Levine, Lawrence W. () Highbrow/Lowbrow: The. Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America. Cambridge,. MA: Harvard University Press. Every once in a . Highbrow/Lowbrow has ratings and 28 reviews. Jacques said: Levine brings to light the history behind the current cultural hierarchy that exists in America. Highbrow/Lowbrow: The Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in. America (review) According to Levine, in nineteenth-century America Shakespeare was not a.
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Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Cultural space was more sharply defined, less flexible than it had been. Lectures in the History of American Civilization inPaperbackFirst paperback editionpages.
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Apr 30, Jacques added it. This title has really reignted my historical curiosity concerning American Popular Culture. Essentially, Levine is arguing that a cross-class American cultural consensus existed in the first half of the nineteenth century, but was eroded by the turn of the century by elite efforts to separate “art” from “popular culture.
While serious performances of Shakespeare had been presented alongside popular songs, farces, and other “unelevated” fare in the early part of the century, latter-day cultural elites insisted that such masterworks be presented unsullied by popular material.
The effort to separate “high” and “popular” culture was often presented didactically- as a necessary element in the uplift of the less fortunate. Levine stresses, however, that the impetus behind the move was just as often a desire to cordon off “respectable” performances from the unworthy. His assumption- that the shift was fundamentally cultural in nature as opposed to economically or politically determined- is probably on firm ground.
Levine’s approach to the topic is broad and inclusive, but I’m inclined to wonder about other “lenses” through which to assess this shift in American culture. Levine assumes that the distinction between “highbrow” and “lowbrow” is culturally-defined, and this is assuredly true highnrow an extent. But, I contend that a cross-cultural analysis of “folk” forms just might establish some similarities that distinguish them, collectively, from those lsvine which different cultures have deemed “highbrow.
Alternatively, I would like to see the same material addressed through an economic framework. The intersection of cultures and markets is something in which I’m interested in, and I believe an investigation of this topic could be enriched by a more thorough exploration of the ways in which economic considerations shaped American culture. Isn’t it possible, for example, that elites suffered the indignities of mixed company only so long as they were forced to by the economic realities of early American entertainment?
It’s equally as possible than the lower-classes weren’t as receptive to the “highbrow” aspects of the early performances as Levine asserts.
Might they have been just as enthusiastic about jettisoning their elite fellow theater-goers as the gentry were to leave?
Oct 16, Fred R rated it really liked it. An excellent, useful cultural history. It jumps back and forth a little too much in time and subject, but the gradual collapse of an inter-class, unified American culture detailed here is almost heartbreaking.
In response to the growing cultural gulf between upper and lower class, the American elite which meant, particularly after the Civil War, the Northeastern elite pursued a two-pronged strategy of mass uplift and you’ll recognize this one from Baltzell’s masterpiece cloistered retreat. O An excellent, useful cultural history. Obviously the first part failed, and we were left with a high culture kept rigidly separate from mass entertainment, a far cry from, for instance, the universal embrace of Shakespeare that characterized American culture in the first half of the 19th century.
So Levine is very good on the what and the how, whereas on the why I think he’s a little lacking. He seems to for some reason think this is all the elite’s fault, for snobbishly turning up their noses at the masses in an attempt to maintain their privilege. Obviously every aesthetic system involves agents attempting to gain status, but this theory is unworthy of the book. Norbert Elias who gets cited has pointed out how culture did, in fact, trickle down over the centuries in Europe.
That is to say, an elite sincerely desires to enforce and expand the reach of its culture. Turning their backs on the rest of society is, as Baltzell pointed out, a second-best option, or what they engage in after they discover they can no longer exercise public authority.
So then the real question becomes, what happened to America that led to a loss of elite confidence and authority? I don’t think here even Baltzell who points to the enervating influence of Quakerism is entirely fair.
The most important factors, in my current opinion this is one of the basic questions about America, but I don’t have a good handle on it yet: The Civil War 3. Technological Change increasing the scale and scope of society, creating a chaotic urbanized mass where before were independent farmers more susceptible to cultural domination 4.
Feb 21, Courtney rated it it was amazing. After hearing it referenced by professors and peers for what seemed like years, I finally read it. I’m so glad that this book lived up to my expectations. Levine explores the shifts from a shared, perhaps ‘popular’ culture, to one of heirarchy at the end of the s. Chapters focus on Shakespeare’s popularity, theater and opera, symphonic music, and museums. I feel like this book could be read by academics and laymen alike how dare I use that term!
He isn’t Fo After hearing it referenced by professors and peers for what seemed like years, I finally read it. He isn’t Foucault-flowery or long-winded.
Plus his arguments are nicely supported with loads of interesting if not also amusing sources of evidence. Sep 22, Andrew Miller rated it it was amazing.
