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This article is taken from PN Review 48, Volume 12 Number 4, March - April 1986.

A Delicate Situation Gabriel Josipovici

I think this is a very complex and delicate area and it seems to me that your 'manifesto' does nothing to advance understanding. In England the discussion has been as polarized as it once was over the nouveau roman. There are those who are for and those who are against and both sides remain entrenched in positions that seem perfectly logical and commonsensical to them. I find it a pity that instead of trying to break this deadlock you seem to wish merely to reassert the views of one side.

I agree with you that talk of a 'crisis in English studies' makes the heart sink, as the old Leavisite quarrels are replayed with a slightly different vocabulary. The fact is that there is never any total justification for the study of arts subjects and that once consensus has broken down about their function it is not easy for anyone to find adequate reasons why such things should continue to be studied, and studied in the old ways. What is unfortunate is that 'English studies' should now have come to seem coterminous with literature. People read books and write them without ever giving a thought to 'the study of literature', thank God. But it is a measure of the impoverishment of our culture that this seems to have been forgotten and that debates about reading and writing should have merged with debates about syllabuses and study.

However, as I have said, the situation is very ...


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