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This article is taken from PN Review 71, Volume 16 Number 3, January - February 1990.

Uncancelled Challenge: Raymond Williams IV Nicolas Tredell
The Work of Raymond Williams Part 4

'Dons split in English Faculty rift'. The news made the front pages at the start of 1981. Colin MacCabe was, of course, 'the man at the centre of the storm': in The Guardian, his photograph was flanked, on one side, by a picture of Stephen Heath and on the other by a picture of Raymond Williams.

Colin MacCabe has said that, in 1973, the Cambridge English Faculty 'seemed a moribund and mediocre institution' (Theoretical Essays, 1985, 17). Three rather different figures posed challenges to this: George Steiner, by then an Extraordinary Fellow of Churchill College; Frank Kermode, when he arrived as King Edward VII Professor of English in 1975; and Raymond Williams. When the 'crisis' came to a head with the refusal, in 1980, to upgrade MacCabe to a permanent lectureship, Williams and Kermode were voted off the appointments committee. But while Kermode also resigned from the Faculty Board, Williams, characteristically - echoing Matthew Price's stress on 'working where I can... working for, always' (FM, 186) - announced: 'I have decided to stay on and fight on the Faculty Board' (Guardian, 31 January 1981, 1).

Williams's lecture 'Crisis in English Studies', delivered in 1981 and later printed in his Writing in Society (1984), gives a useful summary, eschewing any ad hominem references, of the intellectual lineaments of some of the 'controversial positions'. He also proposes that the changes coming about in literary studies, under pressure from such positions, ...


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