Q. D. Leavis

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Queenie Dorothy Leavis (née Roth, 7 December 1906 – 17 March 1981) was an English literary critic and essayist.[1]

Born in Edmonton, England, Leavis came from a Jewish family; her marriage to her Gentile husband F. R. Leavis caused a permanent rift with her relatives.[1]

Her Ph.D thesis, published under the supervision of I. A. Richards, became the book Fiction And The Reading Public (1932). Fiction and the Reading Public was influenced by Robert and Helen Lynd's book Middletown, the work of the anthropologist A. C. Haddon,[1] and Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War by Wilfred Trotter.[2] It sought to account for what Leavis regarded as the cultural decline of literary standards by surveying the marketing of modern fiction.[1] Leavis regarded modern literature as largely inferior to "unitary" literature of the sixeenth and seventeenth centuries.[1] She wrote about the historical sociology of reading and the development of the English, the European, and the American novel. She paid particular attention to the writings of Jane Austen, George Eliot, Herman Melville, the Brontës, Edith Wharton and Charles Dickens.

Leavis was unsympathetic to the feminist movement,[1] and attacked Virginia Woolf's feminist polemic Three Guineas.[3]

Much of her work was published collaboratively with her husband, F. R. Leavis. She contributed to and supported as an editor Scrutiny (1932–1951), an influential journal that sought to promote a stringent and morally serious approach to literary criticism.[4]

Her collected essays, which include some previously unpublished writing, are available in three volumes.

The mathematician Leonard Roth was her brother.

Partial list of works[edit]

  • Fiction and the Reading Public (1932)
  • Lectures in America (1969, with F. R. Leavis)
  • Dickens, the Novelist (1970, with F. R. Leavis)
  • Collected Essays, Volume 1: The Englishness of the English Novel (1983)
  • Collected Essays, Volume 2: The American Novel and Reflections on the European Novel (1985)
  • Collected Essays, Volume 3: The Novel of Religious Controversy, (1989)

Further reading[edit]

  • P. J. M. Robertson (1981) The Leavises on Fiction: An Historic Partnership (London)

Sources[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Mary Grover, "Leavis, Q.D." in Faye Hammill, Esme Miskimmin, Ashlie Sponenberg (eds.) An Encyclopedia of British Women's Writing 1900-1950. Palgrave, 2008 ISBN 0230221777 (pp. 140-4)
  2. ^ Chris Baldick, The Social Mission of English Criticism, 1848-1932. Oxford: Clarendon, 1987. ISBN 0-19-812979-3 (p. 194)
  3. ^ Leavis, Q.D. "Caterpillars of the Commonwealth Unite!" Scrutiny (Sept 1938): 208
  4. ^ Francis Mulhern, The Moment Of "Scrutiny" London: Verso, 1981. ISBN 0860917452 (pp. 34-41)