Working-class Studies: A Reading List


Today the boyfriend and I were due to go for a picnic but in true Northern style, the weather’s been terrible giving me more time though to update this blog.

I’ve been meaning to share for a while now some of the texts I’ve been reading as an introduction to working-class literature. This is only a stepping off point and is in no way meant to be a comprehensive list. I welcome any suggestions and recommendations for the list. The criteria is quite broad, though where possible I’ve tried to pay to special attention to the works of (female) working-class writers or those with a specific (female) working-class focus. I haven’t divided it up into primary and secondary sources nor have I separated by country. I’m fully aware that the list is very Eurocentric, however my area of interest is in British and American working-class studies. I will also continue to update the list below when I find something new.

Reading List

Ashraf, P. M. (1979) Introduction to Working-Class Literature in Great Britain. Part II: Prose. Berlin: VEB Kongres-und Werbedruck Oberlungwitz.

Behagg, C. (2000) Labour and Reform: Working-Class Movements 1815-1914. (2nd ed.) London: Hodder & Stoughton

Bourdieu, P. (1984) Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. Trans. Richard Nice. London: Routledge.

Campbell, B. (1984) Wigan Pier Revisited. London: Virago.

Carnie Holdsworth, E. (1925) This Slavery. London: Labour.

—————————– . (1917) Helen of Four Gates. London: Jenkins.

Cisneros, S. (1983) The House on Mango Street. Houston: Arte Publico Press.

Davis, A. (1982) Women Race and Class. London: Women’s Press.

Fox, P. (1994) Class Fictions: Shame and Resistance in the British Working Class Novel, 1890–1945 (Post-Contemporary Interventions). London: Duke University Press Books.

Gaskell, E. (1970, 1954-5) North and South. London: Penguin.

Harding Davis, R. (1861, 2012) Life in the Iron-Mills. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform .

Haywood, I. (1997). Working Class Fiction (Writers and Their Work (Paperback)). Plymouth: Northcote House Publishers.

Hunt, P. (1980) Gender and Class Consciousness. London: Macmillan.

Jones, O. (2011) Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class. London: Verso Books.

———— (2015) The Establishment: And how they get away with it. London: Penguin.

Mahony, P & Zmroczek, C. (1997) Class Matters: ‘Working Class’ Women’s Perspectives on Social Class. Oxford: Taylor & Francis.

Michael, L. (1992) Under a thin moon. London: Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd.

Olsen, T. (1964) Tell Me A Riddle. London: Faber and Faber.

————– (1975) Yonnondio. London: Faber and Faber

Phillips, A. (1987) Divided Loyalties: Dilemmas of Sex and Class. London: Virago.

Piercy, M. (2006) Sex Wars. London: Piatkus; New Ed edition

—————- (1976) Woman on the Edge of Time. New York: Knopf.

Savage, M. (2015) Social Class in the 21st Century. London: Pelican.

Schreiner, O. (1978, 1911) Women and Labour. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Sennett, R. & Cobb, J (1977) The Hidden Injuries of Class. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Skeggs, B. (1997). Formations of Class & Gender: Becoming Respectable (Published in association with Theory, Culture & Society). London: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Standing, G. (2011) The Precariat. London: Bloomsbury.

Stedman-Jones, G (1983) Languages of Class: Studies in English Working Class History 1832-1982. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Steedman, C. (1986) Landscape for a Good Woman. London:Virago

Thompson, E. P. (1968) The Making of the English Working Class. London: Penguin.

Todd, S. (2014) The People: The Rise and Fall of the Working Class. London: John Murray

Wilkinson, E. (1929, 1989) Clash. London: Virago.



This blog is changing…

wc women

When I initially started writing this blog I planned to include content covering a variety of topics that interested me from interior design and food to art and movies. As time has gone on, I’ve instead found myself writing predominantly book reviews and sharing with you what I’ve been reading.

But now I’ve decided to concentrate on three areas that I enjoying writing about and discussing; feminism and working-class studies as well as the intersection of class and gender on educational matters.

