally. an examination of Leavis's later work on Dickens and T.S.Eliot shows how Leavis's critical vocabulary matured a metaphysical, almost 'religious', dimension in its striving to maintain a connection between his concepts of 'art' and 'life'. Throughout this thesis, Leavis's criticism is examined by means of a rehearsal of his major arguments. This is combined with a discussion and assessment of the integrity of and sources for those arguments and an analysis of their resultant literary judgements. The thesis presents an objective account of the nature and function of Leavis's critical vocabulary, with a demonstration of its sources and an assessment of its achievements.