The Moment of "Scrutiny"

The Moment of "Scrutiny"

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Few thinkers have had more impact on English-speaking culture in the twentieth century than the late F.R. Leavis (1895-1978). Paradoxically, his literary-critical studies and the cultural ideas associated with them have become pervasive influences, whilst losing none of their power of provocation. Yet amidst the extremes of admiration and hostility that his name attracts—in academic circles and beyond, on Left and Right alike—little serious attention has been given to what was his most audacious and significant venture: the journal, Scrutiny, whose chief editor he was for twenty years, until its closure in 1953. The specific history of this fascinating cultural enterprise is now studied for the first time in The Moment of 'Scrutiny'.

Beginning with an analysis of Scrutiny's emergence in the complex historical conditions of inter-war England, Francis Mulhern goes on to recount the work of the journal. Elucidating the logic of of the project that it served, he demonstrates its coherence of purpose, while at the same time tracing the successive mutations that its discourse underwent in the changing politico-cultural conjunctures of its lifetime. A final chapter situates Scrutiny comparatively in the context of early-twentieth-century European thought, considers its specific function in the cultural history of mid-century England and the enigmas of its last years and after-life, and moves finally to an assessment of its significance today.


  • Extraordinarily thorough and responsive ... austerely elegant ... a distinguished essay in cultural history and critical theory.

    Times Literary Supplement
  • This is a book to be grateful for.

  • A richly informing and provocative work of intellectual history ... Mulhern marshals his evidence with a rare power of argument and a scrupulous fairness of coverage.

    British Book News