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Criticism and the Modernists: Woolf, Murry, Orage

  • Carol Atherton

Abstract

The resistance to literary scholarship, in the form of a set of critical philosophies that emphasised the relationship between text and reader over the codes and practices of academic study, was to become a recurring theme in the arguments about academic English that took place over the next few decades. Significantly, this debate about different forms of literary knowledge took place not just within the universities, but also in other cultural arenas. Laurel Brake’s work on nineteenth-century periodicals has uncovered the extent of theorising about criticism that took place even in apparently ‘generalist’ publications such as the Cornhill Magazine, with the ‘problems of identity, method and language’ experienced by the men of letters being seen as symptoms of the chaos brought about by the fragmentation of criticism into its various journalistic and scholarly forms.1 Just as the early supporters of literary study had to defend the subject’s claims to academic status, it seemed that those who worked outside the universities had to justify their right to include it in non-specialist debate, arguing that its wider relevance meant that it should not be allowed to become the possession of a purely academic domain. Specialists may have succeeded in claiming some aspects of English as theirs, but the continuing presence of literature in general debate meant that they could not ‘own’ the subject entirely.

Keywords

Literary Criticism Aesthetic Experience Mass Market Literary Knowledge Personal Authority 
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Notes

  1. 3.
    A. R. Orage, quoted in Wallace Martin, Orage as Critic (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1974), p. 74.Google Scholar
  2. 8.
    John Middleton Murry, ‘Northcliffe as Symbol’, Adelphi, 1 (October 1930), pp. 16, 18.Google Scholar
  3. 11.
    Wallace Martin, ‘The New Ageunder Orage (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1967), p. 3.Google Scholar
  4. 12.
    Matthew Arnold, ‘The Function of Criticism at the Present Time’, in The Complete Prose Works of Matthew Arnold, vol. III: Lectures and Essays in Criticism, ed. R. H. Super (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1962), p. 270.Google Scholar
  5. 13.
    Virginia Woolf, The Common Reader (London: Hogarth, [1925] 1929), p. 189.Google Scholar
  6. 14.
    Rachel Bowlby, Virginia Woolf FeministDestinations (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1988), pp. 12–13.Google Scholar
  7. 32.
    Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann (eds): The Letters of Virginia Woolf, 6 vols (London: Chatto & Windus, 1975–80), 5, p. 450.Google Scholar
  8. 89.
    Stefan Collini, ‘Lament for a lost culture: How the twentieth century came to mourn the seriousness of the nineteenth’, Times Literary Supplement (19 January 2001), pp. 3–5.Google Scholar
  9. 91.
    Max Plowman, review of John Middleton Murry, Discoveries and Studies in Keats, Adelphi, 1 (November 1930), p. 165.Google Scholar
  10. 95.
    John Middleton Murry, ‘Hamlet Again’, Adelphi, 1 (January 1931), pp. 347, 342.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Carol Atherton 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carol Atherton

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