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Histories of cultural populism

Histories of cultural
Martin Ryle

It is more than a decade since the perspectives of the

Frankfurt School lost their dominance within left-wing
cultural theory. In 1983 Fredric Jameson, while noting
sardonically that poststructuralist celebrations of the
consumer’s ‘desire’ simply ‘change the valences on
the old descriptions of Adorno, Horkheimer and
Marcuse’, registered his own unease at the cultural
elitism and revolutionary puritanism which lay within
the Frankfurt tradition. 1 Studies were beginning to
appear which offered a detailed account of popular
cultural texts and domains – advertising, dress,
women’s magazines, romantic fiction – in terms of the
meanings, and pleasures, which the users of that culture might find there; in the place of the passive and
duped mass consumer, the figure was emerging of the
cultural bricoleur or bricoleuse (Dick Hebdige’ s punks
were adepts of ‘Style as Bricolage’), raiding the
polysemic repertories of the popular in order to
construct resistant and recalcitrant readings. 2
Latent in this moment of revisionism, and increasingly apparent in certain more recent studies, is an
impulse towards cultural populism. For Jim McGuigan,
in his book of that title, the term is in the first place
descriptive: it denotes the opening up of cultural
analysis towards a broader range of texts and instances,
a development that McGuigan welcomes. 3 However,
he also identifies some tendencies within the recent
academic study of culture of which he is sharply
critical: the identification of ‘the dominant’ in culture
with ‘high or bourgeois art’ (which has ‘become …

something of a straw man, for a new generation of
intellectual populists to attack’), and the preference
for a cool non-judgemental pose, which critics increasingly choose rather than engage with admittedly
problematic but ineluctable questions of value. Against
this, McGuigan insists that ‘the study of culture is
nothing if it is not about values’.4
McGuigan’s remarks may prompt a more extensive
critique of the aesthetic and political pretensions, or

evasions, of cultural populism. Such a critique is
needed, not because populist approaches are universal
or predominant, but because they are :rarely explicitly
opposed; to oppose them, after all, brmgs one face to
face with those underlying questions about value, and
about the authority of those who would pronounce on
matters of value (,who has the authority’, asks
Jameson, ‘and in the name of what’, to dismiss others’

pleasures as a ‘commodity fix’?S). The present article
focuses upon questions of ‘pleasure’ and of how this
is coded and addressed in terms of a ‘high/low’ distinction which is both ‘there’ in social formations and
also sustained within critical discourses. My approach
is cultural-historical rather than primarily conceptual:

I suggest ways in which current forms of ~ultural
populism can be understood within both recent and
longer-term patterns of critical approaches to the
popular. Drawing on English literary and academic
culture since Romanticism, I argue that encounters
with popular culture have stood as important moments
in the self-definition of intellectuals, and have carried
implicit, and sometimes unacknowledged, personal
and cultural meanings. These, I argue, persist even as
‘popular culture’ is endorsed rather than reprobated.

What is offered as a new valuation of ‘the popular’

can also be understood as a new self-positioning of
intellectuals: vis-a-vis the popular ‘other’ against
which they find themselves placed within an economically and culturally divided society.

I want to open my argument by commenting on two
pioneering feminist investigations of popular culture.

These both note that the critic who studies the popular
is likely also to be a consumer of that culture. Thus
to reflect on what is called the popular is also to
reflect on some of one’s own pleasures.

For the writers concerned, that acknowledgement
of pleasure does not necessarily or initially block the
pursuit of critical analysis. In Decoding Advertise-

R a die a I P h

if 0

sop h y

7 8 (J u I Y / A u 9 u S t

19 9 6)


ments: Ideology and Meaning in Advertising (1978),
ludith Williamson recognized the tension, but~etained
the distinction, between (false) pleasure cnd (true)

As a teenager, reading both Karl Marx anc”Honey’

magazine, I couldn’t reconcile what I kne~ with what
I felt. This is the root of ideology, I believe. I knew I
was being ‘exploited’, but it was a fact mat I was
attracted. Feelings (ideology) lag behilld knowledge
(science). We can learn from their clash. 6
Williamson’s subsequent critical essays, collected in
the volume Consuming Passions ( 986), pursue the
agenda set out here: to take accoUnt of the critic’s
own pleasurable investments in the texts and images
she reviews, while retaining concepts and forms of
analysis which problematize pleasure by seeing it
precisely as intrinsic to the working of ideologies.

lanice Winship, in Inside ‘Women’s Magazines
(1987), similarly registered the attraction of the
material she discussed. Her critique, too, is dependent
ultimately on concepts of ideology and of ‘false needs’.

