“Edna Ferber and the Problems of the Middlebrow” considers the career of one of the most popular writers of the twentieth century, Edna Ferber, in terms of a mode of writing sometimes called “middlebrow.” Through a middle-distance reading of several of her best novels, it argues that Ferber used the very strategies of her work that predicated both her mid-twentieth-century success and her current relative obscurity to simultaneously criticize and entertain the American middle class. This essay shows how the protest invariably at the core of Ferber’s novels could be deployed as an asset, rather than a liability, for attracting her tremendous mass appeal.


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