High & Low

American audiences look fonder on European writers than European writers look at American audiences. I’m familiar with the stereotypical view held by some Europeans—that American writing was crude, uncultured, unrefined. Although I am unsure of many details about when/how that view arose, its effects seem apparent in the contents of The Dial and The Criterion. The only “American” in The Criterion issue that we read for today is T.S. Eliot. But since he becomes naturalized as an Englishman, his identification with the States is minimal. He’s an expatriate after all. One of the only mentions of the States in The Criterion is when Larbaud mentions the censorship of Ulysses that occurs here. In The Dial Americans audiences (and editors) look eastward affectionately, importing the writings of Yeats, Picasso, Loy, to name a few.

I’m interested in the ways in which American writing and artwork was seen as low (or at least commercial, and how that disdain for commerciality may reflect some pre-capitalist, European notion of national character). Like, I get it. I love Chipotle, but I feel foolish when I go to Chipotle the day they send me an email that offers me free guac.

Anyway, I need to eat lunch. My main point is, this affectionate gaze is perennial and visible in magazines that embellish British musical acts after the Second World War, and especially in the 1960s. We still see that gaze in American eyes today.

I would guess this cultural admiration is filial and “original” (in a limited sense), but I’d like to think about the intersections between nationality—especially across the Atlantic, but not limited thereto—and concepts of high/low art. I especially find it interesting that the American lawyer, John Quinn, was involved (financially if I remember) in publishing The Waste Land and patronized Joyce for a time.

Finance is America’s high art—letters are Europe’s?


This is an interesting transatlantic relation. I wonder what might be made of BLAST magazine's praise of American art as primal and brutal (see p. 82 of the July 1915 "War Number": https://modjourn.org/issue/bdr430768/).