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Working-class Writing

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The literary canon has come under much interrogation in recent years.

Who creates the canon? What makes ‘classic’ literature? Why and how have women and those of different ethnicities been excluded?

This module examines another group who have been similarly excluded from the canon: the working class.

The module will introduce you to writings which put working-class voices in the foreground and asks how working-class experiences shape literary texts.

It examines the reasons behind the paucity of material and hopes to introduce you to a wider variety of texts.

This module can be studied as part of the Inside Narratives Pathway but you are very welcome to study the module on a standalone basis.

This course is co-taught with Dr Michelle Deininger (Coordinating Lecturer in Humanities).

Learning and teaching

The module will be delivered through 10 two-hour sessions, made up of lectures, class discussions, small group work and debates. Class sessions will be supplemented by resources available to you via Learning Central.

Topics will include:

  • Agricultural landscapes: selection of eighteenth-century working-class poets
  • Industrial Revolution: Mary Barton, selection of nineteenth-century life narratives
  • Nationality: Feet in Chains
  • Immigration and class: The Lonely Londoners
  • Gender and sexuality: Taste of Honey
  • Post-industrial landscapes: Ironopolis
  • Poverty and belonging: Lowborn and Common People

Coursework and assessment

To award credits we need to have evidence of the knowledge and skills you have gained or improved. Some of this has to be in a form that can be shown to external examiners so that we can be absolutely sure that standards are met across all courses and subjects.

The most important element of assessment is that it should enhance your learning. Our methods are designed to increase your confidence and we try very hard to devise ways of assessing you that are enjoyable and suitable for adults with busy lives.

You will produce a portfolio of writing of around 1600 words.

Reading suggestions

  • Brown, Glen James, Ironopolis. Cardigan: Parthian, 2018
  • Delaney, