An Assessment of Twentieth-Century Literature

An Assessment of Twentieth-Century Literature

An Assessment of Twentieth-Century Literature

An Assessment of Twentieth-Century Literature

Excerpt

These lectures, which were delivered in the Third Programme of the B.B.C. in September and October, 1950, are here printed as spoken, with the restoration of some passages omitted for lack of time. The peculiarities of style and emphasis, the deliberately bad or rhetorical grammar necessitated by a spoken style, have been retained. The conditioned listener will recognise that this is the plain score of something which can take on its full life only with the living voice. In an average year of academic lecturing it is not unusual to utter about two million words, most of them extempore, but I write, as my friends know, unwillingly and uneasily. I am not sufficiently practised a writer to convey a vocal pattern with exactness, and I have always admired Miss Gertrude Stein, whose lecture on "Composition as Explanation" is the most perfect broadcast script I know. I have made no attempt to write for anyone's voice but my own, and I hope those who heard the broadcasts will supplement the text with their recollections.

As a literary historian I have tried to treat contemporary literature as seriously as I would Elizabethan or Augustan writing, bearing in mind the greater difficulty, that we are too close to the events, that important information, the personal and secondary information . . .

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