About Us

"the impartial assessor of the evidence brought together here can hardly avoid concluding that for the first time in the history of our literature the living forms of the novel have been side-tracked in favour of the faux-bon."

Q. D. Leavis, Fiction and the Reading Public (London: Pimlico, 2000; first pub. 1932), p. 39.

About the network:

People

The network is led by Faye Hammill, Professor of English at Strathclyde University. Email: Faye.Hammill [at] strath.ac.uk.

Network Administrator
Dr Erica Brown
Department of English Studies
Sheffield Hallam University

Erica Brown is currently on leave. Please send all enquiries and requests to join the emailing list to David Rush (Strathclyde) at: middlebrow [at] hotmail.co.uk.

Project Team
Dr Mary Grover
Independent Scholar
mkg0401@aol.com

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Report on Activities

A report on Network activities in the first two years was submitted to the AHRC in September 2010.

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Network Objectives

  • To provide a focus for the broad range of research on middlebrow culture which is currently being carried out in Britain and North America, and to stimulate discussion and collaboration across geographical and disciplinary divides.
  • To further comparative research into North American and British middlebrow cultural production and its participants, consumers and audiences, concentrating especially on the early twentieth century.
  • To raise the profile of middlebrow as a legitimate research theme, particularly in the fields of cultural and media studies, literature, music and film studies, and so to contribute to the project of expanding the scope of modernist studies.
  • To address a large group of researchers by organising two UK-based seminars and a series of sessions at US conferences, and also by launching a content-rich website offering research and teaching material, and a database of projects and specialists.
  • To stimulate new postgraduate research by offering guidance on relevant specialists and research materials via the website, and by encouraging participation in network events and publications.
  • To encourage investigation of under-explored library and archival material via a guide to resources on the website, together with special sessions on resources at the network seminars.
  • To produce one essay collection and two special journal issues, and to plan future collaborative projects, publications and editions of texts, and explore potential sources of funding.

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Intellectual Aims

  • To chart the ways in which the term 'middlebrow' was used in the early to mid twentieth century (c.1920-1950), considering how its definitions travelled across the Atlantic, and exploring the cultural pressures, anxieties, and aspirations which determined its use as a critical and evaluative concept.
  • To examine the development of a middlebrow aesthetic in literature, the arts and entertainment, and to analyse its relationship to prestige and popular cultural movements, to processes of canon formation, and to class hierarchy and discourses of taste. Also to map the connections between middlebrow institutions and literary/cultural texts from the interwar era, their turn-of-the-century predecessors, and their later twentieth-century successors.
  • To advance understanding of the relationship of interwar middlebrow texts to particular kinds of publications (especially periodicals); to institutions such as book clubs, libraries, cinemas and the BBC; and to geographical and historical formations relating to nation and empire, class, domesticity, gender, and landscape.
  • To explore the gendered and racialised dimensions of the middlebrow, considering in particular the persistent association of the middlebrow with the feminine, and also the phrenological derivation of the term & its 19th-century deployment in the determination of racial types.
  • To advance interdisciplinary research into the material production, dissemination and reception of middlebrow films, music, books and journals, and also into middlebrow audiences and interpretive communities. This would include study of patterns of reading, book buying and cultural consumption, as well as leisure and entertainment.
  • To debate the potential of 'middlebrow', related terms such as 'broadbrow', 'intermodernism', 'domestic modernism', 'suburban', and 'nobrow' as categories in contemporary critical discourses.
  • Lastly, by extending understanding of debates about middlebrow taste, to furnish researchers with a more precise map of the early twentieth-century cultural landscape and a framework for individual historical or critical studies.

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Core Network Members

Name Department Organisation
Ann Ardis English University of Delaware
Adrian Bingham History University of Sheffield
Sophie Blanch Independent Scholar  
Kristin Bluemel English Monmouth University
Erica Brown English Sheffield Hallam University
Janet Casey American Studies Skidmore College
Sarah Edwards English University of Strathclyde
Mary Grover Independent Scholar
Sharon Hamilton   Government of Canada
John Howland Visual and Performing Arts Rutgers University
Karen Leick English Wilbur Wright College
Melissa Sullivan English Rosemont College
Jonathan Wild Centre for History of the Book Edinburgh University
Jayne Waterman English

Ashland University

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Advisory Board

Name Department Organisation
John Baxendale History Sheffield Hallam University
Nicola Beauman   Persephone Books, London
Chiara Briganti English/Gender Studies King's College London/NYU in London
Jenny Doctor Music University of York
Rita Felski Comparative Literature/Cultural Studies University of Virginia
Joyce Goodman   Sybil Campbell Collection Steering Committee
Mike Hammond Film University of Southampton
Chris Hopkins English Sheffield Hallam University
Catherine Horwood Bedford Centre for the History of Women Royal Holloway
Nicola Humble English Roehampton University
Mark Jancovich Film UEA
Dan LeMahieu History Lake Forest College
Alison Light Independent Scholar  
Kathy Mezei Humanities Simon Fraser University, Canada
Esme Miskimmin English University of Liverpool
Lawrence Napper Film King's College London
Steph Newell English University of Sussex
Sian Nicholas History Aberystwyth University
Bruce Peter Historical and Critical Studies Glasgow School of Art
Jean Petrovic British Library  
Brett Popplewell Journalist and Editor Toronto
Joan Shelley Rubin History University of Rochester

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Arts and Humanities Research CouncilUniversity of Strathclyde Sheffield Hallam University

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