On Being Proper

A Reply to Christopher Cordner
  • Kevin Hart


One of the troubling things about Christopher Cordner’s paper ‘F. R. Leavis and the Moral in Literature’ is working out exactly who is the accused. At times it appears to be a very large group indeed, all those not committed to a ‘traditional “humanist” conception of the value of literature, and therefore of literary criticism’ (p. 60); while at other times it seems to be a more restricted clan, those people influenced by deconstruction. The ambiguity could arise from the fact that, of all the styles of textual practice currently used in literary studies, only deconstruction is mentioned. It stands for something unnamed, perhaps unnameable — a host of improper ways of regarding literature. If Cordner allows these critical styles to languish in semi-darkness, it is because his main aim is to offer a proper way of doing literary studies. Literature, he recommends, ‘might properly be regarded as embodying moral ideas’ and literary criticism ‘might properly be an evaluative, even morally evaluative, enterprise’ (p. 60).


Literary Study Literary Criticism Moral Evaluation Evaluative Criticism Moral Idea 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kevin Hart

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