By Christopher Prendergast
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Extra info for Cultural Materialism: On Raymond Williams (Cultural Politics)
But he did gamble, I am suggesting, on the credibility of the voice as a persuasive counterattack upon the antisubjectivists who came to be a majority among left academics after 1968. Some of his critics have denounced this vocalic emphasis (perhaps, more recently, in response to the somewhat unfortunate example of Mr. Kinnock). "5 I would not have said that "brilliant rhetoric" fits the Williams whose voice I still hear, which functions indeed by the deliberate eschewal of brilliance and the almost complete denial of anything resembling wit.
This in turn gives a context for Williams's long engagement with literature as both critic and writer. Just as Williams refuses the specializing movement that restricts culture to the arts, so he is root-and-branch opposed to the specialization of literature as a separable and autonomous function (as distinct, radically distinct, from posing literature as a set of specific practices). From The Long Revolution through Keywords and other works, Williams returns again and again to the fact, and demonstration of the fact, that the concept of literature is not a given or a constant, but that it has a history—precisely a history of increasing specialization from writing in general to printed texts to 18 Christopher Prendergast fiction and works of imagination (the latter definition being essentially a nineteenth-century invention).
Feeling for Structures, Voicing "History" 31 The voice, of course, commonly functions in writing as an image of presence. " There is a long tradition in British culture of a preference for the language of ordinary persons in a state of vivid sensation—the iconography of sincerity and authenticity. In Williams's case, this has been noticed. John Higgins has put it well: His voice was remarkable; the voice of an authority. 2 And, before him, Terry Eagleton wrote at length about this "unmistakably individual voice," sensing a meaning in all of its intonations: What appears at first glance the inert language of academicism is in fact the stage of a personal drama, the discourse of a complex, guarded self-display.