‘Literature is for everyman’? Critical Quarterly’s democratic literary culture

Williams, Joseph ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0621-4811 (2022) ‘Literature is for everyman’? Critical Quarterly’s democratic literary culture. In: Raymond Williams @ 100: A Centenary Conference, 2022-04-22 - 2022-04-23, Friends Meeting House, 6 Mount Street, Manchester, M2 5NS.

Full text not available from this repository. (Request a copy)


The inaugural issue of Critical Quarterly, published in March 1959, began with a short editorial in which C.B. Cox and A.E. Dyson stated, ‘literature is for everyman’. As part of this democratising project, Cox and Dyson sought to bring the specialist knowledge of an academic literary journal to a wider audience beyond the university, a readership which included schoolteachers, sixth-formers and general readers. They published a range of articles of varying depth and specialisation, from short close readings of single poems to surveys of recent criticism of canonical texts, which could be used as the basis for A-level English lessons. This project was broadly popular (in the 1960s CQ was sold to more than half the grammar schools in Britain), but it was not without its flaws: the word ‘everyman’ is emblematic of the early CQ’s dependence on male contributors, and the schoolteacher audience was drawn mainly from the grammar schools. Further, these non-specialists were seen more as a passive audience than an active base of contributors: to use the distinction made by Raymond Williams in the conclusion to Culture and Society (1958), CQ’s communication with this non-specialist audience was a one-way ‘transmission’ rather than a two-way ‘conversation’. In this paper I will ask what we can learn from Cox and Dyson’s example and how we might enact a similar project which gets closer to a democratic ‘conversation’ between academic literary critics or scholars and a non-specialist, extramural audience.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing
Depositing User: LivePure Connector
Date Deposited: 21 Sep 2022 16:30
Last Modified: 25 Sep 2022 05:30
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/88560

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item