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It possessed a literary culture which had not only been a source of modernist literary experiment in the early 20th century.Its contemporary writers had responded to the work of their modernist predecessors, whether in the United States and Europe, with a creative gusto that was lacking in post-war England.
Exploring the clash between traditional values and new ways of life, the comic novel revealed the texture of English life in a way that could not be disclosed by the methods of history and sociology.
If the novel in one of its significant forms was a representation of life, that representation was also a way of knowing a society.
From the beginning of his writing career Malcolm Bradbury was a prolific critic.
He published a wide range of books and essay collections: studies of single authors; histories of the novel in Britain and America; interpretations of modernism; cultural histories; and contributions to the theory of fiction.
He wrote a study of the 'little magazine' and its significance in the modernist period, a project that took him for the first time to the United States.
If his work on the English novel was about literary inheritance, his many studies of modernism showed a lifelong fascination with formal experiment in literature, with the question of what it meant in Ezra Pound's words, 'to make it new'.
His thinking was shaped by the debates about the value of culture in an industrial and commercial society that had informed the work of the nineteenth century poet and critic, Matthew Arnold.
He returned again and again to one of the central dilemmas of liberal thought, the competing claims of individual freedom and collective responsibility.
He could certainly draw on the methods of historical and sociological analysis, as he did in his remarkable book .
But the role of the critic was constantly to assess the continuing vitality in the present of what had been inherited or discovered from the past. It was not a matter of specializing in a past period of literature and assessing it in the light of new theories.