John Summers and Louis Menand


Masscult and Midcult:
Essays Against the American Grain


October 20, 2011
7:00 PM


Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138


This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store is very pleased to welcome local intellectual and editor of The Baffler JOHN SUMMERS along with Harvard literature professor LOUIS MENAND for a conversation about the new collection of essays by critic Dwight Macdonald, Masscult and Midcult: Essays Against the American Grain.

Political radical and trenchant essayist Dwight Macdonald (1906–1982) was one of the towering figures of twentieth-century American letters. A prominent member of the group known as the New York Intellectuals, he served as the editor of first Partisan Review then and his own journal, Politics. He later became a staff writer for The New Yorker, Esquire’s film critic, and a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books.

In his most famous and controversial essay, “Masscult and Midcult,” Macdonald turns his formidable critical attention to what he sees as a new, and potentially catastrophic, development in the history of Western civilization: the influence—by turns distorting, destructive, and inadvertently ridiculous—of mass culture on high culture. In this new collection of essays, ranging in subject matter from Ernest Hemingway, James Agee, and Tom Wolfe to Webster’s Dictionary and the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Macdonald is shrewd, passionate, and bracingly alive to the complexities of his subject, which he defines as being “not the dead sea of masscult but rather the life of the tide line where higher and lower organisms compete for survival.”

This new collection of essays, published by New York Review of Books, is edited by John Summers, with introduction by Louis Menand.

John Summers
John Summers

John Summers

John Summers is editor of The Baffler. He writes and lectures widely on American history and culture.

Louis Menand
Louis Menand

Louis Menand

Louis Menand is the Robert M. and Anne T. Bass Professor of English and American Literature and Language at Harvard University, and a staff writer at The New Yorker.

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes

As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.

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