When the Seers Are Blind

“In a series of cases beginning in 1957, the Court judged that obscenity and the representation of sexuality were not the same thing and that ‘material dealing with sex in a manner that advocates ideas . . . or has literary or scientific or artistic value or any other forms of social importance may not …

What Huxley Called “The Feelies”

“[T]he court delineated between the transmission of culture and the provision of entertainment, and relegate movies to the fulfillment of the latter. This is most ironic, because the film that led to this case, Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation, had demonstrated the power and potential of film as an intellectual and artistic medium. Now, …

Don’t You Love Science?

“The association of eugenics with race, social class and the emerging ideas about ‘highbrow’ and ‘lowbrow’ cultures was unmistakable. The terms themselves were first used around the turn of the century to describe people of intellectual or aesthetic superiority (highbrow) or inferiority (lowbrow). They were derived from phrenology, a nineteenth-century practice widely used in determining …

What Is A Highbrow?

“Harper’s Magazine examined the three categories at mid-century. ‘What is a highbrow?’ the writer asked, followed by three replies. ‘A highbrow is a man who has found something more interesting than women,’ Edgar Wallace, a writer of crime novels and thrillers once said. Harper’s writer thought that too vague, but that Columbia professor and author …

A Substitute Aristocracy in a Democracy

“American popular culture is as old as the colonies, but the appearance of high and popular culture as distinctive categories in American life occurred around the turn of this century [1900] . . . a cultural hierarchy emerged that divided American life into ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture as a primary means of social, intellectual and …