Class Fictions

Shame and Resistance in the British Working Class Novel, 1890–1945

Class Fictions

Post-Contemporary Interventions

More about this series

Book Pages: 256 Illustrations: Published: November 1994

Author: Pamela Fox

Subjects
Cultural Studies, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism

Many recent discussions of working-class culture in literary and cultural studies have tended to present an oversimplified view of resistance. In this groundbreaking work, Pamela Fox offers a far more complex theory of working-class identity, particularly as reflected in British novels of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Through the concept of class shame, she produces a model of working-class subjectivity that understands resistance in a more accurate and useful way—as a complicated kind of refusal, directed at both dominated and dominant culture.
With a focus on certain classics in the working-class literary "canon," such as The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists and Love on the Dole, as well as lesser-known texts by working-class women, Fox uncovers the anxieties that underlie representations of class and consciousness. Shame repeatedly emerges as a powerful counterforce in these works, continually unsettling the surface narrative of protest to reveal an ambivalent relation toward the working-class identities the novels apparently champion.
Class Fictions offers an equally rigorous analysis of cultural studies itself, which has historically sought to defend and value the radical difference of working-class culture. Fox also brings to her analysis a strong feminist perspective that devotes considerable attention to the often overlooked role of gender in working-class fiction. She demonstrates that working-class novels not only expose master narratives of middle-class culture that must be resisted, but that they also reveal to us a need to create counter narratives or formulas of working-class life. In doing so, this book provides a more subtle sense of the role of resistance in working class culture. While of interest to scholars of Victorian and working-class fiction, Pamela Fox’s argument has far-reaching implications for the way literary and cultural studies will be defined and practiced.

Praise

“Class Fictions is a text that covers a wide selection of working-class texts, touching on many aspects of literary theory, but also it engages with cultural studies in a forceful and dynamic way. Fox has attempted a reading strategy that encompasses multiple forms of resistance and shame in working-class writing and she has succeeded in bringing new insight into working-class culture and literary practice.” — Pat Wheeler , Critical Survey

"Forcefully, often elegantly written, Class Fictions is an important addition both to the literature on specific working-class writers and to the more general accounts of how cultural studies has framed the representation of class, and class and gender, in the first half of the twentieth century. This book encourages rather than closes down a debate about the deep ambivalence of class both as a lived and represented meaning. There is nothing quite like it in the field." — Cora Kaplan, Rutgers University

"This is the most subtle and yet uncompromising study of working-class fiction to date. Pamela Fox’s argument not only displays intelligence at every turn, it also has the kind of integrity it takes to resist the moralizing that accompanies most analyses of working-class culture. It is destined to disturb as well as to inform those who work on cultural studies, nineteenth- and twentieth-century fiction, or cultural history ‘from the bottom up.’" — Nancy Armstrong, Brown University

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Pamela Fox is Assistant Professor of English at Georgetown University.

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Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-1542-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-1533-9
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