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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: December 2019

Chapter 2 - The Literary Novel

Summary

‘It is not an exaggeration to say that for most people “a book” means a novel.’ So wrote Q. D. Leavis in her pioneering Fiction and the Reading Public (1932), reflecting on the supremacy of the novel in an era when universal literacy had created what she called an ‘inveterate general reading habit’ among the British. Yet the novel of Leavis’s own decade would be so comprehensively overshadowed by poetry in the course of the following half-century that it was still the case in the late 1980s that Valentine Cunningham could write in his landmark survey of the period that ‘when we think of literature in the 1930s our current orthodoxies usually have us thinking first of poets’.

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