View Full Version : A provocative observation as regards POV:

09-20-2009, 07:58 PM
From Michael Denning’s Cover Stories: Narrative and Ideology in the British Spy Thriller (http://books.google.com/books?id=1a0OAAAAQAAJ&lpg=PP1&dq=michael%20denning%20cover%20stories&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=&f=false), as noted by Andrew Seal (http://www.blographia-literaria.com/2009/09/on-point-of-view-infinite-jest-and.html):

In a provocative analysis of the ‘middlebrow’ novel of the 1930s, the ‘realist’ novel with an ambiguous relation to the ‘literary,’ the Birmingham Centre’s English Studies Group has argued that the reader of the middlebrow novel is characteristically ‘interpellated in the position of the author or narrative “point of view”.’ The ‘lowbrow’ or mass formulaic novel interpellates or situates its reader in a position of identification with one or more characters, and the ‘highbrow’ or modernist novel situates the reader in the position of literature itself. These various situations are tied, the English Studies Group argue, to the different educations of different classes and reading publics in the school system.

Ruv Draba
09-21-2009, 04:39 AM
Fiction can make one feel, think or both. Fiction that emphasises feelings is often more popular than fiction that emphasies thinking, but both can be oriented toward entertainment. Consider the role of Science Fiction for instance. It's thinkyfic that's often more entertaining than provocative. Is it highbrow or not? Perhaps it depends on what you think highbrow means.

Thinkyfic or feelyfic can provoke, and do so in different ways. Patrick Süskind's novel Perfume provokes by creating feeling. Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged provokes by creating thought. Is one highbrow and the other lowbrow? Again, I'm not sure.

It's probably true that a preference for provocation vs entertainment depends in part on education, but it also depends on culture. European popular fiction seems to have more provocation in it than US popular fiction, say. In Britain, education is historically differentiated by social class, so perhaps that also has some bearing.

I'm not sure that the detachment in point of view is connected to highbrow/lowbrow so much as it relates to the emotional effect. Fairy tales often have a narrator who stands outside the story, talking directly to the audience. By contrast, Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles puts his viewpoint much closer to that of the main character. Does that make a fairy tale more highbrow than Tess? Is Brecht's The Good Person of Szechuan more highbrow than Beckett's Waiting for Godot because the first has a narrator while the second doesn't?

In short, I'm not convinced. :)

09-21-2009, 05:02 PM
From Michael Denning’s Cover Stories: Narrative and Ideology in the British Spy Thriller (http://books.google.com/books?id=1a0OAAAAQAAJ&lpg=PP1&dq=michael%20denning%20cover%20stories&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=&f=false), as noted by Andrew Seal (http://www.blographia-literaria.com/2009/09/on-point-of-view-infinite-jest-and.html):

Hey! Great Question. I've always thought the concept of Middlebrow was intriguing in itself. Wikipedia is quite good on the Middlebrow thing, which, it seems, derives as a joke from phrenology during a period (1925) when presumably phrenology was something of a joke.

If one reconsiders the brow thing from the point of view of the fears and anxieties of the various people behind the brows, then Middlebrow is all about how to acquire a brow. Since you need a brow, I guess it makes sense that at some point (eg novels) the acquisition of a brow implies the need for a point of view that demonstrates what it is like to have a brow. In this I'd say a good novel is always a bit middlebrow. Fielding for example -- who might be said to have invented the good novel if not the novel -- guides his readers through all sorts of complex stuff and I for one am ever happy in a middlebrow way for such guidance.