Lolita In Peyton Place

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This book analyzes the differences in content, reader expectation, and social/moral/ethical functions of the three types of novels in America of the 1950s. It challenges the notion that highbrow novels (Lolita) do important cultural work while popular novels contribute to personal and social decay, and examines how time periods influence the moral content of novels.
The book separates popular fiction into lowbrow (Peyton Place) and middlebrow (Man in the Grey Flannel Suit) and explains that lowbrow (like highbrow) evolves from the folklore tradition and contains messages about how to be a good man or good woman and how to find a satisfying niche in the social order. Middlebrow, on the other hand, evolves from myth tradition and relates lessons on what personal adjustments need to be made to succeed in the economic order. Middlebrow novels most reflect the time and place of their writing because conditions for economic survival change more than conditions for social survival. Arguing that what most distinguishes highbrow from lowbrow is the audience, highbrow writers try to separate from the flock; lowbrow writers to include.
This study differs from such well-known studies of popular fiction as John Cawelti's and Janice Radway's in looking beyond the surface features of plot, character, and theme. The book also challenges arguments that novels in which marriage is women's highest triumph and aggressive heroism men's reinforce limiting cultural paradigms.
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Editorial Reviews

Separating popular fiction into "lowbrow" and "middlebrow," Wood (U. of Wisconsin, River Falls) argues that lowbrow, like highbrow, evolves from folkloric tradition and contains messages about how to find a satisfying niche in the social order. Middlebrow, on the other hand, evolves from myth tradition and relates lessons on what personal adjustments may be made to succeed in the economic order. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

Table of Contents

Ch. 1 Lolita in Peyton Place 3
Ch. 2 Quintessential Middlebrow: The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit Does "The Best He Can with the World as He Sees It" 17
Ch. 3 The Novel and Its Readership from Descartes to the Mauve Decade 31
Ch. 4 The Shape of the Brows 43
Ch. 5 Facing War in Fifties Fiction 61
Ch. 6 The Divided Self 83
Ch. 7 Highbrow, Lowbrow, and the Law 99
Ch. 8 Mopping My Brows 117
Appendix: The Fifties 129
Bibliography 143
Index 157
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