Aired: February 15, 2014

Brow Anxiety

The Canary Murder Case (1929)
The Canary Murder Case (1929)

During the 1910s and 1920s, the question of whether one was “highbrow” or “lowbrow” became a concern in the minds of modernist Americans. Brooks Hefner (James Madison University) says this “brow anxiety” dominated the career of Willard Huntington Wright, who fancied himself an intellectual aristocrat while secretly writing a series of wildly popular detective stories under the pseudonym S.S. Van Dine. And: When Christopher McGee (Longwood University) first discovered the Hardy Boys books as a child, he had no idea the author, Franklin W. Dixon, was fictitious and that the books were written by ghostwriters. McGee, who now teaches children’s mystery, tells the story of this popular series’ creation and changes through the years.

Later in the show: The Golden Age of Radio refers to a period lasting from the proliferation of radio broadcasting in the early 1920s until television’s replacement of radio as the primary home entertainment medium. During this period, entire families would gather round and listen together to their favorite shows. Bill Kovarik (Radford University) looks at the history of radio and its effects on American politics and popular culture. Also featured: Local sports segments have been a mainstay on television news for decades, but they might be disappearing. Former sportscaster Jeff Halliday (Longwood University) recently surveyed network-affiliated TV sports personnel across the country and found a bleak picture—one that includes fewer jobs, reduced air time, and lots of anxiety.


  • Brow Anxiety – web extra

    phrenology1Do you know where the terms “highbrow”, “lowbrow”, “well rounded” and “shrink” came from?  The article The Shape of Your Head and the Shape of Your Mind discusses how these and more phrases trace their roots to phrenology.

  • Brow Anxiety feature

    A&E TV series, Duck Dynasty, is the most-watched nonfiction cable series EVER.  But it also gets a lot of criticism, particularly from what might be considered “highbrow” media.  Reporter Allison Quantz looks to the past to see just how thin the line is between lowbrow and highbrow entertainment.


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