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00117--What was F.R. Leavis's Concept of Literature and its function?



            Literature for F.R. Leavis, is not merely an aesthetically written work of art designed to give pleasure to the reader.  It is not simply a document of language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree.  According to Leavis, it is 'the storehouse of recorded values:  It is the writer's exploration of the cultural tradition of his age.  It is a record of all that the age habitually thinks, feels, and acts upon.  Literature keeps the healthy moral and cultural traditions alive.
            Great literature does something more too-it enriches a nation's cultural heritage and traditions in several ways.  Great literature age after age from the literary tradition of a nation.  It is in literature that the best of the nation's culture, both of the past and the present, is kept alive and communicated to the future.  It appeals to and elevates not only the smaller section of educated people but also refines the masses.    It exercises a pervasive influence upon feeling, thought, culture and standard of living.  In brief, literature is not just an aesthetic experience but a faithful record of the author's most profound interest in life.  Leavis says, "Aesthetic is a term the literacy critic would do well to deny himself.  Opposed to moral, it certainly doesn't generate light". 
            Leavis also says that literature is higher than history even in preserving the culture of the past.  History only maintains the record of the past; literature infuses life into it.  Literature re-lives the life and culture of the past for us.  Leavis calls it 'the exploratory-creative use of words upon experience.

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