The Feminine Middlebrow Novel, 1920s to 1950s
Class, Domesticity, and Bohemianism
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reassessed. Aiming to rehabilitate the feminine middlebrow, Nicola Humble argues that the novels of writers such as Rosamund Lehmann, Elizabeth Taylor, Stella Gibbons, Nancy Mitford, and a host of others less well known, played a powerful role in establishing and consolidating, but also in resisting, new
class and gender identities in this period of volatile change for both women and the middle classes. The work of over thirty novelists is covered, read alongside other discourses as diverse as cookery books, child-care manuals, and the reports of Mass Observation. Investigating the nature of the feminine middlebrow and its readers, the author considers its variously radical and conservative remakings of ideas of class, the home, the family and gender. Defining her period as running from the end
of the first world war to the mid-1950s, she challenges the prevailing convention that sees the second world war as effecting a decisive ideological and cultural break, and offers a revision to the way we currently map the changing politics of femininity and the domestic in the twentieth century.
The first work to insist on the centrality of the concept of the middlebrow in understanding the women's writing of this period, The Feminine Middlebrow Novel uncovers a literature simultaneously snobbish and bohemian, daring and conventional, marked by an ideological flexibility that is the product of its paradoxical allegiance to both domesticity and a radical sophistication.