Social Scientist. v 16, no. 180 (May 1988) p. 46.


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ASHA S. KANWAR^

Raymond Williams and the English Novel

Raymond Williams is influential in various fields—English studies, sociology, politics, and cultural and media studies; his achievement is comparable in range and scope to that of Lukacs or Benjamin, as Eagleton has rightly observed.1 Among the socialist writers in contemporary Britain, he is what E.P. Thompson calls 'our best man', and Anthony Bennett praises him on the grounds that he 'stands for a kind of truthfulness* .2 Not only in India, but even within the context of British academia, Williams' concepts are requisitioned, modified, developed but certainly not ignored. His work has generated research in different areas, though the present discussion will deal with a particular sector of his work—the field of fictional criticism.

In Sections I, II and III, the focus will be on his concepts of the 'knowable community', 'structure of feeling' and 'realism', these being key terms in his methodology. However, these terms are not narrowly literary critical but have a direct bearing on the analysis of culture. Therefore, a brief look at Williams' understanding and definition of the term 'culture' is relevant here.

According to Williams, 'literary theory cannot be separated from cultural theory, though it may be distinguished within it'.3 In the early 1960s, when Williams tried to establish his position in regard to the notion of culture, he saw it as 'creative activity* and as 'a whole way of. life'.4 In the 1970s, he moved to a 'theory of cultural materialism' which he defined as 'the analysis of all forms of signification, including quite centrally writing, within the actual means and conditions of their production'. This can be seen as the rapprochement of his earlier ideas with Marxism.5 But his approach is eclectic in the sense that he takes up what he considers are the positive aspects of Marxism and combines them with the traditional liberal outlook that can be traced back to F.R. Leavis and Mathew Arnold.

However, Williams' enterprise aims at the supersession of the notion of an elite culture replaceable by a democratic common culture that willultimately overcome class distinctions in society. The process must enlist the efforts of the people themselves:

Punjab University, Chandigarh.



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