• The origins of the broadbrow: Hugh Walpole and Russian modernism in 1917

      Poesio, Giannandrea; Weedon, Alexis (John Hopkins University Press, 2019-10-23)
      In 1914 the English writer Hugh Walpole travelled to Russia. His diaries, fragments of autobiography and two novels written at the time The Dark Forest and The Secret City vividly record a world of artistic as well as political tension in the theatre, the ballet, circus and wrestling matches he attended in Petrograd and Moscow and of the Eastern front in Galicia while serving in the Russian Red Cross. He went on to establish the Anglo-Russian bureau there to counter German propaganda. Guided by his friends Mikhail Lykiardopoulos and Konstantin Somov, Walpole socialised with some of the leading representatives of Russia’s new culture, such as Sologub, Glazunov, Scriabin and stars such as Tamara Karsavina and attended the famous Moscow Arts Theatre. Walpole’s exposure to the breadth of Russian culture was formative in his definition of the broadbrow and his attitude to cultural production. Firstly, the paper argues that the ‘battle of the brows’ between the lowbrow, highbrow, and middlebrow in periodical press in the 1920s belies the richer qualities of the term whose meaning had deeper resonances in the 19th century and early years of the 20th century. Secondly, it argues that in Walpole’s and H.G. Wells’ definition embraced an aspiration to be open to all experiences and to all knowledge which engendered a noble and broad view of life. Finally, it argues that the term became an important one for the emerging mediums of radio and film as way of engaging and enlightening audiences of every kind. Dedicated to the memory of Dr Giannandrea Poesio, this work is testament to his scholarship in Russian ballet and the arts. The article was completed for publication by Alexis Weedon following the authors’ collaboration on the research, writing and co-presentation of the paper at the Laughing and Coping: Entertainment in WW1 conference March 2016 and the Postgraduate symposium May 2016 University of Bedfordshire. Acknowledgements: Weedon’s archival research in The Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations in 2016 was funded by Research Institute for Media, Art and Performance, University of Bedfordshire, with grateful thanks to Dr Giannandrea Poesio Director of the Institute. Hugh Walpole was one of ten authors identified for the AHRC funded project ‘Cross-media co-operation in Britain in 1920s and 1930s’ (AR 112216) and Weedon’s work here is a follow-on from this project.