In an era obsessed with celebrity and glamour, ‘sophistication’ has come to be perceived as the most desirable of human qualities but it was not always so. In this fascinating book Faye Hammill explores how a word that once meant falsification and perversion came to be regarded as signifying discrimination and refinement. Hammill provides a literary, linguistic and cultural route from the Romantics, via the emergence of the Dandy and then of Modernism, to that most sophisticated of figures, Noel Coward, and on to the meaning of sophistication in the twenty-first century. Ranging widely across historical documents, magazines, adverts, films and novels, this path-breaking book will be compulsory reading for sophisticates and scholars.
Original in focus, critically nuanced and written with humour and élan, Sophistication: A Literary and Cultural History is smart, subtle and intelligent; much like its subject.
Deborah Longworth, Times Higher Education
Hammill’s highly original work has impressive breadth – roughly from 18th century to the present – and covers an remarkable number of the essential literary texts on the topic from Sheridan and Jane Austen to Sophia Coppola.
Aaron Jaffe, University of Louisville
A book for those interested in how cultural values and therefore human behavior change over time. Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students and above.
Choice, Vol. 48, No. 5
Each chapter is rich with fresh observations that make this book a pleasure to read. At every moment, the reader feels in the hands of a trusted guide whose well-written prose offers a helpful template for sorting through a mass of diverse literature.
An innovative, well-written and clearly structured book, well-researched in terms of literary and cultural history... Its principal contribution is the establishment of productive links between the study of literature, fashion and technology in a wide historical scope, from Sentimentalism to late Modernism. This makes the book a unique contribution to both literary and cultural studies.
ESSE 2012 Judging Panel (Winner of 2012 Book Award for Literatures in the English Language)