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The arts constitute a form of cultural consumption that has been relatively neglected in recent academic discourse in comparison to the burgeoning literature of cultural studies dedicated to popular and mass media forms of culture. This emphasis within cultural studies on popular genres over traditional forms of art, what has been labelled its ‘cultural populism’ (Mc Guigan, 1992), systematically emphasises common, ordinary taste and resistant aesthetic strategies while denigrating ‘high culture’ as an elitist, middle class leisure pursuit that has little relevance to most people (Willis, 1990). Going against this populist tide, this chapter argues that an examination of popular cultural consumption must crucially incorporate the category of the middlebrow within its analysis. The purpose of this chapter is to explore the middle ground of arts consumption in Ireland, an area of mainstream consensus which incorporates aspects of both popular and high culture.
O'Neill, B.:The Arts Show Audience: Cultural Confidence and Middlebrow Arts Consumption. In Mary J Kelly and Barbara O’Connor (eds.) Media Audiences in Ireland: Power and Cultural Identity, Dublin: UCD Press.