'Betwixt and Between': Towards a (N)ontology of the Mediocre

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The mediocre - or what constituted mediocrity - was a matter of intense debate in late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century Britain. Cultural commentators, popular writers, satirists and members of the public all attempted to define the mediocre without success. Characterized by the average, the fair, the middling, the mediocre's very unremarkability made it remarkably difficult to define.

In reference to modern newspaper articles and criticism, this essay moves towards a (n)ontology of the mediocre, examining the (failure of the) strategies used to define the mediocre in the modern(ist) period. It argues that the mediocre, in its dogged desire not to shake the status quo, perversely disrupts the very idea or possibility of definition, not only calling established systems of cultural and social classification into question, but also challenging accepted notions of singularity, essence and beingness in the process.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12-24
JournalWord and Text
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Modernism
  • middlebrow
  • genealogy
  • cultural history
  • deconstruction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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