A blistering row between the novelist CP Snow and the literary critic FR Leavis was big news in the 1960s. What significance does the Two Cultures bust-up have today?’There can be no two opinions about the tone in which Dr Leavis deals with Sir Charles. It is a bad tone, an impermissible tone.” Lionel Trilling’s magisterial judgment expressed a very widely held view. Both at the time and since, FR Leavis’s lecture critiquing of CP Snow’s “The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution” was and has remained a byword for excess – too personal, too dismissive, too rude, too Leavis. Whatever view they have taken of the limitations and confusions of Snow’s original contentions – and Trilling, among others, itemised a good many – commentators on this celebrated or notorious “exchange” (if it can be called that: there was little real give and even less take) have largely concurred in finding the style and address of Leavis’s scathing criticism to be self-defeating. Aldous Huxley denounced it as “violent and ill-mannered”, disfigured by its “one-track moralistic literarism”. Even reviewers sympathetic to some of Leavis’s criticisms recoiled: “Here is pure hysteria.””It will be a classic” was Leavis’s own, surprisingly confident, judgment on …read more

Via: The Guardian | Books