Peace in Our Time

A correspondent has written in to question the resolute opposition of this site to the current programme of the Leavis Society and urge a rapprochement. The gist of our reply, with some slight changes, is reproduced here:-

We have known of the existence of the Leavis Society since its inception and have had no cause to quarrel with it (or, a fortiori, its predecessor, The Centre for Leavis Studies, which pursued the commendable aim of facilitating access to Leavis’s work) until its transformation into a positively anti-Leavisian organisation under its present management.

 In its present incarnation, the Leavis Society has continued to provide a platform for literary viewpoints that are completely inimical to the preservation of Leavis’s legacy and political attitudes that are contrary to its spirit. The publicising of Jacobsons’s puerile lampoon is an egregious example of the latter. Justifying this policy of undermining Leavis on the ground of ‘inclusiveness’ is a pitiful sophistry. If the object is to create a forum for Leavis’s enemies to have their say, well and good; but don’t sell it as a project to honour him and perpetuate his work.

Hijacking Leavis for anti-Leavisian purposes was attempted before by the intellectually distinguished founders of the Leavis Lectureship Trust and The Cambridge Quarterly. The activities of the LS under its present chair and editor are a more unsophisticated and transparent re-run of this trahison des clercs.

G D’s recent note, Unexaggerated Rumour, makes the essential point that ‘to offer platforms…to those overtly hostile to his work, reminds one of his own comment after the Lectureship Trust debacle, that he is not honoured but dishonoured and insulted’.

Whether or not the Leavis Society survives is irrelevant from our point of view. We are only concerned to oppose the misappropriation and exploitation of Leavis’s name when it occurs.

Finally, we are sceptical about the value of literary associations for reasons set out in our riposte to the editorial of the Leavis Society’s inaugural newsletter. Our own view is that the best vehicles for preserving Leavis’s name and legacy are platforms for essays and reviews in the spirit of his work such as the journals founded by Duke Maskell and Ian Robinson. Treating the journal as the paradigmatic vehicle for literary activity is consistent with Leavis’s own practice.

R. S.