Cover: Highbrow/Lowbrow in PAPERBACK

The William E. Massey Sr. Lectures in American Studies 1988


The Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America

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Product Details


$36.00 • £28.95 • €32.50

ISBN 9780674390775

Publication Date: 09/01/1990


320 pages

5-5/8 x 9-1/4 inches

17 halftones, 1 line illustration

The William E. Massey Sr. Lectures in American Studies


We can all appreciate a scholar who bites the process that feeds him. Highbrow/Lowbrow sinks its teeth into our smug cultural assumptions and holds on for dear life.—Carlin Romano, The Washington Post Book World

Provides just the kind of balanced, historically informed assessment that can be of immediate value at a time when appeals to eternal truth fly thick and fast.—Walter Kendrick, The Village Voice Literary Supplement

How we Americans came to treat symphony and chamber concerts and operas as if we were going to church is an interesting tale. For a most thorough and informative discussion, please read Lawrence Levine’s witty book.—Willa J. Conrad, The Newark Star-Ledger

Levine offers a fascinating account of the nation’s evolving artistic tastes and thereby challenges any aesthetic storm trooper who would try to enforce an oversimplified notion of Culture with a capital C… What [he] proves, compellingly, is that we should be less rigid in our aesthetic judgments.—Lisa Zeidner, The Philadelphia Inquirer

Remarkably interesting.—Fredric Paul Smoler, The Nation

Levine’s lucid, mind-stretching, and highly accessible scholarship describes how, by the late nineteenth century, American culture divided into high art and low, two warring camps.Newsday

[This book] provides depth and complexity to a debate that has degenerated into stale polemics. By unearthing a wealth of fascinating details about American culture in the middle and later nineteenth century, Levine shows us how much has changed en route to the twentieth. In particular, he reveals how recently the categories of ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture came into being, and how thoroughly they were shaped by class prejudice and ethnocentric anxiety… Highbrow/Lowbrow is absorbing and provocative, clearly a product of humane judgment and mature reflection, and a pleasure to read.—Jackson Lears, Tikkun

This book, like all of Levine’s work, invites us out to play. His writing is highly engaging, his argumentativeness provocative. Even in his lament he gives us hope, for he has written a high-minded and very American defense of the unforeclosed and pluralist potential of democratic culture.—Michael Fellman, American Historical Review

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