She argues that new kinds of consumption, advertised
and mirrored in the world of post-1953 women’s
magazines, may have” ‘[provided] the impetus for a
new form of the old ideology of femininity’, but that
this proved no more than a ‘shoring up’, lasting only
until the ‘stormy tide’ of post-1968 feminism
challenged both this revamped’ ‘femininity’ and the
ideology of the feminine in general. 7 More recent

women’s magazines may reflect certain feminist ideas,
and this may add to their pleasurable appeal for some
readers; but they remain focused (Winship insists) on
personal ‘aspiration’, in a highly individualized address
which neglects or obscures the importance of social
and economic conditions. s Whether pre- or post-1968,
these are discourses, and pleasures, that need to be
questioned as part of any critique.

But Wins hip finds the critical impetus thwarted, or
confused, by an awareness of how the subjective
tension between pleasure and critique often gets
mapped onto the way the critic writes about the
pleasures’ of the mass audience. If most readers are
seen as caught up in mere ‘feelings’, while the critic
operates in the light of ‘knowledge’, then the critic
seeks to claim a position of superiority which Winship
finds untenable. The impulse to ‘outlaw’ the pleasures
of reading Cosmopolitan ‘manifests the worst aspects
of a political “holier than thou” moralism’ ,9 she
decides. This moralism is as problematic for feminist
as for Marxist political culture. Commenting on the
reviewing of films and television in Spare Rib,
Winship writes:

These reviews … bolster the reviewer’s position
and raise feminism and feminists to the lofty pedestal
of “having seen the light’, with the consequent
dismissal not only of a whole range of cultural events
but also of many women’s pleasurable and interested
experiences of them. Whether intentionally or not
feminists are setting themselves
distinctly apart: ‘us’ who know and
reject most popular cultural forms
(including women’s magazines);
‘them’ who remain in ignorance
and continue to buy Woman’s Own
or watch Dallas. The irony,
however, is that many of ‘us’ feel
like ‘them’: closet readers and
viewers of this fare. 10
In this moment of tension, of
potential impasse, Winship is
making explicit what is implicit
(as I shall argue) in some earlier
writing: she is acknowledging
that the construction of a highlow dichotomy functions as much
to orchestrate a subjective relation to different kinds of pleasure, as to discriminate between
‘us’ and ‘them’. She identifies the
way in which a critical discourse
which poses its critique in ‘holier
than thou’ terms may be founded



:on a certain hypocrisy. Clearly it is as well, once this
is acknowledged, to avoid using a ‘high-low’ discourse that serves to displace onto a popular ‘other’

,those forms of pleasure that are ideologically dubious. ‘Popular’ pleasures may well be pleasures that
‘we ‘ (cultural intellectuals) share.

It does not follow that there can be no critique of
those pleasures. But for some commentators,
abandoning the language of ‘us’ and ‘them’ does
seem to entail, or at least to license, the abandonment
of any critically evaluative orientation. I find such an
abandonment, for instance, in Mica Nava’s collection
of essays Changing Cultures: Feminism, Youth and
Consumerism (1992).” There are parallel emphases in
other recent work – by Angela McRobbie, Rachel
Bowlby and John Fiske, for exampleY Acts of
consumption are revalued as tendentially resistant or
subversive, in a move that parallels the turn, in media
~’studies, away from critical evaluations of popular
texts and towards speculation on their variable,
always potentially subversive readings by their audiences. Rejecting earlier left-wing discourses on consumption and mass culture, N ava disavows both the
Marxist emphasison the primacy of production and
the ‘left-humanist..;realist’ perspective from which socialist critiques of. mass society have been launched. 13
It was oversimp1e’ (‘the cruder certainties of the immediate past’) to see consumption and advertising in
terms of ‘mass man and woman as duped and passive
recipients of conspirat6rial messages’: a recognition
of ‘the contradictory and fragmented nature of fantasy and desire’, a Tnew, more nuanced understanding
of subjectivity’, should now allow us to move beyond
these post -1968 ‘sflcialist and feminist orthodoxies’ .14
‘Consumerism’ can offer sites of resistance, and its
‘texts’ – advertising – should no longer be
‘marginalized’ vis-‘a-vis those of high art; moreover,
reading ads calls for and develops ‘decoding skills’

