The study of English in the universities was initially resisted on the grounds that it would be the novel reading tripos. That was not entirely wrong: idle titillation is a very likely feature of literary study; the focus on the personal experience of a text veers off towards solipsism, mere hedonism.

But those resisting literary studies in its earliest days missed the real danger, which is now obvious to us. The only topic on which its students could talk by means of the literary critical medium is politics, and hence, since they are students, the politics of the young, which are collectivist.

This tendency was evident very early, in the writing of those few who took the founding premise of literary research and academic critical work seriously, most eminently the Leavises. – Fiction and the reading Public is a highly political study, Mass Civilization and Minority Culture equally. The fact that these were both conservative collectivists is irrelevant to the point; they were collectivists, and their criticism was politically motivated. The collectivist politics of the current phase is revolutionary; that too is irrelevant to the point; it is a collectivist politics typical of the young.

It is occasionally said that the academic study of literature is wasted on juveniles. Brushing aside the superficial justifications for that view, which are sound, we must conclude that the opportunity has been far from thrown away. On the contrary, it has given youth a destructive weapon of immense power and they have employed it to good effect and without mercy.