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Adjective and noun formed from the name of the influential British literary critic F. R. Leavis, typically used as a pejorative reference to an approach to literature and culture associated by critics with cultural elitism, high culture, nostalgia for traditional pre-industrial society, moral judgements, and hostility to Marxism, ‘commercialism’, and mass society. Leavis is also more positively associated with close textual analysis, though on a common sense evaluative basis rather than by applying explicit theoretical frameworks. Although disdainful of popular culture, in 1942 Leavis produced a book for schools (with Denys Thompson) seeking to develop critical awareness through the study of advertisements, newspapers, and films, which Leavis felt exploited the ‘cheapest emotional responses’. The emergence of British cultural studies, particularly in the work of Williams and Hoggart, is often referred to as left Leavisism.

Subjects: Literature

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