which may have subversive uses and potentials. 15
This retrospective questioning of earlier terms of
culture critique was registered and catalysed by the
‘New Times’ project, to which Nava refers. 16 What
emerges both froml.her argument and from a rereading
today of certain of the cbhtributions to the ‘New
Times’ debate is the- extent to which the discussion of
popular or mass consumption has in effect functioned
as a discourse abdut the writers’own needs, desires
and relations to contemporary constimer society. Nava
frankly notes that the new theoretical/political
approaches to mass consumption ‘have … acted as a
form of permission entitling members ‘of today’s left
intelligentsia to enjoy· consuming images and

commodities … without having to feel anxious about
whether these activities are good and correct’; 17 and
McRobbie, though rather sceptical about ‘subversive
consumption’, remarks that one aspect of the ‘new
politics of consumption’ is that it has allowed ‘the left
and cultural intellectuals’ to feel less guilty about
pleasure. 18
The problem with all this is not that the writers
acknowledge the fraught relation between ‘theory’,
personal pleasure and recent social history. On the
contrary: the acknowledgement, as in Winship and
Williamson, is valuable. But the consequence of
avowing that dimensions of ‘guilt’ and ‘permission’

have been handled through a discourse about mass
pleasures should not be a ‘reversal of the valences’,
in which previously demonized cultural forms and
modes of consumption are now unthinkingly
celebrated. The questions here – of politics, culture
and value – are questions about the future direction
of the capitalist global economy and of how various
cultural forms and texts may ease or impede, endorse
or question, the imperative to consume. In my own
view that imperative, central to our whole cultural and
economic experience, is socially and ecologically
damaging: as a cultural intellectual I would therefore
want my writing to argue for a sceptical orientation
towards the ‘pleasures’ of consumption ill general sceptical, even unfashionably ‘puritanical’ .19 However, my argument in the present context does not
depend on convincing anyone that this ‘puritanism’ is
justified. I claim only that if we are to discuss the
cultural and social meaning of ‘consumption’, we
need to address these questions in their own terms,
and that they cannot be disposed of by the (accurate)
observation that, in the past, cultural intellectuals
have often been unduly disdainful of ‘mass culture’.

Anxieties about the borders between the self and the
masses have been at work in the writing of many
cultural intellectuals, across the political spectrum. I
wish now to offer a longer historical perspective by
noting, and briefly discussing, some instances.

In the 1930s, questions about mass media and their
audience became pressing not only for the philosophers of the Frankfurt School, but for many
British writers, from Leavis to W oolf, Orwell or
MacNeice. 20 Certainly the urgency with which the
questions made themselves felt owed much to the use
which totalitarian political formations, especially
Nazism, were making of the new media. It owed


something also to the threat those media posed to the
cultural prestige and precedence of literary intellectuals. Orwell, in work that anticipates ‘cultural
studies’, pioneers the sympathetic discussion of
popular texts, for instance in his accounts of boys’

weekly comics and seaside postcards. 21 However, he

inhabitants’, caught up in the flow of this ‘undistinguishable world’, are not enfranchised but enslaved by the pleasures it affords; they become
The slaves unrespited of low pursuits,
Living amid the same perpetual flow
Of trivial objects … 25

