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The Nostalgic ImaginationHistory in English Criticism$
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Stefan Collini

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198800170

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198800170.001.0001

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Scrutinizing the Present Phase of Human History

Scrutinizing the Present Phase of Human History

(p.48) 2 Scrutinizing the Present Phase of Human History
The Nostalgic Imagination

Stefan Collini

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the range of F. R. Leavis’s historical thinking, from the early work of his Ph.D. through to his post-1945 dealings with the nineteenth century. The chapter argues that, rather than being largely derived from Eliot’s work, Leavis’s thinking drew on older and more conventional strains of historical writing whose framework he never entirely shook off. It emphasizes the extent to which Leavis believed that a proper cultural history would yield an evaluative assessment of the quality of human living in various periods and hence an overall judgement about progress or decline. It shows that the two key periods in Leavis’s scheme were the seventeenth century, understood as the beginnings of the modern world, and the nineteenth century, seen as the triumph of a broadly mechanical and economistic world view that he tended to equate with ‘Utilitarianism’.

Keywords:   F. R. Leavis, Scrutiny, literary history, quality of living, reading public, Utilitarianism

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