Critically comment on the title Literature and Society


F.R. Leavis‘s (1895-1978) essay, “Literature and Society,” explores the relationship between literature and society, arguing that literature reflects and shapes society in important ways. The title of the essay is thus appropriate and accurate, as it reflects the central argument of the piece.

1. The role of literature in society

Leavis begins the essay by discussing the role of literature in society, arguing that it is not simply a form of entertainment or escapism, but rather a vital means of understanding and engaging with the world around us. He suggests that literature is a form of social criticism, capable of exposing the flaws and injustices of society and inspiring readers to work towards positive change.

More Notes: Literature and Society

2. literature can shape society

Leavis goes on to discuss the specific ways in which literature can shape society. He notes that literature can challenge prevailing beliefs and values, forcing readers to rethink their assumptions and consider alternative perspectives. Literature can also serve as a means of preserving cultural heritage, helping to define and reinforce the identity of a particular community or nation. That is why Leavis says, 

” To have a vital literary culture we must have a literature that is a going concern”

3. Impact of literature on Society 

Throughout the essay, Leavis provides numerous examples of how literature has impacted society. He discusses the role of literature in the abolitionist movement, for example, noting how writers like Harriet Beecher Stowe used their work to expose the horrors of slavery and inspire people to work towards its end. He also examines the ways in which literature can serve as a vehicle for political and social change, citing the work of writers like George Orwell and Aldous Huxley.

4. The role of the reader in the relationship between literature and society.

Leavis also discusses the role of the reader in the relationship between literature and society. He suggests that the reader is not a passive recipient of literature, but an active participant in the process of meaning-making. The reader brings their own experiences, values, and beliefs to the reading experience, and as such, they play a vital role in shaping the meaning of the text.

5. Literature as a form of social communication.

Another important point that Leavis makes in this essay is that literature is a form of communication. He suggests that literature allows us to communicate with each other in ways that other forms of communication cannot. Through literature, we can explore the complexities of human experience and engage with ideas and perspectives that are different from our own.

6. Moral of literature in Society 

One of the key points that Leavis makes in this essay is that literature has a moral function. He argues that literature should not only be judged based on its aesthetic qualities, but also on its ability to engage with important social and moral issues. Leavis says about literature,

“Literature is the supreme means by which you renew your sensuous and emotional life and learn a new awareness”

For Leavis, literature can serve as a means of critiquing and challenging the dominant ideologies of society, as well as promoting more humane and compassionate values.

7. Direct connection between literature and Society 

Leavis begins his essay by acknowledging that literature and society are directly connected. He argues that literature is a product of society, and as such, it reflects the cultural, social, and historical context in which it is produced. Moreover, he suggests that literature has the power to influence society by challenging or reinforcing its values and beliefs. Again without society, literature can not be imagined.


In conclusion, Leavis’s essay “Literature and Society” provides a thoughtful and nuanced exploration of the relationship between these two important spheres of human activity. The essay’s title accurately reflects its central argument and Leavis’s discussion of how literature shapes and reflects society is both insightful and persuasive.

Rashedul Islam
Rashedul Islam

Hi, This is Rashedul. Researcher and lecturer of English literature and Linguistics.

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