F. R. Leavis
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Frank Raymond Leavis CH (14 July 1895 – 14 April 1978) was an influential British literary critic of the early-to-mid-twentieth century. He taught and studied for nearly his entire life at Downing College, Cambridge.
Frank Raymond Leavis was born in Cambridge, England, in 1895, about a decade after T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence and Ezra Pound, literary figures whose reputations he would later contribute to enhancing. His father, Harry Leavis, a cultured man, ran a small shop in Cambridge which sold pianos and other musical instruments (Hayman 1), and his son was to retain a respect for him throughout his life. Frank Leavis was educated at a local independent private school, The Perse School, whose headmaster at the time was Dr. W. H. D. Rouse. Rouse was a classicist and known for his "direct method," a practice which required teachers to carry on classroom conversations with their pupils in Latin and classical Greek. Though he enjoyed languages to a certain extent, Leavis felt that his native language was the only one on which he was able to speak with authority, thus his reading in the classical languages is not particularly evident in his critical publications (Bell 3).
Leavis was nineteen when Britain declared war on Germany in 1914. Not wanting to kill, he volunteered for the Friends Ambulance Unit, FAU, working in France immediately behind the Western Front, and carrying a copy of Milton's poems with him. On the introduction of conscription in 1916, he benefited from the blanket recognition of FAU members as conscientious objectors. His wartime experiences had a lasting effect on Leavis; mentally, he was prone to insomnia and suffered from intermittent nightmares, whilst exposure to poison gas permanently damaged his physical health, primarily his digestive system.
Leavis was slow to recover from the war, and he was later to refer to it as "the great...