‘A serious writer with a message’

John Baxendale

in Priestley's England

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print July 2007 | ISBN: 9780719072864
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781700662 | DOI:
‘A serious writer with a message’

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This chapter discusses Priestley as a serious writer with a message. Situating Priestley in the literary culture of his time, it argues that far from being an old-fashioned writer he was in many ways a very modern one. It was in his fame and popularity, his omnipresence in the developing mass media, that much of this modernity lay. It also investigates the idea of the ‘middlebrow’, its origins in the cultural warfare of the 1920s and 1930s, and its implications for literary and cultural values. It argues that Priestley, like other so-called middlebrows, was pursuing one of the writer's time-honoured duties: to provide a critical commentary on contemporary society for a wide audience. This multifaceted democratic debate is the underlying theme of Priestley's long writing career.

Keywords: serious writer; Priestley; literary culture; cultural values; contemporary society

Chapter.  13854 words. 

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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