On or about 1932: The Mechanical Reproduction of the Middlebrow

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperChapterpeer-review


This chapter investigates themes of mechanization that appeared in negative constructions of the middlebrow in interwar Britain, focusing on debates about literature, music, and public broadcasting. These themes drew from an established rhetoric surrounding technological encroachments into the sphere of art, yet this chapter argues that they also reflected a broader skepticism toward forms of centralized governance. The characterization of the middlebrow as mechanized drew these concerns together and allowed critics to locate meaning and value in processes that went against the grain of standardization. This led some modernist critics to idealize amateur participation. By focusing on this set of themes, the chapter argues that the rhetoric surrounding the middlebrow was not simply a culture war staged by a compromised intellectual elite against the forces of cultural democratization but rather a much broader collection of anxieties about processes of centralization that implicated both the structure and the technologies of public service.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Music and the Middlebrow
EditorsKate Guthrie, Christopher Chowrimootoo
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780197523964
ISBN (Print)9780197523933
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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