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This commitment to contemporary literature is at least one reason for Bradbury's deep and continuing interest in the literature and culture of the United States.
This debate was not simply a matter of abstract intellectual analysis.
It was an ethical question that was enacted and lived through in daily experience and one, therefore, that the novel was especially suited to explore. But they were also the source of passionate feeling and, in particular, a way of imagining a world in which the hesitant, doubting voice of liberal conscience was drowned out by more dogmatic and confident voices.
The work on Waugh was an assessment of a master of comedy and satire in the 20th century, an author who was still very much a living presence at the time of the book's first publication.
In his later work as a critic Bradbury extended the historical range of his thinking about the novel and comedy to encompass 18th century writers like Henry Fielding and Jane Austen.
From the beginning of his writing career Malcolm Bradbury was a prolific critic.
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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.If the comic novel and literary modernism formed two kinds of inheritance that Bradbury's criticism analyzed and assessed, there was a third that was vital to his critical sensibility and the tone of his writing.He regarded himself both in his fiction and in his criticism as an inheritor of nineteenth century liberalism.He believed this form was especially attuned to the changing social mores and class structures of English society. It combined a close observation of styles of dress and speech with a humorous exposure of the follies of human greed and ambition.Above all – and this was a theme he returned to repeatedly – it showed the novel as a 'discovering form'.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'.Bradbury's critical preoccupation with the comic novel was one of the many points where his work as a novelist and his work as a critic coincided.Writing comic novels and thinking about them critically went hand-in-hand.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.