A Discussion Day, West Lodge, Downing College, Cambridge, 22 September 2003
Leavis died twenty-five years ago, in April 1978. This discussion day comes therefore at an appropriate time "for a modest employment, over the new perspective, of the surveying and reconsidering eye."
The meeting will focus (though not exclusively) on Leavis's later work, which the organisers feel has not had the recognition it deserves. We want to move the emphasis away from the conventional idea of Leavis as 'literary critic', with the limiting effect this may have for many people (albeit not for him). Striking advances are evident in his later thought - continuous, we think, with the earlier work but marked by a much more insistent and urgent preoccupation with the problems of thought, meaning and value-judgement. Correspondingly, he develops new forms of expository discourse at this time. These 'raids on the inarticulate' - into the regions of knowing and being - are in fact notably articulate. The essays, 'Justifying One's Valuation of Blake', 'Memories of Wittgenstein', 'Eugenio Montale's Xenia', 'Thought, Language & Objectivity', the long commentary on Four Quartets and 'Thought, Meaning and Sensibility' belong to this period, which may be regarded as his philosophical phase (he himself coined the term 'anti-philosopher' for himself, not so straightforward an idea as may at first appear).
There will be no formal papers presented. Instead, the day will be shaped around a number of viewpoints from invited speakers, with interlinking discussion. The aim is to encourage a creative conversation about Leavis, which may provide the basis for a further event or be extended subsequently in a form capable of publication.