Ravenstein Seminar 2016 – Cultural Hierarchies and Practices of Middlebrow Culture

Date: January 27-29, 2016
Venue: University of Amsterdam
Credits: 5-6 ECTS (RMA-students and PhD candidates)
Open to: PhD Candidates and RMa Students, who are a member of a Dutch Graduate Research School (onderzoekschool). PhD Candidates and RMa Students who are members of OSL will have first access.
Registration: PhD Programme / RMa Programme
THE RMa PROGRAMME IS FULLY BOOKED, RMa, please send us an e-mail with your name, university and research school. We will put you on our waiting list.

Organizers: Erica van Boven (RUG), Mathijs Sanders (RU), Meriel Benjamins (RUG), Ryanne Keltjens (RUG), Pieter Verstraeten (RUG), Alex Rutten (OU)
Speakers (in alphabetical order): Ann Ardis (University of Delaware), Chris Baldick (Goldsmiths, University of London), Dirk de Geest (KU Leuven ), Nicola Humble (University of Roehampton), Lise Jaillant (University of Manchester), Adriaan van der Weel (Leiden University), Emma West (Cardiff University)


This conference will focus on the formation, shape and impact of cultural hierarchies on western literature in the twentieth and twenty-first century. The conference aims to complicate existing views of the genealogy and functioning of cultural hierarchies by exploring hitherto largely neglected practices and discourses. The interactions between various forms of high and low culture will be given a special emphasis, as well as middlebrow culture as a distinct cultural sphere with its own protocols and practices.

The conference will be preceded by an introductory workshop for RMA-students held by prof. Erica van Boven and dr. Mathijs Sanders on Wednesday, January 27. The purpose of this one-day workshop is to introduce graduate students to the topic of this year’s Ravenstein Seminar and prepare them for participation in the seminar on the following two days.

* Please note the following changes to the previously announced program: Due to unforeseen circumstances, Ann Ardis and Nicola Humble will not be able to attend to conference.


Day 1 – Introductory workshop (only for RMA-students!)
Wednesday, January 27, 2016 – 9:00 – 17:00
Venue: University of Amsterdam – Bungehuis, room 4.01
Spuistraat 210, Amsterdam
Organisation: Mathijs Sanders (Radboud University) and Erica van Boven (University of Groningen)

The purpose of this one-day workshop is to introduce OSL RMA-students to the topic of this year’s Ravenstein Winter School and to prepare them for active participation in the seminar on the following two days. To this end we will read and discuss passages from seminal texts on cultural hierarchies and middlebrow culture and key publications of the speakers presenting at the conference. The discussions in the workshop will produce a set of questions and critical observations that the students can contribute to the conference meetings and use as starting points for their conference portfolios.

9.30 – 10.00 Registration and coffee
10.00 – 11.00 Introduction to the topic of the seminar incl discussion about the chapters by Huyssen (Erica van Boven & Mathijs Sanders)
11.00 – 11.15 Coffee break
11.15 – 12.30 Discussion of the texts from chapter 2. (The Literary Market) and 3. (Cases 1) in workgroups; preparation of questions for the conference
12.30 – 13.00 Summary of the results of the workgroups
13.00 – 14.00 Lunch
14.00 – 15.15 Discussion of the texts from chapter 4. (Cases 2) and 5. (Theoretical Reflections) in workgroups; preparation of questions for the conference
15.15 – 15.30 Coffee break
15.30 – 16.00 Plenary discussion and summary of the results of the workgroups
16.00 – 16.30 Remaining questions, recapitulation and conclusions

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Day 2 – Media and Institutions (first conference day)
Thursday, January 28, 2016 – 10:00–17:00
Venue: University of Amsterdam – Bungehuis, room 0.04
Spuistraat 210, Amsterdam
Theme: Media and Institutions
Chair: Stephan Besser (University of Amsterdam)

On the first day of the conference, we will discuss the role of media and institutions in spreading of culture and knowledge and in contributing to the establishment of new cultural practices. The twentieth century saw significant changes in the media landscape, such as the unparalleled growth of (popular) magazines and newspapers, the increased use of illustrations and photographs, the rise of new media and institutions, mainly radio, television and the Internet, accessible educational programs and the movie industry. Key questions include: How did the rise of these new media and institutions or significant changes in existing media challenge contemporary hierarchies during the twentieth or twenty-first century? How did these changes facilitate the creation of new literary (sub)cultures?

9.00-9.30 Registration and Coffee

9.30-9.45 Welcome and introduction (Erica van Boven)

9.45- 11.00 Chris Baldick (Goldsmiths, University of London)
‘The Power of the Press in the Formation of British Middlebrow Culture’
Respondent: Alex Rutten

Coffee break

11.15-12.30 Adriaan van der Weel (Leiden University)
‘Tensions in the Early-Twentieth-century Democratisation of Reading Culture’
Respondent: Mathijs Sanders

12.30-14.00 Lunch

Lise Jaillant (University of Manchester)
‘Middlebrow Pleasure: Publisher’s Series, Hedonism and Hierarchy’
Respondent: Meriel Benjamins

15.15-15.30 Coffee break

15.30-16.45 Emma West (Cardiff University)
“What the Public Wants’: Strategies of Cultural Positioning in Interwar British Magazines’
Respondent: Ryanne Keltjens

Drinks and dinner at Brakke Grond

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Day 3 – Texts and Discourses (second conference day)
Friday, January 29, 2016 – 10:00–16:00

Venue: University of Amsterdam – Bungehuis, room 0.04
Spuistraat 210, Amsterdam
Theme: Texts and Discourses
Chair: Kate Macdonald (University of Reading)

During the second day, we want to look closely at the texts and discourses that are involved in the creation of cultural hierarchies or are typical of certain (sub)cultures. Instead of approaching cultural hierarchies primarily in terms of the media or institutions that produced them, we will consider the intrinsic textual properties and characteristics of literary objects, such as novels, book review, short stories, feuilletons, essays and advertisements. The central objective of this day will not be to classify these texts or enlist their defining stylistic characteristics, but to situate them in a larger discursive context and economy. Key questions include: How did these texts relate to different notions of genre? What can textual analysis tell us about how they were produced and distributed and how they tried to reach specific reader audiences?

10.00-11.15 Tom Perrin (Huntingdon College)
‘The Stakes of Form: Why Close-Read Middlebrow Texts?’
Respondent: Erica van Boven

11.15-11.30 Coffee break

11.30-12.45 Dirk de Geest (KU Leuven)
‘Regional Literature as Middlebrow?’
Respondent: Mathijs Sanders

12.45-14.00 Lunch

14.00-15.15 Pieter Verstraeten (University of Groningen)
‘From Adventure Tales to Literature (and Back). Domesticity and Adventure in the Dutch Middlebrow Novel’
Respondent: to be announced

15.15 Closure

More information: https://ravensteinseminar.wordpress.com/