ⓘ Highbrow


ⓘ Highbrow

Used colloquially as a noun or adjective, highbrow is synonymous with intellectual; as an adjective, it also means elite, and generally carries a connotation of high culture. The word draws its metonymy from the pseudoscience of phrenology, and was originally simply a physical descriptor.


1. Applications

"Highbrow" can be applied to music, implying most of the classical music tradition; to literature - i.e., literary fiction and poetry; to films in the arthouse line; and to comedy that requires significant understanding of analogies or references to appreciate. The term highbrow is considered by some with corresponding labels as middlebrow lowbrow as discriminatory or overly selective; and highbrow is currently distanced from the writer by quotation marks: "We thus focus on the consumption of two generally recognised highbrow genres - opera and classical". The first usage in print of highbrow was recorded in 1884. The term was popularized in 1902 by Will Irvin, a reporter for The Sun, who adhered to the phrenological notion of more intelligent people having high foreheads.


2. Variants

The opposite of highbrow is lowbrow, and between them is middlebrow, describing culture that is neither high nor low; as a usage, middlebrow is derogatory, as in Virginia Woolfs unsent letter to the New Statesman, written in the 1930s and published in The Death of the Moth and Other Essays 1942. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word middlebrow first appeared in print in 1925, in Punch: "The BBC claims to have discovered a new type - the middlebrow. It consists of people who are hoping that some day they will get used to the stuff that they ought to like". The term had previously appeared in hyphenated form in The Nation, on 25 January 1912:

here is an alarmingly wide chasm, I might almost say a vacuum, between the high-brow, who considers reading either as a trade or as a form of intellectual wrestling, and the low-brow, who is merely seeking for gross thrills. It is to be hoped that culture will soon be democratized through some less conventional system of education, giving rise to a new type that might be called the middle-brow, who will consider books as a source of intellectual enjoyment.

It was popularized by the American writer and poet Margaret Widdemer, whose essay "Message and Middlebrow" appeared in the Review of Literature in 1933. The three genres of fiction, as American readers approached them in the 1950s and as obscenity law differentially judged them, are the subject of Ruth Pirsig Wood, Lolita in Peyton Place: Highbrow, Middlebrow, and Lowbrow Novels, 1995.


3. Cultural examples

Prince Hamlet was considered by Virginia Woolf as a highbrow lacking orientation in the world once he had lost the lowbrow Ophelia with her grip on earthly realities: this, she thought, explained why in general highbrows "honour so wholeheartedly and depend so completely upon those who are called lowbrows".

  • Long Will Our Fascination With the Fantasy Genre Last? Kaitlyn Fajilan. Highbrow Magazine. Michael A. Cramer 2010 Medieval Fantasy as Performance: The
  • Denmark. It covers a wide range of subject matter, but tending towards more highbrow programmes than the more mainstream and popular DR1. Like DR s other TV
  • madness and animalistic rage. Good, Alex 18 December 2010 Tony Burgess: Highbrow gore from a dark genius Toronto Star. Holden, Stephen 28 May 2009
  • group a - ha worldwide and the English version The Scoundrel Days of Hobo Highbrow was published in 2008. In 1996 Christiansen became a member of the Norwegian
  • Owen Retrieved 24 January 2010. TV3 mixes some highbrow with reality for autumn The Irish Times. 19 August 2011. Michael Collins
  • Martel Society and its website The Occidental Observer - try to take a more highbrow approach, couching white nationalist arguments as academic commentary on
  • Imbonati Milan, 1753 Paris, 15 March 1805 was an Italian nobleman and highbrow He is known above all for the several poems which were dedicated to him
  • John Weiner, Robert G. 2010 - 07 - 17 From the Arthouse to the Grindhouse: Highbrow and Lowbrow Transgression in Cinema s First Century. Scarecrow Press. p
  • Forde in 1922. Forde plays a petty thief who steals from film star Pauline Highbrow Pauline Peters Pursued by the police he ends up in the Star Film Company s
  • bahuvrihis often describe people using synecdoche: flatfoot, half - wit, highbrow lowlife, redhead, tenderfoot, long - legs, and white - collar. Houndstooth

Users also searched: