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This review is taken from PN Review 116, Volume 23 Number 6, July - August 1997.

VITAL CORPUS GARY DAY, Re-Reading Leavis: 'Culture' and Literary Criticism (Macmillan) £37.50

A spectre is stalking poststructuralism: its name is F.R. Leavis. The ghost, of course, had never quite been laid. When Leavis was still alive, there were those who longed for him to die; he not only did not do so, but failed to fade away. When the corpse was at last laid to rest, the corpus of texts lived on, and, in the manner of such posthumous bodies, grew extra limbs. The agents of cultural amnesia went to work with a vengeance; and it seemed, for a time, that they might succeed. Although a number of books about Leavis, most notably Michael Bell's, were published in the 1970s and 1980s, the Times Higher Education Supplement of 24 April 1992 marked the thirtieth anniversary of Leavis's final lecture at Cambridge with an article by David Hamilton Eddy in which he observed that '[t]oday in Cambridge, Leavis is largely forgotten' and cited an unnamed senior don's remark 'that of a group of bright first year English undergraduates not one had heard of Leavis' (p. 15). But to be forgotten at Cambridge is not tantamount to total oblivion: and in the very year that Eddy made his comments, there were contrary indications. Indeed, earlier in 1992, the Times Higher had -according to Gary Day at the start of this book - cited a survey which showed that Leavis was the second most popular critic on English literature courses in polytechnics and colleges, the first being Roland Barthes and the third Terry Eagleton. ...


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