The term middlebrow describes both a certain type of easily accessible art, often literature, as well as the population that uses art to acquire culture and class that is usually unattainable. First used by the British satire magazine ‘Punch’ in 1925, middlebrow is derived as the intermediary between highbrow and lowbrow, terms derived from phrenology. Middlebrow has famously gained notoriety from derisive attacks by Dwight Macdonald, Virginia Woolf, and to a certain extent, Russell Lynes. It has been classified as a forced and ineffective attempt at cultural and intellectual achievement, as well as characterizing literature that emphasizes emotional and sentimental connections rather than literary quality and innovation.
Popular culture studies is the academic discipline studying popular culture from a critical theory perspective. It is generally considered as a combination of communication studies and cultural studies. Following the work of the Frankfurt School, popular culture has come to be taken more seriously as a terrain of academic inquiry and has also helped to change the outlooks of more established disciplines. Conceptual barriers between so-called high and low culture have broken down, accompanying an explosion in scholarly interest in popular culture, which encompasses such diverse media as comic books, television, and the Internet. Reevaluation of mass culture in the 1970s and 1980s has revealed significant problems with the traditional view of mass culture as degraded and elite culture as uplifting. Divisions between high and low culture have been increasingly seen as political distinctions rather than defensible aesthetic or intellectual ones.
Poshlost is a Russian word that has been defined as ‘petty evil or self-satisfied vulgarity,’ however there is no single English translation. At more length, ‘Poshlost’ is the Russian version of banality, with a characteristic national flavoring of metaphysics and high morality, and a peculiar conjunction of the sexual and the spiritual. This one word encompasses triviality, vulgarity, sexual promiscuity, and a lack of spirituality. The war against poshlost’ was a cultural obsession of the Russian and Soviet intelligentsia from the 1860s to 1960s.’ Early examinations of poshlost in literature are in the work of Nikolai Gogol. Gogol wrote (of Pushkin), ‘He used to say of me that no other writer before me possessed the gift to expose so brightly life’s poshlust, to depict so powerfully the poshlust of a poshlusty man in such a way that everybody’s eyes would be opened wide to all the petty trivia that often escape our attention.’ In his novels, Turgenev ‘tried to develop a heroic figure who could, with the verve and abandon of a Don Quixote, grapple with the problems of Russian society, who could once and for all overcome ‘poshlost,’ the complacent mediocrity and moral degeneration of his environment’ Dostoyevsky applied the word to the Devil; Solzhenitsyn, to Western-influenced young people.
D. S. Mirsky was an early user of the word in English in writing about Gogol; he defined it as ”self-satisfied inferiority,’ moral and spiritual.’ Vladimir Nabokov made it more widely known in his book on Gogol, where he romanized it as ‘poshlust,’ which according to Nabokov ‘is not only the obviously trashy but mainly the falsely important, the falsely beautiful, the falsely clever, the falsely attractive’ Nabokov also listed, ‘Corny trash, vulgar clichés, Philistinism in all its phases, imitations of imitations, bogus profundities, crude, moronic and dishonest pseudo-literature—these are obvious examples. Now, if we want to pin down poshlost in contemporary writing we must look for it in Freudian symbolism, moth-eaten mythologies, social comment, humanistic messages, political allegories, overconcern with class or race, and the journalistic generalities we all know.’ A notable literary treatment is Fyodor Sologub’s novel ‘The Petty Demon.’ It tells the story of a provincial schoolteacher, Peredonov, notable for his complete lack of redeeming human qualities. ‘The book puts on display a Freudian treasure chest of perversions with subtlety and credibility. The name of the novel’s hero, Peredonov, became a symbol of calculating concupiscence for an entire generation… [Peredonov] seeks not the ideal world but the world of petty venality and sensualism, poshlost. He torments his students, derives erotic satisfaction from watching them kneel to pray, and systematically befouls his apartment before leaving it as part of his generalized spite against the universe.’
Culture industry is a term coined by critical theorists Theodor Adorno (1903–1969) and Max Horkheimer (1895–1973), who argued in the chapter of their book ‘Dialectic of Enlightenment, ‘The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception,’ that popular culture is akin to a factory producing standardized cultural goods – through film, radio and magazines – to manipulate the masses into passivity; the easy pleasures available through consumption of popular culture make people docile and content, no matter how difficult their economic circumstances.
