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This review is taken from PN Review 16, Volume 7 Number 2, November - December 1980.

WELL, YES, THE MOVEMENT Blake Morrison, The Movement: English Poetry and Fiction of the 1950s (Oxford University Press) £8.95

Blake Morrison's study sets out to prove that 'the view that the Movement was a journalistic invention or agreed fiction can no longer be allowed to stand'. He accordingly takes pains to rehearse the gradual convergence of the group who took similar views of writing and the literary tradition and whose poems and novels came to share characteristics of manner and interest: from Oxford, Philip Larkin, Kingsley Amis, and John Wain; from Cambridge, D. J. Enright, Donald Davie, and Thom Gunn. They had in common a sense of rigour and scepticism about the creative act (which the Cambridge set found quite compatible with the views of their mentor, F. R. Leavis), and the belief that writing is a function of order, intelligence, argument and adjustment; self-effacing, unobtrusive, using strict forms and discountenancing the rhapsodic or self-indulgent imaginings and procedures of Dylan Thomas, Edith Sitwell, W. R. Rodgers, and the New Apocalypse of the 1940s. There is clearly a good deal of truth in Davie's claim that his own book, Purity of Diction in English Verse (1952) provided the Movement with a text, if not a manifesto, which they could all more or less happily underwrite. It is consistent with that viewpoint that Wain could find in Empson a poet of wit and erudition worth emulating, and Davie could discover in Yvor Winters's anthology, Poets of the Pacific, support for like inclinations towards rational discourse. Morrison's thesis is particularly valuable in discriminating the burden and direction of the Movement's political ...


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