Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: Literature, language, and the human : a theoretical enquiry, with special reference to the work of F.R. Leavis
Author: Holman, Emily
ISNI:       0000 0004 6497 0751
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2016
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Full text unavailable from EThOS. Please try the link below.
Access from Institution:
This thesis proposes a theory of literature's human relevance in literary terms, developing hints in the critical practice of twentieth century literary critic F.R. Leavis. It examines how literary texts can be humanly relevant in a manner that depends on their literary merit, and does so in three stages, interrogating: the way literary texts operate; the role literary language plays in thinking; and the interaction of literature and morality. The thesis has two, related, aims: to reconceptualise literature's relation to human living, and to offer a recharacterisation of Leavis's literary criticism, with the investigation of aspects of Leavis's practice forming part of the more fundamental enquiry regarding the nature of literature's human significance. In the first stage, the thesis argues that Leavis's critical practice in his works of the 1930s (his first major decade of critical output) provides fruitful ways for conceptualising the interaction between form and meaning in literature, with important consequences for present-day understandings of how literature functions and how it matters. It focuses on an untheorised (by him or others) achievement in Leavis's criticism, the introduction of the term 'attitude' into literary analysis and judgement, and argues that the term enables a different mode of attention to the question of how literature relates to the human world. The second stage first interrogates the role that language in general plays in understanding, constructing a hypothesis from arguments by philosophers R.G. Collingwood and Charles Taylor, and then turns to literary language, arguing that it enables a mode of relating to experience not otherwise possible, and forms a process of thinking, for reader and writer alike. The final stage focuses on arguments in aesthetics against literature's cognitive value, and in moral philosophy for its empathic and moral value. Building on earlier arguments about the operation of literary language and language's relation to thought, the thesis claims that literary language is humanly meaningful in a way that is both cognitively and morally significant. Throughout, the thesis argues for the inescapable link between well-written literature and the morally resonant, such that good literature forms what Taylor calls 'moral sources'. The crucial query is how literature functions, which will help us better to answer why it is humanly important. This thesis engages with literary criticism, philosophical aesthetics and moral philosophy, as well as offering close readings of literature itself.
Supervisor: Perry, Seamus Sponsor: AHRC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Criticism ; Aesthetics ; Ethics ; literary cognitivism ; the human world ; Language and languages in literature ; The Contemporary in literature ; literary form ; content and meaning ; embodiment/enactment ; Philosophy in literature ; Attitudes ; Literary theory ; Peter Lamarque ; F.R. Leavis ; Literature ; Human living ; Charles Taylor ; Martha Nussbaum