Adorno and Horkheimer saw this mass-produced culture as a danger to the more difficult high arts. Culture industries may cultivate false needs; that is, needs created and satisfied by capitalism. True needs, in contrast, are freedom, creativity, or genuine happiness. This was reference to an earlier demarcation in needs by Herbert Marcuse.
Bathos [bey-thos] (Greek: ‘depth’) is an abrupt transition in style from the exalted to the commonplace, producing a ludicrous effect. While often unintended, bathos may be used deliberately to produce a humorous effect. If bathos is overt, it may be described as Burlesque or mock-heroic. As used in English bathos originally referred to a particular type of bad poetry, but it is now used more broadly to cover any seemingly ridiculous artwork or bad performance. It should not be confused with pathos, a mode of persuasion within the discipline of rhetoric, intended to arouse emotions of sympathy and pity.
Contemporary examples often take the form of analogies, written to seem unintentionally funny: ‘The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.’ (Jennifer Hart for The Washington Post). The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest features purple prose, at times exhibiting bathos: ‘They had but one last remaining night together, so they embraced each other as tightly as that two-flavor entwined string cheese that is orange and yellowish-white, the orange probably being a bland Cheddar and the white . . . Mozzarella, although it could possibly be Provolone or just plain American, as it really doesn’t taste distinctly dissimilar from the orange, yet they would have you believe it does by coloring it differently.’ (Mariann Simms). In humorous science fiction novels: ‘The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.’ (Douglas Adams in ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’).
Camp is an aesthetic sensibility that regards something as appealing or humorous because of its deliberate ridiculousness. The concept is closely related to kitsch, and things with camp appeal may also be described as being ‘cheesy.’ When the usage appeared, in 1909, it denoted: ostentatious, exaggerated, affected, theatrical, and effeminate behaviour, and, by the middle of the 1970s, the definition comprised: banality, artifice, mediocrity, and ostentation so extreme as to have perversely sophisticated appeal. American writer Susan Sontag’s essay ‘Notes on ‘Camp” (1964) emphasised its key elements as: artifice, frivolity, naïve middle-class pretentiousness, and ‘shocking’ excess. Camp as an aesthetic has been popular from the 1960s to the present.
Camp films were popularised by filmmakers George and Mike Kuchar, Andy Warhol, and John Waters, including the latter’s ‘Pink Flamingos,’ ‘Hairspray,’ and ‘Polyester.’ Celebrities that are associated with camp personas include drag queens and performers such as Dame Edna Everage, Divine, RuPaul, and Liberace. Camp was a part of the anti-academic defense of popular culture in the 1960s and gained popularity in the 1980s with the widespread adoption of postmodern views on art and culture.
Kitsch [kich] (loanword from German) is a form of art that is considered an inferior, tasteless copy of an extant style of art or a worthless imitation of art of recognized value. The concept is associated with the deliberate use of elements that may be thought of as cultural icons while making cheap mass-produced objects that are unoriginal. Kitsch also refers to the types of art that are aesthetically deficient (whether or not being sentimental, glamorous, theatrical, or creative) and that make creative gestures which merely imitate the superficial appearances of art through repeated conventions and formulae. Excessive sentimentality often is associated with the term.
Paul Sturgess is an English-born basketball player for the Harlem Globetrotters. At 7 ft 7.82 in (2.3322 m) and 320 lb (150 kg), Sturgess was the tallest ever college basketball player in the US, is the tallest professional basketball player in the world, and is taller than any basketballer ever to play for the NBA. He joined the team in 2011 with fellow rookie, Jonte ‘Too Tall’ Hall, who at 5 ft 2 in (1.57 m) is the shortest ever player and is 2.5 ft (77 cm) shorter than Sturgess.
Sturgess wears a size 21 shoe. Examinations as a teenager revealed that his growth is healthy and not the result of disorder, rather he possesses familial tall stature, that is to say his height is genetic. His biological father is 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m) and there are other tall members in his family although his mother is 5 ft 5 in (1.65 m) and his younger sister is 5 ft 6 in (1.68 m). Sturgess was always tall but a growth spurt between the ages of 16-17 resulted in a foot (30 cm) of height added within a single year. Sturgess enjoys playing many other sports and before concentrating on basketball also played golf and soccer.