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The Great Tradition Hardcover – Import

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 276 pages
  • Publisher: Chatto & Windus; New Ed edition (1948)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0701108916
  • ISBN-13: 978-0701108915
  • Shipping Weight: 15.7 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,940,347 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By reading man on December 11, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is one of the most important books of literary criticism written in the 20th century.

Leaving aside the issue of how much of it F.R. himself wrote (Q.D., his wife and literary partner, once claimed that she wrote a substantial part of it), and leaving aside his tortuous (tortured?) prose style, the book definitely contains insights of genius.

What Leavis (or the Leavises) get right:

(1) Late Henry James is far inferior to earlier novels like PORTRAIT OF A LADY and THE BOSTONIANS, though praise for THE AWKWARD AGE is, IMHO, misguided.

(2) George Eliot is a great novelist, not a philosopher and novelist manque, even if most of her later works are uneven (Leavis analysis of DERONDA is superb). However, I think MIDDLEMARCH deserves a higher mark than he gives it.

(3) Conrad is definitely part of the "great tradition", but the list of his best books should include LORD JIM and HEART OF DARKNESS, which Leavis dismisses, and exclude VICTORY and CHANCE, which he praises.

(4) Thomas Hardy should be part of the "great tradition", because TESS, JUDE, and THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE are the equals of the writers Leavis includes, even on Leavis' terms ("maturity", "moral seriousness", etc.)

Leavis has no appreciation of comic novels (witness his exclusion of Sterne and Fielding from the GT), and he mentions Lawrence in passing, only to overpraise this dubious "genius" in two later books.

His position on Dickens is ridiculous. HARD TIMES is the only book he thinks isn't "entertainment", a view he renounced several years later without apology or explanation.

I'm glad Leavis is no longer a power in literary criticism, but he was once a force and what's good in him still rings true.
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