The most visible mass-culture critic was Dwight Macdonald, who published "A Theory of 'Popular Culture'" in politics in 1944 and then revised the argument in "A Theory of Mass Culture," published in Diogenes in 1953, and the two-part "Masscult
and Midcult," published in Partisan Review in 1960.
In an academic environment well known for producing reader-proof exegeses of minute arcana, it is refreshing to find a book that dilates on everything from Horace's Ars poetica to Dwight Macdonald's distinctions between "masscult
" and "mid-cult." Much of Seaton's book also steers clear of overheated rhetoric.
Even the formidable Dwight Macdonald names Edna Ferber on the first page of his notorious "Masscult
and Midcult" (1960); in his equally inflammatory "By Cozzens Possessed" he invokes Edna Ferber, not midcult, as a shorthand for the middlebrow style.
A decade later, however, this indulgent attitude changed: the same phenomenon was reanimated and harshly criticized in the essay Masscult
and Midcult by American critic Dwight Macdonald.
A seminal takedown of "middlebrow" culture may be found in Dwight Macdonald, "Masscult
& Midcult," in Macdonald's Against the American Grain (375).
But that's only a partial explanation: the role of mass-culture consumerism--"masscult
," as social critic Dwight Macdonald called it--is under-appreciated.
There's a wonderful essay by Macdonald called "Masscult
and Midcult" where he argues that intellectuals should never dumb themselves down for the masses.
He discusses early critiques and aesthetic statements, Macdonald at Partisan Review, Politics and culture, a theory of mass culture, and masscult
In other words, the Soviet audience expressed a preference for the "masscult
" of the West that Soviet authorities condemned but often found themselves having to make their peace with, either through limited importation or outright emulation.
It's midcult disguised as masscult
, but Talulla Rising fails to totally satisfy either cultural polarity--too silly to take as completely serious, too competently written to dismiss." DREW TOAL