1. Prolegomena The purpose of this book is to examine anew and from a number of different perspectives the highly complex and controversial relation between literature and society. This is not meant to be a study in sociology or political science; the analysis of literature - its structure, content, function, and effect - is our primary concern. What we shall try to find out is how the imaginative work is rooted in and grows out of the parent social body, to what extent it is influenced in subject matter as well as form and technique by the domi nant climate of ideas in a given historical period, and to what degree and in what manner literature "influences" the society to which it is addressed. The stream of literary influence is of course difficult to trace to its putative source, for here we are not dealing, as in science, with isolated physical phenomena which can be fitted precisely within some cause-and-effect pat tern. The relationship between literature and society is far more subtle and complex than social scientists or cultural critics commonly assume."