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By Stefan Collini

A richly textured paintings of background and a strong contribution to modern cultural debate, Absent Minds offers the 1st full-length account of "he query of intellectuals" n twentieth-century Britain--have such figures ever existed, have they continually been extra famous or influential in other places, and are they on the brink of turning into extinct this present day?

Recovering missed or misunderstood traditions of mirrored image and debate from the overdue 19th century via to the current, Stefan Collini demanding situations the customary cliché that there aren't any "real" intellectuals in Britain. The ebook bargains a persuasive research of the idea that of 'the highbrow' and an intensive comparative account of ways this query has been noticeable within the united states, France, and somewhere else in Europe. There are unique discussions of influential or revealing figures corresponding to Julien Benda, T. S. Eliot, George Orwell, and Edward stated, in addition to trenchant reviews of present assumptions concerning the effect of specialization and star. all through, cognizance is paid to the a number of senses of the time period "intellectuals" and to the good range of suitable genres and media wherein they've got communicated their rules, from pamphlets and periodical essays to public lectures and radio talks.

Elegantly written and conscientiously argued, Absent Minds is a big, long-awaited paintings by means of a number one highbrow historian and cultural commentator, ranging around the traditional divides among educational disciplines and mixing insightful snap shots of people with sharp-edged cultural analysis.

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Woodward was recalling his time as a student at Oxford just before the First World War, he also found the now increasingly familiar neologism useful, but understood it in a rather different way. Remarking the lack of concern with the international situation among his generation of undergraduates—‘no one bothered much about anything after the battle of Waterloo’— he observed: ‘In these years . . the chief interests of those who would now be described as “intellectuals” were either in social questions or in religion.

Increasingly, the term’s most obvious referent was provided by those writers (poets above all) who publicly espoused a political position; it came to be used readily and relatively unselfconsciously by those young Left-wing writers eager to proclaim their devotion to the cause of ‘the proletariat’. ⁶² John Lehmann, organizer-in-chief of the Leftleaning writers of the 1930s, was unapologetic, writing in a later autobiographical retrospect, about the positions he and his friends had taken up in that decade.

Accordingly, before 1914 usage tended, like so much else in France, to divide along political lines: right-wing polemicists sneered at ‘soi-disant intellectuels’, while Left-wing commentators deliberately gloried in the attempt to uphold ‘les droits de l’homme au nom de l’universel’. ¹⁹ It was through references to the Dreyfus Affair that the term ‘intellectuals’ in its plural form seems to have acquired any general currency in English, though it was still usually garlanded with quotation marks to signal its alien origins and to indicate that it was not easy to point to either an existing term or a corresponding 22 The Terms of the Question reality in Britain (this aspect of British responses to the Affair is discussed more fully in Ch.

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