High Brow, Low Brow


This exercise has students explore the postwar notions of high brow and low brow by ranking and discussing various cultural items.

The previous week, the students had read several articles from the 1940s and 50s about the concepts of highbrow, middlebrow, lowbrow, avant-garde, and kitsch. At the start of section, the instructor put students into groups and asked them to rank items on a powerpoint slide from lowest to highest brow. After 5-10 minutes, they reconvened as a class to debate their rankings. The point of the exercise was to spark discussion about what those concepts meant for each of the different authors, and to get students debating about how much (or how little) these postwar ideas about art and culture still persist in our own era.  Click "Resources" for the power point.