Sociology of Art and Literature: Richard Hoggart’s Uses of Literature

Richard Hoggart (born September 24, 1918) was a British academic who specialized in the study of literature and culture.

was a Staff Tutor at the University of Hull from 1946 to 1959, and published his first book, a study of W. H. Auden’s poetry, in 1951.

His major work, The Uses of Literacy: Changing Patterns in English Mass Culture, was published in 1957.

Partly autobiography, the volume lamented the loss of authentic working class popular culture in Britain, and denounced the imposition of mass culture through advertising, media and Americanization.

He became Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Leicester from 1959 to 1962. Hoggart was an expert witness at the Lady Chatterley trial in 1960, arguing that it was an essentially moral and “puritan” work, which merely repeated words he had heard on a building site on his way to the court. His testimony is viewed as having a decisive influence on the outcome of the trial.

While Professor of English at Birmingham University between 1962 and 1973, he founded the institution’s Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies in 1964 and was its director until 1969.

Hoggart was Assistant Director-General of UNESCO (1971–1975) and then Warden of Goldsmiths, University of London (1976–1984), after which he retired from formal academic life.

In later works, such as The Way We Live Now (1995), he regretted the decline in moral authority that religion once provided. He also attacked contemporary education for its emphasis on the ‘vocational, and ‘cultural relativism,’ for concentrating on the popular and meretricious.

He died on April 10, 2014 at the age of 95.