also reveals, in his inconsistencies and vacillations of
tone and argument (especially in The Road to Wigan
Pier), powerful ambivalences, which both draw him
towards and repel him from his idea of ‘working-class
life’; and in his moments of repulsion he produces
some notorious compelling negative images. The
‘documentary’ aspect of Wigan Pier is secondary to
its role as an articulation of Orwell’s powerfully
ambi valent sense of his relation to ‘the masses’: a
sense compounded of guilt, solidarity, insecurity
about manliness, and an awareness of the growing
marginality of both his class and its culture. The
contradictions and tensions that Orwell expresses (and
reveals), and that converge ‘inside’ him, are also
visible, often in the form of options for one or another
dichotomously opposed position, in his contemporaries’ political and aesthetic relation to ‘the masses’. 22
I shall refer again to the 1930s. However, the history I am tracing reaches back long before then. It
takes in (for instance) the anxieties about massproduced cultural artefacts and information media
which are felt equally, despite their opposed political
values, by Matthew Arnold and William Morris. It
includes the moment of ‘cultural primitivism’ identified by Peter Burke, in which cultural intellectuals
found ways of conceiving the national-popular
community as organically constituted around
‘authentic’ folkways – often counterposed, in revivalist movements, to a decadent commercial culture (‘the
youthful mind which used to be kindled and purified
by the poetry and legends of Ireland, runs serious risks
of becoming debased, perhaps depraved, by battening
on literary garbage’).23
In Book VII of The Prelude, Wordsworth gives an
extended account of ‘Residence in London’ , where he
lived for a number of short periods between 1791 and
1798. 24 Much of the Book is devoted to accounts of
popular entertainment: renderings of a scene whose
surface brilliance and allure are admitted. However,
the terms of Wordsworth’s concluding judgement on
‘the mighty City’, which follows a description of St
Bartholomew’s Fair, are strongly negative. The tumult
of dazzling diversion leads ultimately, he says, to a
state of ‘blank confusion’. The ‘swarm of [London’s]


Words worth says that this ‘unmanageable sight’

would be disorienting to him, too, if it were not that,
favoured by his rural upbringing which gave him the
experience of ‘early converse with the works of God’,
he is able to retain a more ordered and harmonious
vision – a ‘feeling of the whole’ .26
The spectacle of pleasure is taken to be especially
eloquent in what it bespeaks. The fair, although a
‘Parliament of Monsters’ (1. 691), stands as ‘a type
not false/ Of what the mighty city is itself’. Subsequent writing may repeat the negative terms in which
popular pleasure is evaluated, as when Day Lewis
compares newsreel-watchers at the cinema to gaping
fish nosing the glass wall of their tank, or when
Auden offers to redeem the workers, through communism, from their deluded ‘talkie-house’ or canalside
amusements, or it may adopt a more equivocal – even
celebratory – tone, as in Tony Bennett’s account of
Blackpool Beach or John Fiske’s celebration of video
arcades as ‘semiotic brothels’.27 Either way, much
concern about ‘mass civilization’ (as in Leavis 28 ), and
much of the agenda of contemporary cultureil and
media studies, bespeaks an enduring conviction that
the ‘flow/ Of trivial objects’ which makes up popular
diversion is not at all a ‘trivial’ matter: rather, such
diversion stands as ‘a type not false’ of important
social and subjective tendencies. Why, we may ask,
is popular pleasure made so significant a theme?

Alongside the judgemental distance which sets
Wordsworth, and the reader, apart from the ‘swarm’

of Londoners, we may also detect kinship unacknowledged: the writer’s separation of himself from and
ultimate dismissal of ‘low pursuits’ may mask a
troubling involvement in what is dismissed. Part of
what Wordsworth sees in London is the spectacle of
‘shameless’ sexual display, including prostitution,
visibly prominent at popular entertainments generally
and theatres in particular: ‘theatres, which then were
my delight’ (my italics: the later, 1850 text, as often,
censors the frank admission of the 1805 version).29
The poet, like Ulysses bound to the mast, looks on
the spectacle, but is preserved apart. Recalling a scene
which impressed itself with particular force on his
memory, W ordsworth depicts a ‘rosy babe’, placed by
a theatre attendant upon the board from which

refreshments were served. His mother is a prostitute,
he is ‘environed with a ringl Of chance spectators,
chiefly dissolute menl And shameless women’, and
yet he sits amidst the moral danger of this company
as unscathed as ‘one of those who walked with hair
unsingedl Amid the fiery furnace’:

He hath since
Appeared to me oft times as if embalmed
By Nature, through some special privilege
Stopped at the growth he had; destined to live,
To be, to have been, come and go, a child
And nothing more, no partner in the years
That bear us forward to distress and guilt,
Pain and abasement. .. 30
We must feel, reading this, that the ‘privilege’ of
immunity is also a curse: innocence is childish ignorance, and a kind of living death. The passage suggests
the price that is paid for the distinction bought by
refraining (or appearing to refrain) from ‘low pursuits’.

