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Posts Tagged ‘Middlebrow’

Woolf wake-up timeVirginia Woolf’s normal wake-up time was 9 a.m., according to this graphic included in a post on Brain Pickings that discusses the literary productivity of 37 famous authors.

In another Brain Pickings post, author Maria Popova takes on the age-old battle of the brows — highbrow, lowbrow, middlebrow and broadbrow. In it, Popova discusses the criticism Woolf received from English novelist and critic J. B. Priestley for being a highbrow and the words she lobbed back in response.

Woolf’s response started out as an unsent letter to New Statesman and ended up as an essay titled “Middlebrow.” It was published in 1942 in the posthumous collection The Death of the Moth and Other Essays, a volume that contains 26 essays written over a period of 20 years. “Craftsmanship,” the essay Woolf broadcast on BBC Radio on 29 April 1937, is also included in the volume.

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Alice Lowe, a regular contributor to Blogging Woolf, blends her life stories, food and Virginia Woolf in her writing.leftovers on lettuce

Read her latest creation, “Leftovers on Lettuce: ABCs of a Life in Food,” an essay published Feb. 24 in Middlebrow Magazine.

Lowe describes the British journal as playing on “Woolf’s snooty but tongue-in-cheek essay in which she castigates ‘middlebrow’ as ‘the bloodless and pernicious pest who comes between’ the highbrow and the lowbrow, ‘the bane of all thinking and living.'”

Lowe writes that “the editors seek to reclaim it as a positive concept, calling Woolf’s own essays middlebrow, so I consider myself in good company on their pages.”

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My ongoing search for literary magazines as potential vehicles for my essays yielded a captivating title this past year: Middlebrow. How could any Woolfian resist?middlebrow literary journal

Established in the U.K. in 2010, as best I can tell, the journal’s vision starts with an attention-getting quote from Susan Sontag: “Art is seduction not rape.” The editor, Harriet Williams, elaborates: “A highbrow quotation, it’s true, but nevertheless one that aptly sums up the point of our magazine. Middlebrow is a magazine dedicated to the principles of art for enjoyment.”

But wait a minute. Whence this praise? Virginia Woolf, in her essay, “Middlebrow,” castigates it as “the bloodless and pernicious pest who comes between” the highbrow and the lowbrow, “the bane of all thinking and living.” She ends her essay by saying that “If any human being, man, woman, dog, cat, or half-crushed worm dares call me ‘middlebrow’ I will take my pen and stab him, dead.”

But the fearless Ms. Williams stands firm in defense of her journal and its place in the world of art. She seeks to reclaim the positive connotations of the term “middlebrow,” claiming it as the best of both worlds, “the intelligence of the highbrow and the guilty enjoyment of the lowbrow things we all like but pretend we don’t.”

She even dares to poke at Woolf in damning praise: “Virginia Woolf’s own essays are middlebrow, despite her hatred of the word and style, and let her come and stab me if she wants to. While they deal with so called highbrow subjects, they are insightful, clear, concise, even funny.”

The current issue includes an essay about Abraham Lincoln–surely a middlebrow himself–and another on writer’s block (do we get it because it exists, or does it exist because we get it?). It’s been said that the U.S. is or was a society of mostly middlebrows / middle class (buried within the so-called 99 percent under the wing of the Occupy movement). So as a middlebrow Woolfian, I’m delighted to see the banner flying boldly. I’ll be even happier if they publish one of my pieces.

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