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HUMANITIES '37 be seenexclusivelyas myths or visionary stories may be the substitution of an equally severe restriction. Except for recurring symbols and structural patterns, Krissdottir refuses to be concerned with 'artistry.' The result is that little consideration can be given to the way in which the mythological references are set forth in specifically fictional terms. Value judgments about the relative merits of the various books as fictions are ventured. Weymouth Sands is said to be 'slack and disoriented' (p 107) and Monvyn 'disappointing' (p 120), while others are declared completely successful. Without any elaboration of the artistry involved the basis for these discriminations is unclear. Nevertheless, it is the implication that Powys's literature is fully appreciable only to the cognoscenti that is the most troublesome. Habitually Powys used arcane lore and recherche myths to create an aura of wonder. Any exegesis of his treatment of esoteric doctrine is valuable for demonstrating that he gave more conscious care to the creation of this mysterious atmosphere than he himself pretended. For establishing this point Krissdottir's analyses of the Grail legends in A Glastonbury Romance and of alchemy in Porius are particularly admirable. But appreciations of his intricacies must not make Powys appear less approachable or less enjoyable than he unquestionably is for the reader who is not familiar with alchemy or the perennial philosophy. (MARGARET MORAN) R.P. Bilan. The Literary Criticism of F.R. Leavis Cambridge University Press '979- vii, 338. $32.95 Most of what has been written about the criticism of F.R. Leavis can be safely disregarded. Few serious students of literature could produce a compelling justification for sifting the dust-heap of wilful misrepresentation and blank imperception, the gleeful sneering of literary racketeers and the embarrassing effusions of misguided discipleship, that constitutes the greater part of the response to Leavis's work. There are, nevertheless, some commentaries on Leavis that must be read, and Professor Bilan's book (although open to critical objection at some crucial points) properly belongs in this category. He approaches Leavis with the mixture of admiration and respect appropriate to the discussion of a great critic, and yet it can be fairly said that his treatment of Leavis resembles Leavis's own treatment of Dr Johnson - critical 'greatness' is not a quality that, once recognized and demonstrated, absolves other critics of the responsibility for pointing out errors of judgment, limitations of sensibility, and weaknesses of theory and practice. Infallibility cannot be the touchstone we use to identify the great critics; if it were, we would have no great critics. And the picture of Dr Leavis that emerges from Bilan's study is impressive primarily becauseBilan is willing to admit the imperfections of 138 LETI'ERS IN CANADA 1980 his subject, with the result that Leavis never appears to us as less than human, never becomes an object to be approached with the deadly professionalism of 'academic detachment.' Because Bilan's book attempts a comprehensive and detailed assessment of Leavis's achievement, summary or paraphrase would have the effect of transforming complexity into apparent superficiality. Itwould be fairer to draw attention to those parts of his work that seem persuasive, and then to note aspects of the book that are more likely to provoke dissent than to elicit agreement. Leavis's criticism was always distinguished by his refusal to separate literature from life, and Bilan argues effectively that Leavis's social and cultural concerns were consistent throughout his career and that his critical practice cannot be properly understood without a recognition of this consistency. Related to this point is Leavis's consistently asserted view that the literary critic's concern with language extends to its use in society, and that usage can be reliably taken as an indication of the state of cultural health. In other areas Leavis is shown to be, if not always less consistent, certainly less clear. Bilan addresses, for example, the problems of definition that cannot be separated from Leavis's use of words such as culture, tradition, and standards, and proceeds from this to a serious consideration of the difficulties that Leavis faced because of his insistence that criticism was doing, not theorizing. Bilan is also effective...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 137-140
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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