Certain kinds of pleasure, even perhaps the idea of
pleasure as such, are associated intrinsically with the
tri vial and the popular. Therefore to distinguish oneself from the ‘swarm’, to see them as ‘slaves’, is to
forgo that pleasure.

In so far as the cultural distinction between ‘high’

and ‘low’ has been read as or imbued with a distinction between the refined and the gross, the mental and
the corporeal, then the gesture which dismisses the
‘low’ may always conceal this
kind of acknowledgement that the
writer’s assumed or actual moral
distance separates him from what
he truly wants. (What he wants:

the critical sensibility, up to the
1930s and beyond, is almost
always male.) That contradictory
dynamic is revealed in innumerable scenes: in Charles Gavan
Duffy’s characterization of French
literature as ‘impure and atheistical but sensational’; in the distaste
of a later advocate of Irish
traditions for the ‘girls with
painted lips and powdered faces’

who, in urban dance-halls, ‘indulge in negroid dances to the
music – if it can be called music
– of jazz’; in the seduction scene
in The Waste Land, where the
social placing of the protagonists
(‘typist’, ‘small house agent’s
clerk’) licenses Eliot’s voyeuristic

fantasy. Here, a certain eroticization of squalor as such
(‘On the divan are piled .. ./ Stockings, slippers, camisoles, and stays’) makes particularly clear the link
between cultural disdain and erotic attraction. 3l And
in some slightly later texts, this is more knowingly
displayed. Louis MacNeice, whose Autumn Journal
remains invaluable for its exploration of all this territory, captures a (masculine) longing at once subjective and cultural-political when he writes:

Let the old Muse loosen her stays
Or give me a new Muse with stockings and
And a smile like a cat. 32
Developments since then in cultural theory, and
cultural histories written in their light, have helped to
deepen our understanding of the meanings that can be
brought to and organized around the boundaries
between the ‘high’ and the ‘low’ I’popular’. Work
influenced by Bakhtin, such as Peter Stallybrass and
Allon White’s study of The Politics and Poetics of
Transgression, has illuminated the nineteenth-century
inflections of this secular European mode of thinking.33
Feminist scholarship and critique enforce an awareness of how the feminization of the ‘low’ – a base
parallel to the feminization of the ethereal ‘Muse’ underlies both the disdain and the fascination with
which popular forms and entertainments have been
construed by male writers. (McRobbie, observing that


Walter Benjamin offers a more ‘constructive’ orientation than does Adorno towards ‘the study of mass
culture and popular culture’, notes also the importance
in his work and life, as in Baudelaire’s, of encounters
with prostitutes; in this regard, she remarks,
Baudelaire and Benjamin were not so different from
the conventional bourgeois men of their time. 34 )
The issues at stake are not simple. We are dealing
both with the fact that certain kinds of ‘shameless’ that is, commodified – sexual display have indeed
been more available within disreputable culture, and
with a cultural feminization of whatever is construed
as ‘low’ (‘degraded consumption is assigned to
women’: Jameson 35 ). Feminization and the idea of
‘shameless’ display are in part masculinist metaphors
for a general sense that the ‘popular’ is easy: its
charm, and its limitation, is that it makes no rigorous
demands on the faculties of reason and judgement.

Such psychic oppositions brought to the categorization of culture affect both how the ‘popular’ is apprehended, and what is relegated to the ‘popular’.

