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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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The History of ‘the Reading Public’

The History of ‘the Reading Public’

(p.126) 5 The History of ‘the Reading Public’
The Nostalgic Imagination

Stefan Collini

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that accounts of ‘the reading public’ are always fundamentally historical, usually involving stories of ‘growth’ or ‘decline’. It examines Q. D. Leavis’s Fiction and the Reading Public, which builds a relentlessly pessimistic critique of the debased standards of the present out of a highly selective account of literature and its publics since the Elizabethan period. It goes on to exhibit the complicated analysis of the role of previous publics in F. R. Leavis’s revisionist literary history, including his ambivalent admiration for the great Victorian periodicals. And it shows how Richard Hoggart’s The Uses of Literacy carries an almost buried interpretation of social change from the nineteenth century onwards, constantly contrasting the vibrant and healthy forms of entertainment built up in old working-class communities with the slick, commercialized reading matter introduced by post-1945 prosperity.

Keywords:   Q. D. Leavis, F. R. Leavis, Richard Hoggart, reading public, decline, mass culture

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