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Mrs Dalloway: Critical Perspectives

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Nadine Muller

on 1 May 2015

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Transcript of Mrs Dalloway: Critical Perspectives

Mrs Dalloway: Critical Perspectives
"[T]he Battle of the Brows troubles, I am told, the evening air, since the finest minds of our age have lately been engaged in debating, not without that passion which befits a noble cause, what a highbrow is and what a lowbrow, which is better and which is worse"
Virginia Woolf, "Middlebrow"
"Now there can be no two opinions as to what a highbrow is. He is the man or woman of thoroughbred intelligence who rides his mind at a gallop across country in pursuit of an idea. That is why I have always been so proud to be called highbrow. That is why, if I could be more of a highbrow I would. I honour and respect highbrows."
Virginia Woolf, "Middlebrow"
"[H]ighbrows, for some reason or another, are wholly incapable of dealing successfully with what is called real life. That is why, and here I come to a point that is often surprisingly ignored, they honour so wholeheartedly and depend so completely upon those who are called lowbrows."
Virginia Woolf, "Middlebrow"
"By a lowbrow is meant of course a man or a woman of thoroughbred vitality who rides his body in pursuit of a living at a gallop across life. That is why I honour and respect lowbrows and I have never known a highbrow who did not. [...] All that lowbrows do is of surpassing interest and wonder to me, because, in so far as I am a highbrow, I cannot do things myself."
Virginia Woolf, "Middlebrow"
"You have only to stroll along the Strand on a wet winter’s night and watch the crowds lining up to get into the movies [...] in order to see what their lives look like. Since they are lowbrows, engaged magnificently and adventurously in riding full tilt from one end of life to the other in pursuit of a living, they cannot see themselves doing it. [...] It is one of the prime necessities of life to them to be shown what life looks like. And the highbrows, of course, are the only people who can show them. Since they are the only people who do not do things, they are the only people who can see things being done."
Virginia Woolf, "Middlebrow"
"They are the go-betweens; they are the busy-bodies who run from one to the other with their tittle tattle and make all the mischief the middlebrows, I repeat. But what, you may ask, is a middlebrow? And that, to tell the truth, is no easy question to answer. They are neither one thing nor the other. They are not highbrows, whose brows are high; nor lowbrows, whose brows are low. Their brows are betwixt and between. They do not live in Bloomsbury which is on high ground; nor in Chelsea, which is on low ground. [...] The middlebrow is the man, or woman, of middlebred intelligence who ambles and saunters now on this side of the hedge, now on that, in pursuit of no single object, neither art itself nor life itself, but both mixed indistinguishably, and rather nastily, with money, fame, power, or prestige."
Virginia Woolf, "Middlebrow"
Taste & Value
Is "good" literature timeless?
At any one point in time, is it "good" to everyone?
Is literature deemed "good" by many "better" than literature deemed "good" by a few?
Who determines what makes good literature?
Interwar Reading & Writing
Mass Consumption & Popular Fiction
E. M. Delafield
Diary of a Provincial Lady
“Question of books to be taken abroad undecided till late hour last night. Robert says, Why take any? [...] Finally decide on Little Dorrit and The Daisy Chain, with Jane Eyre in coat pocket. Should prefer to be the kind of person who is inseparable from volume of Keats, or even Jane Austen, but cannot compass this.”
E. M. Delafied, Diary of a Provincial Lady (1930)
“I am asked what I think of Harriet Hume but am unable to say, as I Have not read it. Have depressed feeling that this is going to another case of Orlando, about which was perfectly able to talk most intelligently until I read it, and found myself unfortunately unable to understand it.”
E. M. Delafied, Diary of a Provincial Lady (1930)
“Unknown benefactor sends me copy of new Literary Review, which seems to be full of personal remarks from well-known writers about other well-known writers. This perhaps more amusing to themselves than to the average reader. Moreover, competitions most alarmingly literary, and I return with immense relief to old friend Time and Tide”.
E. M. Delafied, Diary of a Provincial Lady (1930)
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