This has been a strong area of academic interest for me for some time now and whilst I will continue to write the odd film, theatre or restaurant review (I’ll be doing this mainly on my Instagram page) the main focus here, as I mentioned, will be on issues concerning gender, class and education.

Class issues, especially those relating to the working-classes have been neglected by academia and the wider community. The trend in recent years has been a move towards the intersection of race, gender and sexuality with class either left overshadowed or outright ignored. That’s not to say that class issues are somehow more important than those of gender, race, sexuality or disability but rather that a better understanding of issues surrounding class can bring us closer to an appreciation of how class structures can impact our everyday lives and influence our values and behaviours. What I want to try to understand is how social class can effect everything from the schools we attend, the jobs we get, the films that are made and the books that are written and more generally the opportunities we’re afforded in life.

We all desire to see images in our own likeness, to have our experiences acknowledge, to know they matter. To acknowledge that an imbalance does exists means we can then to do something to rectify it. Some might ask what difference it makes if books and films, to single out two examples, are full of white middle-class, heterosexual, able-bodied men? I believe that as human beings we have an inherent need to have individuals we can look-up to, to admire and/or aspire to. I know that was and still is true for me. In order to know that something is possible I look to others like myself, people I can emulate. That’s why pioneers are so important.

But more than that our life experiences and values shape who are and we carry these right through our entire lives. If, for example, you’ve lived a life of priveldge and never wanted for anything, then how can you possibly know what it’s like to stand in line at a food bank, to not be able to afford new school uniform for your children or be one of those kids whose names called out as having free school lunches. You cannot imagine what it’s like to put your name down on a council waiting list wondering if you’ll ever get access to affordable housing or if your benefits will come through to pay the bills that month all the while being demonised and ridiculed. If all you’ve ever had is the best of everything and found yourself surrounded by the same kinds of people, how can you legislate, capture on film, write books or plays about people who haven’t.

For all these reasons and many more I believe that a greater focus and attention should be paid to class in all areas of life because class does matter.



Terrorism comes to my city – The Manchester Arena bombing

ripI decided to wait a day before writing this post so that I could comment with a clearer idea of the facts. I awoke yesterday morning to the shocking news that on Monday evening at just after 10.30pm a bomb had gone off at the Manchester Arena during an Ariana Grande concert. I did what I imagine many people who live in the city did that morning and turned the news straight on. A suicide bomber had detonated a device in the lobby of the MEN arena as the concert was finishing killing, now we know, 22 people and injuring 59 others.  At the time of writing there are still loved ones missing.

I’m as guilty as most (at least in the Western world) of believing that acts of terrorism happen elsewhere. But this isn’t the first time Manchester has been on the receiving end of a terrorist attack. In 1996 the IRA exploded a truck bomb in Manchester city centre. Unlike the US pre-9/11, Britain is use to living with terrorism. Even recently, watching with horror the news of the Westminster attacks in March of this year, it still felt distant and disconnected from my everyday existence. After Monday’s attack here in this city, that’s no longer the case. It’s hard to ignore or look away when children are targeted on your very doorstep.  It challenges your basic sense of security, something I had taken for granted. I am lucky enough to live in a country where this is thankfully the exception not the norm. With everything that’s taken place in my own city I couldn’t help but wonder what it must be like for those who experience this on an almost daily basis.

Fortunately, I was nowhere near the centre of Manchester when the bomb went off. I cannot imagine what it must have been like for the parents and children inside the Arena or those waiting at home for their loved ones to return. bee

I know the MEN Arena well having been to a few concerts there so for me personally this makes Monday’s attack all the more uncomfortable. During the brief time that I’ve been living here in Manchester, I can unequivocally say that Mancunians pull together during difficult times and this is no different. One only need listen to the local radio station to hear small acts of kindness and generosity taking place, taxi drivers and motorists in the area offering free rides home, people flocking to blood banks to donate and local restaurants and cafes offering food. Mancunians are resilient people, they have to be because the weather’s so bloody terrible. But it’s at times like this you witness the good in people, something you can forget when you’re going about your daily life. Events such as this can draw people together and my hope is that people remember that this was the work of an individual or small group of individuals and that it isn’t representative of an entire community or religion. Already Muslim leaders are reporting a rise in hate crime and this saddens me. Didsbury mosque where the bomber worshipped was attacked yesterday in retaliation, the Guardian newspaper is reporting.

