Discuss the two positions taken up by Q. D. and F. R. Leavis and C. S. Lewis with respect to English Literature.

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lprono | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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The literary criticism by the Leavises in such books as Fiction and the Reading Public (1932) and The Great Tradition (1948) is based on the assumption that there is only one form of great literature, that practised by a restricted literary elite. Leavisite criticism is therefore hostile to popular culture which does not merit the title of literature. Both critics denounced the corrupting effect of popular literature and the expansion of the reading public. This notion of a single culture has been challenged since the introduction of Cultural Studies on the literary scene in the 1960s.

As the author of many children's books such as the seven-volume series The Chronicle of Narnia (1950-56), C. S. Lewis wrote popular literature. To him, popular fiction was a way to communicate Christian teachings to a large audience and, thus, it had an important function. His literary criticism too focused mainly on texts with a religious message, particularly from the Middle Ages. Emotions are therefore considerably more important for Lewis than for the Leavises who argued for a literary criticism that could put together scientific and humanistic thoughts.

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