The first recorded criticism of Henri Peyre's Les générations littéraires (1948) came from its typist: in a lifetime of work, she said, no manuscript had been more boring.1 Peyre must have hoped that scholars would look more kindly on his idea that literary history “would gain immensely by coming back to the idea of generations.”2 Yet his book, which in too many chapters reviews the various meanings of “generation” and in too few pages recasts the history of various national literatures into successive generations, has been largely forgotten. While French, Spanish, German, and Hispano-American literary scholars have worked and continue to use the concept, the generation has not found a comfortable home in American or British scholarship despite the efforts of Robert Wohl and Samuel Hynes to give it greater prominence.3 Like the concept itself, the generation in literary scholarship has had a cyclical history: important in...

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