Magazines, Travel and Middlebrow Culture in Canada 1925-1960

About the Project

This website is part of the research project, 'Magazines, Travel and Middlebrow Culture in Canada, 1925-1960.' The project was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council from 2011 to 2013, and is a collaboration with the Canadian Writing Research Collaboratory. Ongoing work is being funded by the Foundation for Canadian Studies in the UK (2015-16). The website is designed to provide insight into six Canadian periodicals that contributed towards the development of Canadian middlebrow culture: Mayfair, La Revue Moderne, Canadian Home Journal, Chatelaine, La Revue Populaire, and Maclean's.  Text on these pages is © 'Magazines, Travel and Middlebrow Culture in Canada 1925-1960' Project.

The site offers information on each magazine's publishing history, presented in timeline and narrative format. We also adding detail on authors (including bibliographies of their publications in our chosen magazines) on an ongoing basis. The online exhibit of digitised materials includes an example issue for each magazine, together with sample articles, illustrations and covers, tables of contents, and advertisements (further materials are available via the CWRC repository). Our visualisations include a map of the travel destinations featured in different periods, and interactive timelines. We have catalogued items listed in the tables of contents for selected issues of Mayfair and La Revue Moderne, producing a searchable database of content that is hosted by CWRC.

Findings from this project were presented in the form of a book, special journal issue and conference papers.  The research tests the hypothesis that travel is a part of the middlebrow, aspirant psyche – a symbol of achievement, cultural literacy, savoir-faire and personal means – and that magazines are key to creating a link between travel and upward mobility.  Focusing on the area of the Canadian periodical market which falls between 'little magazines' and mass-circulation pulps or tabloids, we investigated strategies used by advertisers, feature writers and fiction editors to present travel as a marker of distinction and cosmopolitanism.  The project examines how periodicals usually associated with domesticity (e.g. Canadian Home Journal; La Revue Populaire) actually provided a vicarious experience of the foreign, but we also theorise that conservative middlebrow publications were concerned to render the foreign less threatening.  They therefore favoured cities such as London, Paris and New York, which seemed to combine a sophistication unavailable in Canada with the familiarity derived from a common language and history.

We selected the six titles featured here because of the keen insights they can offer into the development of middlebrow culture.  These particular periodicals were at their peak in the years 1925-60.  This is not a coincidence; rather, we argue, the texts and tastes circulated via such periodicals were instrumental in constructing the middlebrow.   Middlebrow culture is an especially exciting area of interdisciplinary study.  The term dates back to 1925 when Punch defined middlebrows as 'people who are hoping that some day they will get used to the stuff they ought to like.'  These days, cultural historians, scholars of print culture, and literary, film, art and music critics - many of whom have met and collaborated through the Middlebrow Network - are engaged in re-evaluating the institutions of middlebrow culture in the context of debates about taste, class, and self-improvement.  Important discussions centre on whether 'middlebrow' can usefully refer to an area of cultural production, or only to audiences and reception practices.  This contested term brings with it precisely the 'cultural baggage' which interests us.

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Arts and Humanities Research CouncilUniversity of Strathclyde CWRC