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Americanizing BritainThe Rise of Modernism in the Age of the Entertainment Empire$
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Genevieve Abravanel

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199754458

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199754458.001.0001

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English by Example

English by Example

F. R. Leavis and the Americanization of Modern England

(p.110) 4 English by Example
Americanizing Britain

Genevieve Abravanel

Oxford University Press

The prominent literary and cultural critic F. R. Leavis sensed, long before the Cold War debates about American hegemony and British decline, how definitions of modern English culture depend upon American culture. This chapter argues that Leavis’s position as the self-appointed guardian of Englishness emerges through his resistance to the mass culture of the United States. In his earliest writings, Leavis announces the need for an educated elite, or a “minority,” who can analyze literature fiercely enough to rescue England from jazz, Ford motorcars, and the American book-of-the-month club. This chapter contends that Leavis’s central role in elevating English studies to its current prominence within the humanities grew out of his desire to preserve the moral tradition housed in the English language. The chapter further traces Leavis’s impact into the early years of British Cultural Studies, arguing that the work of Richard Hoggart, often assumed to be Leavis’s antithesis, extends Leavis’s anti-Americanism.F.R. Leavis

Keywords:   Queenie Leavis, English studies, highbrow, minority, the great tradition, Raymond Williams, Richard Hoggart, British cultural studies

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