The Perse School
 

F. R. Leavis (1914)

Biography

Frank Raymond Leavis was one of the most potent single influences on English studies in the earlier and middle part of the twentieth century. He championed seriousness and moral depth in literature and criticised what he considered the amateur belletrism of his time. He went from The Perse to Emmanuel College Cambridge, but did not take up his place until 1919, serving throughout the First World War as an ambulance bearer on the Western Front.

He lectured at Emmanuel from 1925 but moved in the early 1930s to Downing College, where he was elected into a fellowship in 1936. In 1964 Leavis resigned his fellowship at Downing and took up visiting professorships at the Universities of York, Wales and Bristol. He was made a Companion of Honour in 1978.

In 1932 with his wife, the former Queenie Dorothy Roth, author of the important Fiction and the Reading Public (1932), he founded Scrutiny, a quarterly journal of criticism that was published until 1953 and is regarded by many as his greatest contribution to English letters. Leavis believed that literature should be closely related to criticism of life and that it is therefore a literary critic’s duty to assess works according to the author’s and society’s moral position.

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