Instead of turning on one another we should be supporting those that were affected by the attack. The word ‘senseless’ is usually thrown around at times like this. It is hard to make sense of why someone would purposely target children enjoying a concert but from a terrorism point of view, it does make sense. After all, the aim is to cause as much fear and terror and it has certainly done that. What is more terrifying than the murder of  innocent children? Whilst the Westminster attack was an attempt to shake the foundations of our government and democracy, this bombing was intended to make people fearful of enjoying public spaces.

It is perhaps also no coincidence that this attack took place in Manchester, the new home of the BBC. This ensured that the bombing received maximum coverage. The news presenters themselves talked about how they had taken their own children to the MEN and appeared visibly shaken. This was real terror at work and spreading before our eyes.

Where do we go from here? Should we now be in constant fear of entering public spaces or enjoying this beautiful city? The best thing we can do, I believe, is to remember the dead and the injured of Monday’s attack but not allow it to disrupt our way of live or to cause us to turn on one another. My hope is that the city continues to pull together and support one another and not forget that we live in one of the most beautiful, cultural, multi-culturally rich cities in the UK.


Film review of The Promise

Image result for the promise film

I can’t think of a film in recent memory that’s dealt with the issue of the Armenia Genocide. It’s a period of history I know very little about and one I was interested in seeing portrayed on the big screen. Added to this the draw of a strong cast including the very talented Oscar Isaac and supported by the ever-reliable Christian Bale and I knew this was one to see. (It was either this or Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2)

The film is set in Constantinople, then still part of the Ottoman Empire on the eve of the First World War. Armenian apothecary Mikael Boghosian played by Oscar Isaac dreams of becoming a doctor and agrees to become engaged to a woman in village in return for the money that will allow him to train as a medical student. On arriving in Constantinople Mikael is  befriended by a fellow medical student and notorious playboy name Emre who has no interest in medicine but whose rich and powerful father has other ideas. The two men unwittingly end up on opposite sides of the what we now know as the Armenian Genocide.

Ana, a French artist who is a dance teacher to his Uncle’s children played by relative newcomer to non-French speaking audiences, Charlotte Le Bon and her lover Chris Myers, an American journalist, played by Christian Bale. What follows is a love-triangle between Mikael, Ana and Meyers and this romantic element is what gives the film its structure. However, this felt terribly flimsy and what you essentially ended up with was Mikael’s character jumping from one incident to another, either leaving or returning to his village, looking for Ana and saving some orphans . So if the plot is starting to sound a little thin on the ground then that’s because it is. With acting heavy weights like Bale and Isaac this had the potential to be a decent movie if only the whole thing were a little more substantial. Perhaps part of the problem was that so much seemed to be going on but very little was happening. It tries to do too much, racing along but without really ever allowing us to digest what’s happening on-screen.

This was further compounded by what seemed to me to be paper-thin characters. They had the potential to be meaty characters but nothing they were never really developed. For example, whilst Mikael is working as a prison camp doing hard labour and helping to build a railway he meets a man who was once a clown and around the campfire we start to learn more about this man but as soon as we begin to invest in the character, he’s killed off in the next scene. Again and again, opportunities to develop characters are missed.

However, the film is visually stunning and scenes of Mikael first arriving in Constantinople pre-WW1 are stunning as is the scene of Emre’s birthday party. Clearly the point is juxtapose life before and after the genocide and contrasts in the colour palate show that.

What I was most disappointed about though, was the handling of the Armenian Genocide. It’s a period of history I know very little about and again I was expecting something more substantial. The scenes on the hilltop as the Armenian’s seek refuge are one of the high points of the film and certainly could have been made more of.

The Turkish government still refuses to acknowledge the genocide making the subject matter an important one to chronicle. But this film felt like a missed opportunity. I can’t say I learnt anything new from the film that I didn’t know already.  It certainly isn’t a bad film but I still feel there was a better film in there somewhere waiting to come out.

 3 stars

Books I’m looking forward to reading