By I. Habermann
This learn explores Englishness as a 'symbolic shape' from the Twenties to the 1940s. Two case reviews, taken with J.B. Priestley and Daphne du Maurier, discover the most important ways that renowned 'middlebrow' authors think and form the state, offering an leading edge method of literary negotiations of cultural identification.
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Extra info for Myth, Memory and the Middlebrow: Priestley, du Maurier and the Symbolic Form of Englishness
The BBC, founded in 1922, provided a relatively new, influential forum for debates about literature as cultural capital. C. claim to have discovered a new type, the “middlebrow”. ’7 The tone Media: Challenging Modernism – the ‘Middlebrow’ and Memodrama 33 in these debates was acerbic, and there were plenty of axes to grind, since authors got into the habit of reviewing each other unfavourably in newspapers, magazines and talks on the wireless. Arnold Bennett called Virginia Woolf the ‘queen of the high-brows’, and she called him and J.
D. Leavis entered the fray, and each faction accused the other of herd instinct. In this process of cultural enclosure, the sheep flocked to their various shepherds, and the bleating was broadcast to the high heavens. Virginia Woolf, annoyed by the ‘Battle of the Brows’ which ‘troubles, I am told, the evening air’, wrote a letter to the editor of the New Statesman in which she takes up the issue of brows and cultural value judgements. 10 It is a nasty tilt at the ‘middlebrows’, ‘busybodies’ (179) of ‘middlebred intelligence’ (180) who are ‘in pursuit of no single object, neither art itself nor life itself, but both mixed indistinguishably, and rather nastily, with money, fame, power, or prestige’ (181).
4 Originally directed by Basil Dean, Johnson Over Jordan starred Ralph Richardson and the music was written by Benjamin Britten. 5 Priestley’s career shows how hard it was, and is, for writers to avoid being pigeon-holed in accordance with a strictly layered system of literary value and cultural credit. While repeatedly expressing his resentment towards a condescending application of the label ‘middlebrow’, he did want his work to have wide appeal and he was proud to be popular. Like many of his highbrow antagonists, he felt the need to influence and educate the public taste.