Word Origin Comics: By the Sweat of Our Brows We Shall Know Thee

At present the distinction [between highbrow and lowbrow books] is certainly used to allow us the satisfaction of despising certain authors and readers without imposing on us the labour of showing that they are bad.

Another common way of using the distinction tends to fix on "popular" as the best adjective for class A [i.e. lowbrow books]. "Popular' art is supposed to aim at mere entertainment, while 'real' or 'serious' art aims at some more specific 'artistic' or 'aesthetic' or even 'spiritual' satisfaction.

This is an attractive view because it would give those who hold it a ground for maintaining that popular literature has its own good or bad, according to its own rules, distinct from those of Literature proper.

[...] And since I observe that many my highest-browed acquaintances spend much of their time in talking of the vulgarity of popular art, and therefore must know it well, and could not have acquired that knowledge unless they enjoyed it, I must assume that they would welcome a theory which justified them in drinking freely of that fountain without forfeiting their superiority

-- C. S. Lewis, "High and Low Brows"


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