However, I shall draw one relatively simple
conclusion: that the valuation of ‘popular culture’ is
unstable because the term, apart from its empirical
reference, expresses an ambivalent relationship. To
deploy it, standing (as those who deploy it must) outside ‘the popular’, has often been to denote a pleasure
explicitly reprobated, but covertly desired. This makes
it easier to understand why the new discourses of the
‘popular’, reversing an earlier puritanism, may have
as their real text new and more relaxed feelings about
pleasure, guilt and consumption.

Of course, the maintenance (or abrogation) of the
distinction between ‘high’ and ‘low’ /’popular’ culture
also articulates a relation of cultural authority – both
effective authority and claimed or desired authority and this too has been unstable and subject to change.

There is not space here for a full discussion of this
history. I would simply note that the ‘authority’ of
cultural intellectuals within bourgeois culture has
never been secure, in terms of their relation to the
economic and cultural dominance of the class of
which they have most often been a semi-dissident
fraction – one thinks of the anathema which Arnold,
often taken to represent Victorian cultural authoritarianism, pronounced upon the Victorian bourgeoisie.

Moreover, that authority has been subject to new kinds
of challenge in the last fifty years, as established
literary and academic circuits and media have been
complemented and then increasingly marginalized by
powerful new forms and modes of communication:

film, broadcasting, advertising, popular music. During


this same period, cultural intellectuals have themselves been recruited from less homogeneous and
more diverse social origins, in terms of class, gender,
and (lately, and to a very limited extent) ‘race’. These
challenges and diversifications have led to reassertions
of traditional kinds of authority (as in Leavis, himself
an ‘outsider’ to the then prevalent assumptions and
etiquettes of ‘Cambridge English’), and to complex
renegotiations (as in the work of Raymond Williams,
or of Paul Gilroy in The Black Atlantic), as well as to
options for a more or less wholesale cultural populism
– in which, it may be suggested, the discontents of a
vulnerable cultural ‘authority’ are managed by a disavowal of any claim to judgement and by an inversion
of Arnoldian valuations.

The problem – to reiterate my central argument is that this kind of reversal offers no basis on which
to engage with the important questions: of the
aesthetic, political and ethical qualities and value of
texts and cultural forms; of the social and ecological
impact of particular kinds of consumption or of
consumerism in general; and of the general relations
between cultural work, political discourses and
economic power. Perhaps we can now agree that
nothing, beyond the force of the arguments that they
produce, gives cultural critics ‘authority’ to pronounce
on these questions. But it is not clear what their
function is if they are not prepared to discuss tl}em.

1. Fredric Jameson, ‘Pleasure: A Political Issue’, in F.

Jameson and others, Formations of Pleasure, London,
1983, pp. 2f.

2. See Dick Hebdige, Subculture: The Meaning of Style,
London, 1993 (1979), especially pp. 103f.; and also,
for instance, Tania Modleski, Loving with a Vengeance,
New York, 1984.

3. Jim McGuigan, Cultural Populism, London, 1992.

4. McGuigan, p. 173. See also pp. 71ff., 75, 80, 82.

5. Jameson, ‘Pleasure: A Political Issue’, p. 3.

6. Judith Williamson, Decoding Advertisements: Ideology
and Meaning in Advertising, London, 1993 (1978), p. 9.

7. Janice Winship, Inside Women’s Magazines, London,
1987, p. 35. As Mica Nava has pointed out, this line of
critique bears similarities not just with the Marxist
analysis of Marcuse’s One Dimensional Man (1964),
but with the liberal concern about the manipulative and
exploitative effects of advertising and consumerism
expressed in Vance Packard’s The Hidden Persuaders
(1957) and in Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique
(1965); see Mica Nava, Changing Cultures: Feminism,
Youth and Consumerism, London, 1992, pp. 162f.

8. Winship, pp. 64, 80f., 120.

9. Ibid., p. 115.

10. Ibid., p. 140.

11. McGuigan makes some critical observations on Nava’s
book, some of which parallel some of mine.

12. Angela McRobbie, Postmodernism and Popular
Culture, London, 1994; Rachel Bowlby, Shopping with










Freud, London, 1993; John Fiske, Reading the Popular,
London, 1989 (especially Chapter 2, ‘Shopping for

Nava, Changing Cultures, pp. 167f., 178. See
especially the last three chapters: ‘Consumerism and
its Contradictions’, ‘Discriminating or Duped? Young
People as Consumers of Advertising/Art’ (written with
Orson Nava), and ‘Consumerism Reconsidered:

Buying and Power’. McGuigan offers some detailed
criticism, particularly of the second of these essays, in
Cultural Populism.

