From Lowbrow to Nobrow / Edition 1

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Swirski begins with a series of groundbreaking questions about the nature of popular fiction, vindicating it as an artform that expresses and reflects the aesthetic and social values of its readers. He follows his insightful introduction to the socio-aesthetics of genre literature with a synthesis of the century long debate on the merits of popular fiction and a study of genre informed by analytic aesthetics and game theory. Swirski then turns to three "nobrow" novels that have been largely ignored by critics. Examining the aesthetics of "artertainment" in Karel Capek's War with the Newts, Raymond Chandler's Playback, and Stanislaw Lem's Chain of Chance, crossover tours de force, From Lowbrow to Nobrow throws new light on the hazards and rewards of nobrow traffic between popular forms and highbrow aesthetics.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780773530195
  • Publisher: McGill-Queens University Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 236
  • Product dimensions: 6.46 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.59 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Swirski is research director at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies (HCAS) and professor of American literature and culture at UMSL. He is the author of ten books, including the National Book Award nominated Ars Americana, Ars Politica (2010).
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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2005

    Original and provocative, in short, a MUST READ!

    From Lowbrow to Nobrow is an original and thought-provoking study in which Swirski challenges the traditional discussion of genre and canonical art, whereby he proposes the middle category 'artertainment.' Finely weaved in six coherent chapters, the writer presents an overview of highbrow and lowbrow art and their kinship with the analyses of three 'nobrow' works: Karel Capek's War With the Newts (1936), Raymond Chandler's Playback (1958), and Stanislaw Lem's The Chain of Chance (1976). In a series of well-developed arguments, Swirski initiates his discussion with a cross-national examination of the development of the publishing industry to justify the biased perception of popular art. Employing a synthesis of no less than a century's aesthetic argument, he sets forth nobrow as a new cultural ground, whereby 'authors simultaneously target both extremes of the literary spectrum.' (10) From Lowbrow to Nowbrow is a groundbreaking work in which Swirski approaches literary interpretation with the mathematic game theory. He argues that the study of literary texts is a 'cooperative two-person non-zero-sum game' where ambiguity and radical misinterpretation are involved. Traversing national and linguistic borders, War With the Newts, Playback, and The Chain of Chance are well-chosen works of chronological continuity. What brings them together in the American belles letters is the authors' uncompromising stance to go along with the formulas of either literary end. Swirski fascinates his audience with the rhetorical discussion of Capek's maneuvering of rules in his social satire, Chandler's reversal of such rules in his hardboiled artertainment, and Lem's complete abandonment of them in the structural and moral imperative of his detective literature. Tightly knitted with an impressive range of representative case studies and socio-statistical data, From Lowbrow to Nobrow is an enjoyable read in Swirski's wry and light-hearted rhetoric. For those who are looking for discovery, anticipation, and aesthetic satisfaction, this book is all you need.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2008

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