The Feminine Middlebrow Novel, 1920s to 1950s: Class, Domesticity, and Bohemianism

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Oxford University Press, 2004 - Literary Criticism - 272 pages
'Middlebrow' has always been a dirty word, used disparagingly since its coinage in the mid-1920s for the sort of literature thought to be too easy, insular and smug. Yet it was middlebrow fiction - largely written and read by women - that absolutely dominated the publishing market in the four decades from the 1920s to the 1950s. Aiming to rehabilitate the feminine middlebrow, Nicola Humble argues that the novels of writers such as Rosamund Lehmann, Elizabeth Taylor, Stella Gibbons, Nancy Mitford, and a host of others less well known, played a powerful role in establishing and consolidating, but also in resisting, new class and gender identities in this period of volatile change for both women and the middle classes. The work of over thirty novelists is covered, read alongside other discourses as diverse as cookery books, child-care manuals, and the reports of Mass Observation. The first work to insist on the centrality of the concept of the middlebrow in understanding the women's writing of this period, The Feminine Middlebrow uncovers a literature simultaneously snobbish and bohemian, daring and conventional, marked by an ideological flexibility that is the product of its paradoxical allegiance to both domesticity and a radical sophistication. -- Contracubierta.
 

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Contents

Introduction
1
Readers and Reading
7
The ReFormation of MiddleClass
57
Imagining the Home
119
The Eccentric Family
194
A Crisis of Gender?
225
Bibliography
257
Index
267

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About the author (2004)

Nicola Humble is at Senior Lecturer, University of Surrey Roehampton.

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