Highbrow/Lowbrow — Lawrence W. Levine | Harvard University Press
Levine brings to lpwbrow the history behind the current cultural hierarchy that exists in America. It helps me feel better about despising modern art, as Levine would suggest, it only exists to create distinguished groups-you’re not supposed to get it. The format is simple and clear. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand how enjoying Shakespeare or opera now makes you part of a distinguished class.
Aug 04, Ronald Johnson rated it it was amazing. This book is a wonderful example of how scholarship can challenge our preconceptions and help us to reconsider the way we view the world. The author shows that Shakespeare and opera were both considered popular entertainment in America until just before the turn of the 20th century. In the first half of hiyhbrow book, he provides abundant evidence to support this remarkable claim, and then he invites the reader to wonder not only why things changed aroundbut also why we are blind to the way th This book is a wonderful example of how scholarship can challenge our preconceptions and help us to reconsider the way we view the world.
In the first half of the book, he provides abundant evidence to support this remarkable claim, and then he invites the reader to wonder not only why things changed aroundbut also why we are blind to the way things used to be.
You will have to be patient and read all the way to the end of the book if you want the author’s complete answer to these questions, but the trip is worth it. Along the way, you’ll be invited to think about the proper function of museums and libraries, and most importantly, you’ll be faced levien the question: Is “culture” something that every group has in other words, is it simply the system of beliefs, values, and practices that conditions how that group of people interacts with the world lebine themor is “culture” the possession of only a certain segment of society that is, those who have been properly initiated and taught to interpret art, music, and literature according to certain evaluative lowbroww If you come away from this book with nothing more than an appreciation of the question and why it’s important, then you will have gained something valuable.
If you then go on to wrestle with the question, it could change your life. And that’s quite a claim to make about a scholarly book.
Nov 29, Lucsly rated it really liked it. Fascinating stories on American cultural life in the 19th century, specifically on how a very broad audience enjoyed areas of culture that we would now classify as strictly highbrow: Concerts often mixed operatic arias with popular music, folk songs, etc. It’s almost a pity that this form of music performance died out, especiall Fascinating stories on American cultural life in the 19th century, specifically on how a very broad audience enjoyed areas of culture that we would now classify as strictly highbrow: It’s almost a pity that this form of music performance died out, especially as it could easiy exist next to our current, more reverential, form of concerts.
Levine is quite critical about this process the changing of orchestras, concert halls, performance practices towards a much more highbrow set of standards although I think he forgets the role played by composers themselves: Wagner and Beethoven, for instance, were definitely what in cinema would be called an auteur they were very precise about how their work was being performed, had huge and temperamental egos, and were very critical of their audiences.
Levine, however, focuses more on how Americans came to sacralize art through wealthy highbro paying for symphony orchestras, desiring them to play only what they liked, etc. Still, a wonderful study of art and culture – and I haven’t even read the chapters on literature, museums, paintings Jul 22, Dan Gorman rated it liked it.
Levine has written a lively and well-researched book on the creation of highbrow aesthetics in the Gilded Age. Patrician critics, patrons, museum levihe, and businessmen, who feared immigration and demographic change, championed sophisticated, edifying art, in contrast to popular amusements. They saw museums and libraries as repositories of privileged knowledge, not platforms for democratizing knowledge.
This desire for social control prompted the creation of new spaces and new codes of conduc Levine has written a lively and well-researched book on the creation of hifhbrow aesthetics in the Gilded Age.
This desire for social control prompted the creation of new spaces and new codes of conduct lowgrow kept the broader public at a distance from opera, Shakespeare, and fine art. New lowbroq associations such as the Theatrical Trust exported highbrow standards from Eastern cities to the rest of the country.
I learned a lot from this book, but it has two major flaws. First, Levine does not adequately connect wealthy Americans’ highbrow aesthetics to the creation of the corporate economy. Second, Levine suggests that an impervious boundary between high and low culture existed for most of the twentieth century. This narrative ignores most examples of “middlebrow culture,” or attempts to convey fine art to the general public.
Highbrow/Lowbrow: The Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America by Lawrence W. Levine
And in this researched work the reader may find their own bit of pleasure. American culture has dissolved into a forgetfulness that leaves even the college educated without much sense of their cultural identity—unless lowbroow thinks American cultural identity is healthily expressed through self-loathing.
When it comes to Art we need the voice of the trained and their encouragement towards understanding or we all fall into chaos. Mar 13, Kate rated it liked it. Leviine wanted to LOVE the subject, but because I volunteer as a museum docent, I hoped to score a big heap of information and insights about art collecting, then and now.
The book spends a lot more time on Shakespeare and music, just not my main interest right now. But I have to give the book happy credit for providing me with this: Mark Twain ridiculed these precautions. The levien circulated that when he was requested to leave his cane in the [Museum] cloakroom, he responded, “Leave my cane!