Ramblings & ephemera

Lowbow vs. highbrow

From "Culture Club" by Louis Menand in the 15 October 2001 issue of The New Yorker:

Things take their identities from what they are not … The concept of a highbrow culture, the culture of great books and the like, depends on the concept of a lowbrow, or popular, culture, whose characteristics highbrow culture defines iself against. Of course, there have always been good books, and bad books, serious music and easy listening, coterie art and poster art. Making these distinctions is easy if you just put everything on a continuum, and rank things from worst to best. The mid-century notion of highbrow culture required something different – it required a rupture between the high and the low, an absolute difference, not a relative one. …

[Dwight] Macdonald’s contribution to the criticism of popular culture was [that] he supplied a third category – middlebrow culture, or what he called Midcult. Midcult was kitsch for educated people. Rockwell Kent, Walter Lippmann, Ingrid Bergman, Archibald MacLeish, and Dorothy L. Sayers were among the practitioners of Midcult …

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