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“middle brow” – Insulting?

Posted By JTE On October 30, 2006 @ 10:50 pm In Chelsea Green News | No Comments

I recently used the term “middle brow” and was chided by a coworker who suggested it’s an elitist term. I’m not entirely convinced, but I’d like to be on the side of right and good, not the side of stick-in-the-mud and will change my attitude if someone wants to offer some reasons to do so. Any opinions out there? I think of it as pretty neutral, along the following spectrum (as far as books go):

High brow – focused on theory pretty much for the sake of theory; notable writings in this category might be entertaining, but the focus is on ideas, not on supplying any gratification to the reader; aims to be relevant for many years; pretty much synonymous with “academic”

Middle brow – mixes theory with practical information; intended to be both useful and entertaining; aims to be relevant for a while, but not necessarily “for the ages”; pretty much synonymous with “for a general readership”

Low brow – intended to be primarily entertaining, immediately gratifying; if it involves theory, it’s not the kind of theory you’d want to rely on as you go into surgery or blast off on a Mars mission; aims to be relevant in the immediate time period only.
Am I way off base? My head too high up in the elitist clouds? Lack of oxygen blinding me to my obvious superiority complex?


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