James Hanley: modernism and the working class.

Fordham, John (1997) James Hanley: modernism and the working class. PhD thesis, Middlesex University.

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Abstract

This thesis examines the work of James Hanley (1901-1985), a working-class ordinary seaman who became a professional writer for most of his adult life. His reputation was made originally during the 1930s when he was often identified with the emergent group of industrial-based' proletarian' realists. However, Hanley's writing radically departs from conventional notions of realism and will be shown to have closer associations with both mainstream and sub-cultural forms of modernism. Theoretically, the thesis is grounded in Georg Lukacs's History and Class Consciousness, which argues that the 'totality' of social relations is made intelligible only through a working-class realization of the dialectic. His social insight is then adapted and, along with other compatible Marxist readings, developed for a literary theory which argues that, read dialectically, working-class interventions reveal the conflictual and contradictory aspects of literary formations and movements. Hanley's life and career is characterized by what is consistently represented as a 'class struggle' at both the social and textual levels: a pervasive phenomenon whereby marginal initiatives both resist and affirm the ideology of the dominant culture. Hanley is also interesting in terms of his spatial and temporal range which, unlike that of other working class writers, is confined neither to that moment of the 1930s, nor to the workplace, but addresses the broad spectrum of 20th-century British history and culture, including the crisis moments of two world wars, and the salient questions of modernity: political engagement and retreat, individuality and community, country and city. Methodologically, such a complexity is more fully explained by an intertextual approach which locates Hanley within both a European tradition and various currents of contemporary writing. It is argued that class is the key determining factor in understanding both these processes, and the analagous problematics of Hanley's social trajectory, each of which are shown to have profound textual consequences. Empirically, the social and cultural sources of his work are traced from the place of his origins, Liverpool, through the domain of the sea, to the modem world of metropolitan publishing and finally to rural Wales, his adopted country. The thesis concludes that interpreting modernism through the category of class has implications for developing general theories of literary culture: namely that cultural phenomena cannot be characterized by any singular factor or process, but are more adequately interpreted dialectically, that is to say as the result of a struggle between competing meanings of tradition, reality, history and art.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information:

A thesis submitted to Middlesex University in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

Research Areas:Masters and Doctorates > Theses
Middlesex University Schools and Centres > School of Media and Performing Arts > Media & Performing Arts
ID Code:6414
Deposited On:19 Aug 2010 10:08
Last Modified:19 Jul 2014 01:03

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