100 Books: 100 Texts That Influenced my Thinking–Fiction And The Reading Public (1932) by Q. D. Leavis

Born in Edmonton, England, on December 7, 1906, Queenie Dorothy Leavis was an English literary critic and essayist. She came from a Jewish family (nee Roth), and her marriage to Gentile husband F. R. Leavis caused permanent rift with her relatives.

In 1925, Leavis attended Latymer School, Edmonton, and Girton College, Cambridge.  Her Ph.D thesis, published under the supervision of I. A. Richards, became the book Fiction And The Reading Public (1932).

Fiction and the Reading Public was influenced by Robert and Helen Lynd’s book Middletown, the work of the anthropologist A. C. Haddon, and Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War by Wilfred Trotter. She sought to account for the cultural decline of literary standards by surveying the marketing of modern fiction.

Leavis regarded modern literature as inferior to “unitary” literature of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. She wrote about the historical sociology of reading and the development of the English, the European, and the American novel.

She focused on the writings of Jane Austen, George Eliot, Herman Melville, the Brontës, Edith Wharton and Charles Dickens.

Queenie Leavis was unsympathetic to the feminist movement, and attacked Virginia Woolf’s feminist polemic Three Guineas.

Much of her work was published collaboratively with her husband, F. R. Leavis. She contributed to and supported as an editor of Scrutiny (1932–1951), an influential journal that sought to promote a stringent and morally serious approach to literary criticism.

She died March 17, 1981, at the age of 74.

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