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Off to the PicturesCinemagoing, Women's Writing and Movie Culture in Interwar Britain$
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Lisa Stead

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780748694884

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748694884.001.0001

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Middlebrow Modernity: Class, Cinema-going and Selfhood

Middlebrow Modernity: Class, Cinema-going and Selfhood

(p.69) Chapter 3 Middlebrow Modernity: Class, Cinema-going and Selfhood
Off to the Pictures

Lisa Stead

Edinburgh University Press

The chapter explores the presence of cinema in middlebrow literary fictions, looking at how cinemagoing features in the depiction of middle-class life in feminine middlebrow literature specifically in novels by Winifred Holtby, Elizabeth Bowen, Stella Gibbons and others. It argues that such writings crafted references to cinema fictions and cinema cultures as a tool for constructing a gendered cultural commentary on middle-class life in the interwar period. They used cinema to influence, invoke or challenge readers’ attitudes to questions of British women’s middle-class identities, duties and social place. Middlebrow writers used the act of going to the pictures as a fictional arena for interrogating the real-world impact of cinematic leisure cultures. They did so in a period during which the formation of public and private class-based identities was enacted in part through leisure and consumer activities. Watching the screen, watching others around you and being conscious of one’s self being watched in that space emerges as a recurrent theme in these texts. In this way, writing about cinema-going opened a window on to the complexities and pressures inherent within gendered and class identities by enabling filmic representations to blend and interact with the fictionalisation of being inside the cinema space.

Keywords:   cinemagoing, middle-classes, modernity, femininity, middlebrow, women’s writing, rural cinema, regional cinema, leisure, reading

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