Richard Hoggart (1918-2014); Biography and his famous work ‘The Uses of Literacy’

Richard Hoggart (1918-2014) is a Left-wing British literary historian and sociologist, cultural critic who was instrumental in establishing Cultural Studies. He was born and educated in Leeds. Hoggart was with the Royal Artillery during World War II, reaching the rank of captain. Hoggart’s first academic job was as a tutor in adult education at the University of Hull, a position he held from 1946 until 1959. It was during these years that he wrote the semi-autobiographical work for which he is still best known today: The Uses of Literacy (1957). It was originally titled The Abuses of Literacy. The book started out as a collection of related essays and lectures about changes in working class culture, particularly in relation to publications aimed at a “mass” market (such as newspapers, magazines, and sex and violence paperbacks) A bestseller at the time, it was influential for two main reasons: firstly, it broke with the Leavisite tradition’s emphasis on high culture and demonstrated that there was an authentic working-class culture worthy of consideration; second, it argued that this tradition of working-class culture (which was his own) was under threat of destruction from imported American popular culture.

From Hull, he moved briefly to the University of Leicester and from there to Birmingham University in 1962. There, together with Stuart Hall, he founded the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, which is regarded by many as the birthplace of Cultural Studies as an academic discipline. He directed the centre for a decade, then took a three-year position with UNESCO, and finished his academic career as warden of Goldsmith’s College in London. Hoggart retired in 1984, but maintained an active publishing schedule for many years, producing several further works reflecting on the state of British cultural traditions.

Also read; John Langshaw Austin (1911-1960) British philosopher of language