Sophistication and Speech in British Middlebrow Fiction, 1929-1952

Daniel, Krista. Sophistication and Speech in British Middlebrow Fiction, 1929-1952. 2020. University of Washington, PhD dissertation.

Novel Aspirations: Sophistication and Speech in British Middlebrow Fiction, 1929-1952 uses cultural and literary sophistication to uncover the complexities of reading and writing the middlebrow in Britain after the Great War through the mid-century. This dissertation argued that two main modes of being sophisticated coexisted uneasily during modernism. Sophistication that pursued the fashionable new I term popular sophistication; it emerged in Britain after World War I in conjunction with the rapidly ascending middle class’s fervent pursuit of social and cultural capital. This mode challenged the established category of sophistication as elite, discriminating taste, which I term traditional sophistication. Pursuing sophistication changed how people spoke and what they assumed the goal of speaking to be;informal speech in Britain changed radically, rapidly, and cyclicallyduring this period. By reading select novels by Evelyn Waugh, Nancy Mitford, E.M. Delafield, and Barbara Pym, my dissertation chapters explore how British middlebrow novels various engaged popular and traditional sophistication. My dissertation reads sophistication’s upheavals, specifically in relation to character speech, in the context of readers’ domestic concerns and social aspirations.

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