Middlebrow Matters

Women's reading and the literary canon in France since the Belle Époque

Diana Holmes

£80.00
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ISBN: 9781786941565

Publication: October 31, 2018

Series: Contemporary French and Francophone Cultures 57

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This is the first book to study the middlebrow novel in France. Middlebrow is a derogatory word that connotes blandness, mediocrity and a failed aspiration to ‘high’ culture. However, when appropriated as a positive term to denote that wide swathe of literature between the challenging experimentalism of the high and the formulaic tendency of the popular, it enables a rethinking of the literary canon from the point of view of what most readers actually read, a criterion curiously absent from dominant definitions of literary value. Since women have long formed a majority of the reading public, this perspective immediately feminises what has always been a very male canon. Opening with a theorisation of the concept of middlebrow that mounts a defence of some literary qualities disdained by modernism, the book then focuses on a series of case studies of periods (the Belle Époque, inter-war, early twenty-first century), authors (including Colette, Irène Nemirovsky, Françoise Sagan, Anna Gavalda) and the middlebrow nature of literary prizes. It concludes with a double reading of a single text, from the perspective of an academic critic, and from that of a middlebrow reader.

Diana Holmes is Professor of French at the University of Leeds.

Acknowledgements
Introduction
Chapter 1: Reclaiming the middlebrow
Chapter 2: The Birth of French middlebrow
Chapter 3: Colette: the middlebrow modernist
Chapter 4: Inter-war France : the case of the missing middlebrow
Chapter 5 : The 'little world' of Françoise Sagan
Chapter 6: Literary prizes, women and the middlebrow
Chapter 7: Realism, romance and self-reflexivity: twenty-first century middlebrow
Conclusion: Marie Ndiaye's femme puissante - a double reading
Bibliography

"This is a much needed study: the first sustained analysis of middlebrow literary culture in France, and the first analysis of the relevance of the critical concept of 'middlebrow' in a French context. There has, to date, been hardly any research on non-anglophone middlebrow cultures, therefore this excellent book will be most warmly welcomed by scholars. It is a major research achievement in itself, and it opens up many new avenues for future work. Its three main strengths are the sheer originality of the analysis, the insightfulness of the close readings, and the immaculate writing style.”
Faye Hammill, University of Glasgow
 

"Holmes’s book is an outstanding contribution to French studies. Its analysis of the ‘French middlebrow’ is pioneering and will make readers reformulate their views of the French novel, both modern and earlier."
Alison Finch, University of Cambridge
 

Format: Hardback

Size: 239 × 163 mm

256 Pages

Copyright: © 2018

ISBN: 9781786941565

Publication: October 31, 2018

Series: Contemporary French and Francophone Cultures 57

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