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This article is taken from PN Review 112, Volume 23 Number 2, November - December 1996.

Loyalties and Entitlements Nicolas Tredell

FRANK KERMODE, Not Entitled: A Memoir (HarperCollins)£18
FRED INGLIS, Raymond Williams (Routledge) £19.99

In their generation, Frank Kermode and Raymond Williams were foremost among those in British intellectual life who changed the ways in which people thought about literature and culture. The publication of Kermode's memoirs and of the first full-length biography of Williams offers an occasion to compare and contrast their careers. Kermode was born in 1919 and Williams in 1921, both into working-class backgrounds on the fringes of Britain as conventionally conceived - Williams on the Welsh borders, Kermode on the Isle of Man - and both, while later moving into the centres of British life, retained a sense of internal difference. Both grew to manhood in the deepening political crises of the 1930s and both went to war - Williams in the 21st Anti-Tank Regiment and Kermode in the Royal Navy. After the war, both pursued their academic careers outside the privileged sites of Oxford and Cambridge - Williams as an adult education tutor in Sussex, Kermode at Newcastle, then at University College of Durham, and subsequently at the universities of Reading, Manchester, Bristol and London. In the later 1950s, both made an impact with books - Kermode's Romantic Image (1957) and Williams's Culture and Society (1958) - which challenged, politely but firmly, notions that were then still powerfully dominant in literary and cultural thinking. Their later work continued that challenge to a point where, in their respective ways, they profoundly altered - some might ...

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