Teacher, Critic, Explorer

  • John McIlroy


In 1946 the young Raymond Williams was ‘fired by his experience of educational work with the chaps in Germany and by what he had heard of the WEA’.1 His work on his return to student life in 1945 was viewed as ‘impressive’2 by his tutors and had crystallised and focused his new maturity. Cambridge English, and Leavis in particular, considered by Williams in his prewar student days ’ a bourgeois cult’,3 was now a major inspiration given Williams’s dissatisfaction with the mechanical, reductive Marxism of the period as a weapon of literary and cultural analysis. He found the cultural radicalism of Leavis immensely compelling and ‘there was the discovery of practical criticism. That was intoxicating’.4 If one problem with the Scrutiny school, for Williams’s generation, was its elitism and its dissolution of politics, this was not all -pervasive and what many found attractive was its powerful emphasis on a radical transformation in education. As L. C. Knights put it:

Our educational programme has been conceived from the first in terms of a radical criticism of existing society, including we may say its economic and social ordering. It is precisely by unfitting his pupils for the environment that the educator can hope to change it and to change it more radically than if he concentrates on political issues alone.5


Trade Union Adult Education Literature Teaching Literature Class Postwar Period 
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  1. 3.
    Raymond Williams, Politics and Letters: Interviews with New Left Review (London: New Left Books, 1979) p. 44.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    L. C. Knights, ‘The Modern Universities: A Postscript’, Scrutiny, VII, 1, 1938, p. 4. See generally, F. Mulhern, The Moment ofScrutiny’ (London: New Left Books, 1979).Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    F. R. Leavis, ‘The Literary Mind’, Scrutiny, I, 1, 1932, p. 24.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    F. R. Leavis and D. Thompson, Culture and Environment (London: Chatto & Windus, 1933) p. vii, ‘one of the incitements to writing this book was the experience of work under the WEA’; Mulhern, The Moment ofScrutiny ’, p. 314.Google Scholar
  5. 13.
    H. E. Poole, ‘English Literature as a Subject in WEA Classes: A Historical Review’, Adult Education, XIII, 4, 1940, p. 165.Google Scholar
  6. 17.
    Raymond Williams, ‘Some Experiments in Literature Teaching’, Rewley House Papers, 2, 10, 1948–9, pp. 9–15. Eric Bellchambers thought Williams’s comments exaggerated - correspondence with the author.Google Scholar
  7. 18.
    J. McIlroy, ‘Border Country: Raymond Williams in Adult Education, Part 1’, Studies in the Education of Adults, 22, 2, October 1990, pp. 129–66.Google Scholar
  8. 20.
    Raymond Williams, Culture and Society (London: Chatto & Windus, 1958) pp. 11–12; WEA S. E. District, Adult Education and Social Change: Lectures and Reminiscences in Honour of Tony McLean, 1983; E. Bellchambers, A. J. Woolford, correspondence with the author and interviewGoogle Scholar
  9. A. J. Woolford, ‘The Interpretation of History’, Scrutiny, XIII, 1, 1945; ‘Non sequitur’, Scrutiny, XIII, 2, 1945; ‘Clio Elevated’, Scrutiny, XIV, 1, 1946 - see also Mulhern, The Moment of Scrutiny, p. 182; P. Roberts, correspondence with the author; McIlroy, ‘Border Country’; see also FieIdhouse, ‘Oxford and Adult Education’, in this volume, pp. 47–64.Google Scholar
  10. 36.
    J. McIlroy and B. Spencer, University Adult Education in Crisis (Leeds: Studies in Adult and Continuing Education, University of Leeds, 1988).Google Scholar
  11. 39.
    J. Swindells and L. Jardine, What’s Left? Women in Culture and the Labour Movement (London: Routledge, 1990).Google Scholar
  12. 40.
    G. Turner, British Cultural Studies: An Introduction (London: Unwin Hyman, 1990)Google Scholar
  13. S. Laing, Representations of Working-Class Life, 1959–64 (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1986).Google Scholar
  14. 72.
    Raymond Williams, Reading and Criticism (London: Muller, 1950) pp. 25–6.Google Scholar
  15. 75.
    Raymond Williams, Drama from Ibsen to Eliot (London: Chatto & Windus, 1952) p. 14.Google Scholar
  16. 95.
    Particularly Q. D. Leavis, Fiction and the Reading Public (London: Chatto & Windus, 1932)Google Scholar
  17. D. Thompson, Between the Lines (London: Muller, 1939).Google Scholar
  18. G. H. Bantock, ‘The Cultural Implications of Planning and Popularisation’, Scrutiny, XIV, 2, 1947Google Scholar
  19. G. H. Bantock, ‘Some Cultural Implications of Freedom in Education’, Scrutiny, XV, 2, 1948.Google Scholar
  20. 103.
    P. Hobsbaum, ‘Teaching Poetry to Adult Classes’, Adult Education, XXXVIII, 2, March 1965, p. 331.Google Scholar
  21. 104.
    M. Orrom, Raymond Williams, Preface to Film (London: Film Drama Ltd, 1954).Google Scholar
  22. 126.
    D. Butts, ‘Public Expression’, Adult Education, XXXIII, 3, 1960, p. 133.Google Scholar
  23. 128.
    J. Levitt, ‘English Language for Adults’, Adult Education, XXXIII, 4, 1960, p. 197Google Scholar

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© John McIlroy 1993

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  • John McIlroy

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