What Price Collaboration? The Case of F. R. Leavis

  • Michael Bell


In his Preface to The Common Pursuit (1952), F. R. Leavis described the practice of literary criticism as a constructive collaboration: ‘“The common pursuit of true judgement”: that is how the critic should see his business, and what it should be for him. His perceptions and judgements are his, or they are nothing; but, whether or not he has consciously addressed himself to co-operative labour, they are inevitably collaborative.’1 Such an ideal of critical collaboration is problematic, as the Leavises’ own careers demonstrated. But their difficulties have too often been seen in terms of personality, while the true interest of the case is the other way round: the Leavises’ strong-minded conception of their own integrity throws light on the tensions of collaboratio as such.


Personal Wholeness Critical Ethic True Judgement Humanistic Education European Thought 
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  1. 1.
    F. R. Leavis, The Common Pursuit (London: Chatto and Windus, 1965) v.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Milan Kundera, The Art of the Novel, trans. Linda Asher (London: Faber, 1988) 125.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Bernard Williams, ‘Necessity Disguised as Luxury’, Times Higher Education Supplement, 23 January 1987, 4.Google Scholar
  4. 9.
    Leon Edel, Henry James, 2 vols (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977) II, 557.Google Scholar
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    See Judith Sklaar, ‘Let Us Not Be Hypocritical’, Dedalus 108 (Summer, 1979) 1–26.Google Scholar
  6. 11.
    See Jean Starobinski, Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Transparency and Obstruction, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (University of Chicago Press, 1988) 47.Google Scholar
  7. 12.
    Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Wilhelm Meister’s Years of Apprenticeship, trans. H. M. Waidson (London: Calder, 1979), Book VII, Ch. 9, pp. 66–7.Google Scholar
  8. 15.
    Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life, trans. Peter Preuss (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1983) 24.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Bell

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