WS 2011/2012    exam translation (advanced)        (Staatsexamen Frühjahr 1999)        yet another additional text!               

The Times, a paper which consciously addresses itself to the educated, has clearly a given kind of concern for civilized standards, and, with a circulation that falls decidedly short of a million, has contrived - or been enabled - to persist. Its letter page is something to be grateful for. But though it prints a few reviews, such literary reviewing as it does can be dismissed as serving no critical function. The very choice of the books to be reviewed looks like mere caprice, though inquiry might reveal some canny motivation. The fact is that in the world of triumphant modernity, the world of power-centres from which the quantity-addicted machinery of civilization is controlled, directed and exploited, literature in the old sense has ceased to matter. I mean that when the public capable of discerning genuinely new creativity disappears the guide[s] in whom the existence of the public is manifest disappear[s] too. Non-quantitive critical standards effectively exist only in a public which, capable of responding to them when they are critically appealed to, is in that sense “educated”, and where there are no standards literature has ceased to matter - has ceased, in effect, to exist. The BBC *) looks after culture, and the high-brow Programme brings together under its aegis a reading from St Matthew, a performance of the St Matthew Passion, and Mr Kingsley Amis advertising, by reading from it (and no doubt  being paid for doing so), the latest product of his distinctive gift.

I say nothing about the more expensive Sunday  papers, where the élite of the literary world go about their business, nor about that (from the critical point of view) closely related phenomenon, The Times Literary Supplement **) - which, as I write, makes a point of testifying that Mr Amis is modern literature and the late W. H. Auden a major poet and a  mind of world importance. There is no need here for a full account of our cultural plight.

I am merely underlining the constatation that such elements as may exist of a potential public representing standards are, by reason of their numerical insignificance, non-­existent for advertising-managers and editors - even where the “intellectual” weeklies are concerned. These are formidable facts; the problem they portend has to be faced realistically, and, if the line of thought I stand for were to tell in any decisive  way, there would be, among the convinced, much considering and testing of the prompted dispositions and measures. I myself see as my business in this book to present with all the cogency I can achieve the full necessity of a living creative literature, of the cultural continuity without which there can be no valid criteria of the humanly most important kind, and of the cultural habit now implicitly repudiated both by The Times  and the intellectual weeklies – the habit that once meant that there was some vital touch and communication between the experience and sensibility represented by a living literary tradition on the one hand, and, on the other, the intellectual and political life of the age. Such communication must depend on the existence of an influential and truly cultivated public - a public in which the continuity has a potent life.

from: F. R. Leavis, The Living Principle, Preface, London 1975

 *)   >   > BBC Radio 4:   > BBC Radio 7:
TheTimes Literary Supplement/TLS: