Sunday Book-Thought 105

The process of the specialization of ‘literature’ to ‘creative’ or ‘imaginative’ works is very much more complicated. It is in part a major affirmative response, in the name of an essentially general human ‘creativity’, the socially repressive and intellectually mechanical forms of a new social order: that of capitalism and especially industrial capitalism. The practical specialization of work to the wage-labour production of commodities; of ‘being’ to ‘work’ in these terms; of language to the passing of ‘rational’ or ‘informative’ ‘messages’; of social relations to functions within a systematic economic and political order: all these pressures and limits were challenged in the name of a full and liberating ‘imagination’ or ‘creativity’. The central Romantic assertions, which depend on these concepts, have a significantly absolute range, from politics and nature to work and art. ‘Literature’ acquired, in this period, a quite new resonance, but it was not yet a specialized resonance. That came later as, against the full pressures of an industrial capitalist order, the assertion became defensive and reserving where it had once been positive and absolute. In ‘art’ and ‘literature’, the essential and saving human qualities must, in the early phase, be ‘extended’; in the later phase, ‘preserved’.
– Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), pp. 49-50.

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