McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
middlebrow, reading, readers, book lists
The term “middlebrow” has historically been hurled as a pejorative to signify cultural objects and consumers of them which are watered down, inauthentic, and invested in quick social gain. I argue that the literary middlebrow can be better understood if its definition expands to include a mode of reading characterized by being mediated by cultural arbiters and purposeful in that literature functions as an instrument for self-improvement. In this dissertation, I use book list books, lists of recommended reading published as standalone books themselves, to trace the history of a middlebrow mode of reading from the late nineteenth century to the present. While the mediation of and purposes for middlebrow reading have been shaped by the educational trends and historical concerns of each generation, the purposeful and mediated nature of the middlebrow mode of reading has endured.
Read, C. (2021). Recommended Reading: Book List Books and Middlebrow Tastemaking (Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/1993