CFP: [Cultural-Historical] Historicising the Middlebrow

full name / name of organization: 
Erica Brown
contact email: 

Historicising the middlebrow

Humanities Research Institute, University of Sheffield, 4 July 2008

The term 'middlebrow' emerged in the mid-1920s to describe dismissively
the extensive area of cultural production which situated itself between
high modernism and popular culture. The category was particularly
associated with best-selling novels, but was also used to label certain
types of broadcasting, cinema, periodical, music and interior
decoration. The 'middlebrow' prompted hostility and fierce debate, both
at the time and subsequently, and the underlying concept of different
'brows' has been a resilient one.

This conference seeks to historicise and contextualise 'middlebrow' by
exploring the formation and consolidation of cultural hierarchies in
nineteenth and twentieth century Britain and America. How, when and why
were these hierarchies established? In what ways were they connected to
ideas of class, gender and social geography? Were they related to the
content and genre of texts or to their audiences? What impact did shifts
in production, dissemination and marketing have on the construction of
cultural taxonomies? What other categories have performed similar
functions in mapping culture?

We invite papers that will illuminate any aspect of the ongoing debates
about cultural hierarchies in modern Britain and America. Papers may
focus any type of cultural production, including novels, films, music
broadcasting and the press, and examine any period from the early
nineteenth century to the present.

Proposals of 400 words for 20-minute papers should be sent via email to
Dr Adrian Bingham at by 7 March 2008.

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Received on Thu Jan 10 2008 - 05:41:48 EST