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“It is often said that there are no more working-classes in England now, that a ‘bloodless revolution’ has taken place which has so reduced social differences that already most of us inhabit an almost flat plain, the plain of the lower middle- to middle classes.”
(Richard Hoggart, The Uses of Literacy – Aspects of Working-Class Life, 1957)
“[C]lass happens when some men, as a result of common experiences (inherited or shared), feel and articulate the identity of their interests as between themselves, and as against other men whose interests are different from (and usually opposed to) theirs. The class experience is largely determined by the productive relations into which men are born--or enter involuntarily.”
(E.P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class, 1963)
Class as an identity category is usually understood as a marker of someone’s social and economic status. Since Karl Marx’s and Friedrich Engels’s criticism of the capitalist system in industrial societies in the mid-Nineteenth century, the abolition of class and the dream of a classless society have become permanent fixtures in left-wing political discourses.
In this course we are going to analyse four texts which show that class is still very much a category of difference in British society in the second half of the Twentieth century. Stretching across six decades in terms of their publication dates, these texts depict their youthful protagonists growing up as part of the British working class in the Fifties (Alan Sillitoe’s The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1959)), Sixties (Ken Loach’s classic film Kes (1969)), Seventies (Andrea Levy’s novel Never Far From Nowhere (1996)) and Eighties (Shane Meadow’s film This is England (2006)). We are going to pay particular attention to how class identity and consciousness are formed within these texts, and how they intersect with gender and race by taking into account Marxist theory, feminist theory, critical whiteness/race theory, and social reproduction theory.
I recommend that you purchase the following editions. You have to have read Sillitoe’s short story before the start of term.
Sillitoe, Alan. The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. 1959. Harper Collins, 2007.
ISBN-10: 0007255608 / ISBN-13: 978-0007792146
Levy, Andrea. Never Far From Nowhere. 1996. Headline, 2004.
ISBN-10: 0747252130 /ISBN-13: 978-0747252139