Posts tagged ‘Leavis’

Literary Cannon

I have taken it upon myself as a  kind of belated new year’s resolution (aside the ‘must loose half my body weight for girlie holiday’ and ‘don’t leave cleaning the car until i loose a passenger under the filth!’) to invest in some of the books that we discussed as featuring on a typical ‘Leavis-like’ literary reading cannon.

I have so far spent so much money on Amazon I now have shares in the company …. and 5 books!

I finished 1984 last night after a week or so of dispersed readings and to be honest by the time I’d finished at around 2am this morning i was all but ready to jump from the nearest cliff (of which I doubt there is any around here as I live in the Midlands! – re-think plan!) it was so depressing!

I understand that at the time of its publication, it was considered to be very ‘forward-thinking’, even an innovation, in literature terms. However, would it really have killed Georgie to throw in a more racy sex scene or even a happy ending for the loved-up pair of traitors??!

I have now started the first few pages of Jane Eyre, which no doubt will take me a while to read for fear of ripping the ’tissue-like’ pages of the book (shame on you penguin classics!) and so I will post my progress shortly.


“Jed…ward??! well i never!” (A ‘Leavis-like’ analysis of a chosen media text)

It has come to my immediate regard of this obscene farce on British television, so-called the ‘X-Factor’… I sat with ‘disgust’ being the only emotion I could fathom to form my features on Saturday evening as a pair of over-excitable juveniles jirated, jiggled, and garbled out something I refuse to classify as ‘music’.

Even if I had opted to ‘mute’ my ‘idiots lantern’, I would still have been faced with their atrocious attire! Adorned in what i can only describe as ‘overalls’, they proceeded to procrastinate around the stage, sporting hair that very much resembled the ‘White Cliffs Of Dover’, with a group of equally eccentric ‘exceptionals’ who wouldn’t have looked at of place at a ‘Thriller Convnetion’ in toe!

It is beyond my comprehensive conception how this ‘freak show’ can possibly be conceived as ‘entertainment’ (in want of a better word!) It communicates no ‘values’ of worth other than ‘how to make yourself look exceedingly idiosyncratic in front of millions of British tax-payers!’

I shall most certainly be writing to the ‘high-waisted’ and ‘over-paid’ gentleman whom I believe to be the organ-grinder to these ridiculously-robed monkeys!

A Woman Of No Importance: why it might be considered to offer us ‘sweetness & light’…

I read this play as part of my A-Level English Literature course, and to be honest, my ‘pre-omg-yawnfest!’ diagnosis was swiftly swept under the carpet, as this play was full of superbly written wit and humour as well as a voyeuristic insight into the social circles of ‘polite society’.

Why ‘sweetness & light’?

I feel that this media text offers it’s audience ‘sweetness & light’ because:

  • mainly due to its context (the high-class social circles of Victorian Britain)
  • written by Irish playwright Oscar Wilde, who was highly thought-of in his field. He remains one of the great playwrights of all time, and his works still feature on many of the ‘reading cannons’ of A-Level English lit courses today.
  • although some may criticise the ‘references’ within the play that were ‘shunned’ by high society (single mothers etc), it is written with expert precision and encompasses the ‘whit’ and banter that was a commonplace ‘reflex’ in such circles

Values the text communicates:

  • ‘family’ – the importance of family ties and being there for one another
  • ‘pride’ – Mrs Arbuthnot retains her pride throughout, even though she has an illegitimate son.
  • ‘secrets’/’secret-keeping’ – this theme is ‘toyed with’ throughout the play, and also the importance of how life-changing secrets can be within societies such as this
  • ‘age=superiority’ – the older characters remain ‘aloof’ over those who are far younger

Overall, i feel that this play more than deserves its pigeon hole amongst the likes of ‘Jayne Ayer’, ‘Great Expectations’, & ‘The Brontë sisters’ to name but a few, and fills our lives with endless sugar and sunshine…

A Spot Of Light Reading: F.R. Leavis, ‘Mass Civilisation And Minority Culture’

Leavis begins by making comment on the fact that there are now a lot less people who he would categorize as ‘qualified’ to comment upon ‘culture’, i.e. there are not many people now who would be able to comment first-hand on ‘high culture’.

“goodwill and intelligence are still too little available.”

“to set up as a critic is to set up as a judge of values…”

However, he then makes reference to an earlier work of his in which he counters this idea with:

“the record and perpetuation of the experiences which seem to him most worth having. For reasons which we shall consider … he is also the man who is most likely to have experiences of value to record. He is the point at which the growth of the mind shows itself”.

Here, Leavis hints that although someone may not have been brought up in a ‘high society’, the experience of life itself would allow any man (or woman) the right to comment upon high society.

He digresses to attack America for the ‘dumbing down’ of the British society, blaming the film industry primarily. Although I think he does go a little ‘overboard’, he does ‘back-peddle’ slightly in enough time to add that it is because of America we have ‘greater efficiency, better salesmanship, and more mass-production and standardisation’.

He also covers ‘language’, primarily English. He highlights Russell’s thoughts that ‘English is the best language in the world for advertising’, again with an underlying fear that the supposed ‘Americanization’ may destroy this.

‘Shakespeare was not highbrow’

He goes on to make a bold statement that: ‘standardized civilization is rapidly enveloping the whole world’. If this is indeed true, then it is rather worrying. Will we all soon become all the same? Will we blend into a huge mass culture, unable to differentiate from one culture to the next?

In conclusion, Leavis states: “it is vain to resist the triumph of the machine i.e. all the ‘pros’ that globalization has brought us.

I.A. Richards: “this century is in a cultural trough rather than upon a crest…the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better…a slow climb back may be possible”.

“it is best if we can to keep open our communications with the future”