Am I a Snob?: Modernism and the Novel (Paperback)Sean Latham (author)
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Is there a "great divide" between highbrow and mass cultures? Are modernist novels for, by, and about snobs? What might Lord Peter Wimsey, Mrs. Dalloway, and Stephen Dedalus have to say to one another?Sean Latham's appealingly written book "Am I a Snob?" traces the evolution of the figure of the snob through the works of William Makepeace Thackeray, Oscar Wilde, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, and Dorothy Sayers. Each of these writers played a distinctive role in the transformation of the literary snob from a vulgar social climber into a master of taste. In the process, some novelists and their works became emblems of sophistication, treated as if they were somehow apart from or above the fiction of the popular marketplace, while others found a popular audience. Latham argues that both coterie writers like Joyce and popular novelists like Sayers struggled desperately to combat their own pretensions. By portraying snobs in their novels, they attempted to critique and even transform the cultural and economic institutions that they felt isolated them from the broad readership they desired.Latham regards the snobbery that emerged from and still clings to modernism not as an unfortunate by-product of aesthetic innovation, but as an ongoing problem of cultural production. Drawing on the tools and insights of literary sociology and cultural studies, he traces the nineteenth-century origins of the "snob," then explores the ways in which modernist authors developed their own snobbery as a means of coming to critical consciousness regarding the connections among social, economic, and cultural capital. The result, Latham asserts, is a modernism directly engaged with the cultural marketplace yet deeply conflicted about the terms of its success.
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Number of pages: 256
Weight: 567 g
Dimensions: 229 x 152 x 15 mm
"The book is extremely readable, and its subject matter is so that undergraduates as well as the most informed modernist scholars will find it offers original and helpful insights. Latham uses the question Virginia Woolf posed in the title of a paper she delivered privately to her Bloomsbury friends-Am I a snob?-which invites one to become an integral part of the meaning-making process at the same time it instructs, informs, and promotes collaboration between reader and author. Latham's book is therefore a valuable pedagogical tool and an important critical contribution to Woolf and modernist studies."-- Shannon Forbes * Woolf Studies Annual *
"Because Latham addresses the important question of elitism inherent in modernism and, in particular interest to us readers of this periodical, the elitist aura of intellectual snobbery in the marketing and reading of Joyce's works. Joyce is both an ideal test case for Latham's analysis of the elitist and the marketplace and the best proof of his argument. Latham succeeds in his claims, to his credit and to our discomfort.... In this convincing and perceptive book, Latham demonstrates that the readers of this journal are snobs."-- Roy Gottfried * James Joyce Literary Supplement *
"In this concise work on the relationship between snobbery and modernism, Latham traces the transformation of the word snob, which once meant a lower-class person trying to copy his superiors and now means a person aware of artistic values.... Although some of Latham's observations are highly debatable, they are always intriguing and thought-provoking. Recommended for literature collections at academic and larger public libraries."* Library Journal *
"Sean Latham provides a concrete, nuanced account of the ways modernist literature confronts itself from the start as an economic, and not merely an aesthetic, phenomenon. He shows that the most searching texts of literary modernism are those that begin to achieve a reflexive knowledge of snobbery, which is to say, a level of self-knowledge as regards their own participation in the collective scramble for scarce rewards that is euphemistically known as 'culture.'"-- James F. English, University of Pennsylvania
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