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139 Reviews neat template.The governing trope of the brute does tend to efface important distinctions within the very broad field of non-elite language use; even the most aggressive polemics against mass fiction recognize important disjunctions between popular authors and beasts.The project also would profit from more attention to linguistic awareness as an aspect of form as well as theme. Ferguson discovers relations of language and identity represented in surprising variety, but she offers much less sense of how these relations might be enacted in style itself. Still, the range and perceptiveness of this study make it a major contribution to the ongoing reconsideration of popular fiction of the past century—a project in which, as Ferguson reminds us, the very nature of literature and language is always at issue. Ja m es Eli A da ms Cornell University • Music Hall and Modernity: the Late Victorian Discovery of Popular Culture by Barry J. Faulk; pp. ix-xii + 244. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2004. $42.95 cloth. Focusing on writings by, among others,Arthur Symons, Elizabeth Robins Pennell, Hall Caine, and Max Beerbohm, Barry Faulk’s thoughtful study is concerned not so much with the music hall per se but with “the discourse produced by the metropolitan intelligentsia at the moment when the music hall reached its commercial peak” (2). Faulk contends that the shift from an essentially working-class music hall to a more broadly based “variety” generated a new class of professional cultural critic, anxious to parade its expert status and to establish interpretative hegemony within this particular field of popular culture. Whereas much early music-hall scholarship (and some more recent) was much exercised as to whether these writers were correct in seeing the earlier, more proletarian halls as an authentic “mirror” of English working-class life, Faulk instead ponders the significance and consequence of this early and key example of “a narrative of cultural rise and decline” (2). Much of his discussion is concerned with the strategies that these “literary intellectuals” adopted in order to define themselves as ”professionals” (he regards professionalism as a“hallmark of British modernity” [4]) against their “amateur” interpretative opponents. After an introduction and opening chapter that set out his main themes, approaches, and arguments, the book offers a series of case studies on the music hall journalism of Arthur Symons, the 1894 Empire promenade controversy, the fictional treatment of the music-hall performer, and the reaction to the tableau vivant craze that followed the visit of Edward Kilyani’s company to the PalaceTheatre in 1893.These largely consist of very close readings of often quite victorian review • Volume 33 Number 1 140 slim and ephemeral material, and at times, especially in the first two chapters, I wondered whether these sources could survive either the intensity of such scrutiny or the weight of theoretical rumination that was hung upon them; I sometimes worried about my own strength as well. However, I ultimately found myself glad to have lasted the bumpier parts of the journey. Certainly, the book is never completely convincing. Faulk tends to generality in both his definitions —his “intelligentsia” are not properly defined or demonstrated to have had much sense of self-recognition—and in his findings. Once again, small foundations have to carry heavy loads.The attempt by his writers to establish cultural authority was, apparently, a strategy to “write themselves into a new class of managers” (5).An analysis of an interview between Symons and the dancer“Cyrene” argues that Symons’s willingness to allow his interviewee to demonstrate her own expertise and cultural knowledge shows his“confidence that aesthetic professionalism encompasses both the reporter and the celebrity,” thus indicating“a shift away from the mid-Victorian social order to modernity” (191). In a similar sweeping vein, Faulk states that “the bourgeois takeover of the music hall expanded and thereby transformed the values of the new class that appropriated the entertainment” (187). All these claims are intriguing, and they may prove to be justifiable.Too often, however, confident assertion is preferred to necessary circumspection. He is also too anxious to fit all his material into the master narrative of the“rise of the new critic”; his dramatis...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 139-141
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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