CFP: Investigating the Middlebrow (UK) (11/24/06; 6/23/07)

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

Investigating the Middlebrow
One-Day Conference, Sheffield Hallam University, 23rd June 2007

middlebrow, n. and a.
colloq. Freq. derogatory.

According to the OED, the term 'middlebrow' first made an appearance in
1925, in Punch: 'it consists of people who are hoping that some day they
will get used to the stuff that they ought to like.' Perhaps so, but while
considering the stuff they ought to like, that controversial figure, the
general reader, was buying what it did like, creating best-sellers of
novelists as diverse as Elizabeth von Arnim, Warwick Deeping, Winifred
Holtby, J.B. Priestley, and Stella Gibbons. These widely-read novelists,
contentiously labelled 'middlebrow', have received very little critical
attention, and today the 'middlebrow' continues to be used to mark
particular types of popular literature as unchallenging and of little
cultural or intellectual value.

What does it mean to be labelled 'middlebrow'? Is it a question of
readership? Q.D. Leavis explicitly identified the growth of the 'middlebrow'
as an unfortunate consequence of women forming the majority of library
users; while 50 years later Bourdieu argued that 'middlebrow' culture, in
its eternally reverential relationship to 'legitimate culture', was
illegitimate simply because it was the taste of the middle-class, not
because of any intrinsic qualities.

This conference invites papers on any aspect of the middlebrow. Topics could
· the pleasures of reading
· the role of sentiment
· historicizing the middlebrow
· the gender of modernism
· taxonomies of taste
· cultural capital
We particularly welcome papers focussing on analyses of little-studied
middlebrow novels, films, novelists or film-makers.

Proposals of 400 words for 20-minute papers should be sent via email to
Erica Brown and Mary Grover at by 24th November

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Received on Wed Aug 23 2006 - 17:11:56 EDT