Working-Class Heroes in British Fiction and Film



Zeit/Ort n.V.:

  • Do 10:15-11:45, Raum C 601

Voraussetzungen / Organisatorisches

- BA English and American Studies: Hauptmodul A (301) Literature/Culture (Zulassungsvoraussetzung: Zwischenmodul II) – HA
- Lehramt Englisch an Gymnasien: Hauptmodul L-GYM Literature. (Zu-lassungsvoraussetzung: Zwischenmodul Literature) – HA (80 %)
- MA English Studies: Core Module: Culture (module 4031, exam 40311: Written assignment (15 pages, 80%) and handout (2–3 pages, 20%))
- MA English Studies: Core Module: Literature (module 4051, exam 40511: Written assignment (15 pages, 80%) and handout (2–3 pages, 20%))
- MA English Studies: Master Module II: Culture (module 8350, exam 83501: Written assignment (15 pages, 80%) and handout (2–3 pages, 20%))
- MA English Studies: Master Module II: Literature (module 8360, exam 83601: Written assignment (15 pages, 80%) and handout (2–3pages, 20%))
- MA Literaturstudien – intermedial und interkulturell: Modul 4


"A working-class hero is something to be” (John Lennon).
Ever since the Industrial Revolution, questions of socio-economic status and the dynamics of class have formed the undercurrent of British literature and culture but have simultaneously often been critically evaded in favour of other categories of social difference. Moreover, fiction and film mostly feature middle-class protagonists, with working-class characters often being confined to minor roles or constructed through processes of othering. This seminar focuses on the working-class hero as a model for subjectivity and asks why and in what way literary texts and films feature proletarian protagonists. To what extent do they constitute prominent examples of a modern heroic code negotiating changing socio-cultural norms and national self-perceptions? In order to answer these questions, we will study ‘classic’ representations of ‘the’ working-class in mid-nineteenth- and mid-twentieth-century narratives and discuss the function of iconic working-class (anti-)heroes in British cinema, with a special focus on the 1990s. We will also reflect on the performative role of fiction and film in shaping our perception of class and class stereotypes. Topics to be discussed include: ‘gritty’ documentary realism ‘vs.’ melodramatic and comic utopianism; the ‘crisis’ of masculinity and gender politics; ideologies and conflicting beliefs about social inequality and poverty; the ‘transgressive’ rhetoric and performance of resistance and desire.
Texts and films to be studied in detail: Excerpts from Henry Mayhew’s documentary record |London Labour and the London Poor| (will be made available online); Charles Dickens’s Christmas book |The Chimes|; Alan Sillitoe’s working-class ‘classic’ |Saturday Night and Sunday Morning| and the film adaptation directed by Karel Reisz; the social-problem film |Riff-Raff| by Ken Loach; Peter Cattaneo’s screen hit |The Full Monty|.
It is essential that all students read and reflect upon the texts before each class. All participants should enrol for a short oral presentation before the beginning of term (see the list in our library, C 602); all B.A. and M.A. students are expected to participate in the Independent Study Group. A class schedule and a bibliography will be made available online.