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Title:Middlebrow Modernism: Professional Writing, Genre, and the Circulation of Cultural Authority in U.S. Mass Culture, 1913--1932
Author(s):Tracy, Daniel
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Foote, Stephanie
Department / Program:English
Discipline:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree:Ph.D.
Genre:Dissertation
Subject(s):Literature, American
Abstract:This project investigates the role of middlebrow culture in creating an understanding of the term "modernism" for its readers. Middlebrow culture consists of those institutions and writers who taught readers the bounds of "high" art and literature beginning with the rise of U.S. mass culture in the 1890s. It defined modernism as a genre, a predicted pleasure in reading attached to a specific set of forms or writing techniques. This genre was, paradoxically, a convention of experimentation and surprise. As such, it anticipates what critics have called postmodernism's flattening-out of modernism into a set of codes; yet, where this flattening-out is often understood as synonymous with the demise of the relevance of modernist techniques or writers, I show how middlebrow culture's understanding of modernism as a genre was fundamental to promoting it. Middlebrow culture, by including modernism within its pedagogical project, helped to create the long-term prestige enjoyed by the writers and styles labeled modernist, including their prestige in the academy from the New Critics forward. The institutions and writers I discuss consider modernism as only one of a number of literary options in the early twentieth-century, but in doing so they also show readers the way to imagining themselves as the audience for difficult, experimental writing. The smart magazines Vanity Fair and the New Yorker taxonomized literary kinds, including modernism, through parodies and reviews that tried to consider the various payoffs and drawbacks of each for readers. Dorothy Parker, immersed in the editorial apparatus of the smart magazines in particular and middlebrow magazines more broadly, wrote many of the light verse parodies of modernist and other poetry---a middlebrow form that shaped her perspective of on modern changes in heterosexual romance as well as on literary kinds. Serial novels by Ring Lardner and Anita Loos gave readers the opportunity to imagine themselves as readers of innovative stream-of-consciousness through adaptations of nineteenth-century vernacular humor. Finally, Glenway Wescott's self-conscious rejections of imagistic and impressionistic modernism---even while writing under the influence of Ford Madox Ford, Henry James, and Marcel Proust resulted in a novel that solicits a reader oscillating between the genre pleasures of modernism and realism.
Issue Date:2008
Type:Text
Language:English
Description:260 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2008.
URI:http://hdl.handle.net/2142/81440
Other Identifier(s):(MiAaPQ)AAI3314917
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-25
Date Deposited:2008


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