Working-Class Heroics: The Intersection of Class and Space in British Post-War Writing
Working-Class Heroics: The Intersection of Class and Space in British Post-War Writing explores the influence of the built environment on class consciousness as represented in the British kitchen sink realism movement of the late 1950s and early 1960s. As a movement that used gritty, documentary-style depictions of space to highlight complexities of working-class life, the period’s texts chronicled shifts in the social and topographic landscape while advancing new articulations of citizenship in response to the failures of post-war reconstruction. I refer to such articulations as the “working-class imaginary”—a stance identifiable across kitchen sink texts in which spaces that prescribe social limitation are remapped as sites of plenitude and potency. This stance, I argue, mirrors incipient youth subculture, situating working-class identities as dynamic and contingent yet susceptible to commodification. In considering the impact of space on class, I address Nigel Thrift and Peter Williams’ contention that academic discourse has overlooked the way the built environment informs class identity. Recent analysis in the social sciences has opened the door to such debates, but literary scholarship has yet to fully embrace this juncture, rendering it as a particularly rich site of inquiry. The result is a project that highlights the settings of a variety of novels, plays, and films, offering a fresh outlook on the way spatial representation in cultural production sustains or intervenes in the process of social stratification. In doing so, the project advances formal methods by which to assess representations of working-class culture in terms of ethical and aesthetic objectives. Given the wave of political unrest breaking across the Western world, Working-Class Heroics: The Intersection of Class and Space in British Post-War Writing offers a timely study of the influence of the environment on class identity, looking to cultural production as both a barometer and an engine of contemporary citizenship.