Leavis: Harbinger of English (and Morals)

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It seems as though many students at the university level are English majors. This could be attributed to their indecisive nature upon entering a college: not sure of what to take as a major but having a vague interest in reading or writing, the student may naturally drift towards English. If the student ends up progressing to the junior or senior level, he or she may begin to realize that at some point graduation will be inevitable, and finding a job will be in order. It is at this point that the student of English will begin to take the discipline more seriously, and decide, or possibly be required, to conduct research on a person relating to the field. Invariably the English major will stumble upon F. R. Leavis, without whom the discipline very possibly might not have existed at all.

Leavis was born on July 14, 1895, in Cambridge, England. His father owned a piano store; once he had accumulated a substantial profit from this business, he relocated his family to the wealthier part of the city. Shortly before the beginning of the First World War, F. R. Leavis enrolled at Emmanuel College (this, and most subsequent biographical information, was taken from the article entitled "F. R. Leavis," from the Literature Resource Center). When the war broke out, Leavis found himself forced to temporarily abandon his studies to serve for the British army in France, where he, like Ernest Hemingway, worked on an ambulance. Five years later he came back to Cambridge with a serious stomach problem, forever altered by the effects of war. With a new outlook on life, Leavis took a new interest in the works of such modernist poets as T. S. Eliot and William Butler Yeats. Continuing his education at Cambridge University, Leavis wrote his disserta...

... middle of paper ... read when I get the chance--but I also wonder how he would propose to combat the media's deadening of the mass intellect: Compose a fifty page thesis on The Waste Land, or Howl, perhaps, and decide which is better with respect to the poets' moralistic takes on contemporary American life? No, I'm afraid not. The only hope we have now is brutal, incisive, bitingly satirical snippets which we can sometimes catch if we are lucky enough to have Comedy Central.

But just because I reject Leavis' method of bringing intellectual life back into an otherwise dumbed-down society does not mean that I disagree with everything he had to say. Most importantly he should be credited with establishing the English discipline within the university framework--and without that effort, of course, I would have been studying some mind-numbing, monotonously dry subject, like biology.
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