Nava, pp. 163-7.

Ibid., pp. 167f., 174ff.

See Stuart Hall and Martin Jacques, eds, New Times:

The Changing Face of Politics in the 1990s, London,
1989. Nava refers particularly to Frank Mort’s iconoclastic essay on ‘The Politics of Consumption’ (pp.

160ff.). See also especially John Urry’s chapter, ‘The
End of Organised Capitalism’. Michael Rustin’s
contribution, ‘The Trouble with New Times’ (pp. 30320), is a forceful socialist rebuttal of many of the ‘New
Times’ tenets.

Nava, p. 167.

McRobbie, p. 40. McRobbie offers a more tentative
and (in my view) more scrupulous review of many of
the issues Nava raises.

The best discussion of these questions is in Kate Soper,

acknowledges their importance, though in my view her
comments on them are rather superficial, not least
when she notes approvingly that rock musicians who
endorse Green causes may make them more
fashionable and so redeem them from their association
with ‘sandals and renunciation’ (Nava, p. 198).

See Valentine Cunningham, British Writers of the
Thirties, Oxford, 1988, for an exhaustive placing of
1930s’ intellectuals and writers in their cultural and
intertextual setting. See also J. Clark and others,
Culture and Crisis in Britain in the Thirties, London,
1984; and F. Gloversmith, ed., Class, Culture and
Social Change: A New View of the 1930s, London,

‘Boys’ Weeklies’ is in Volume 1, pp. 505ff., and ‘The
Art of Donald McGill’ in Volume 2, pp. 183ff., of
Orwell’s Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters,
London, 1970.

22. See especially Cunningham, chapters 7-11.

23. Charles Gavan Durry, ‘The Revival of Irish Literature’,
in C.G. Duffy and others, The Revival of Irish
Literature, 1893, reprinted New York, 1973, p. 12. See
Peter Burke, Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe,
London, 1978 (especially Chapter 1).

24. References are to the parallel text edition of The
Prelude, edited by J.C. Maxwell, Harmondsworth
(revised edn, 1988). Incidental information is drawn
from Maxwell’s editorial material, and quotations are
from the 1805 text; as the latter are all from Book VII,
I give line numbers only.

25. Prelude, 11. 695f.

26. Ibid., 11. 708-40.

27. See W.H. Auden, ‘A Communist to Others’, subsequently disowned by Auden, but reprinted in R.

Skelton, ed., Poetry of the Thirties, Harmondsworth,
1964, p. 54, and C. Day Lewis, ‘Newsreel’, in Skelton,
p. 69; Tony Bennett, ‘A Thousand and One Troubles:

Blackpool Pleasure Beach’, in Jameson and others,
Formations of Pleasure, pp. 138f.; John Fiske, Reading
the Popular, Boston MA and London, 1989, p. 93.

28. F.R. Leavis, Mass Civilisation and Minority Culture,
London, 1930.

29. Prelude, 11. 435f.; the passage as a whole is at lines

30. Ibid., 11. 382-405.

31. Duffy, p. 49; T.H. Mason, The Islands of Ireland,
London, 1950 (third edn), p. 75; The Waste Land, 11.


32. Louis MacNeice, Collected Poems, London, 1979,

33. Peter Sta11ybrass and A110n White, The Politics and
Poetics of Transgression, London, 1986.

34. McRobbie, pp. 102-4 – drawing, as she acknowledges,
on Susan Buck-Morss’s edition/compilation, The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades
Project, Cambridge MA, 1989. Nava (p. 191) makes a
related point when she comments that the debate on
pornography has ‘very definite echoes’ of the wider
debate on hedonism, pleasure and consumption.

35. In Jameson, ‘Plea~ure: A Political Issue’, p. 4.

Photographs on pp. 28 and 31: Karen Knorr, from
Belgravia (1979-1981) and Gentlemen (1981-1983).

Reprinted with permission.

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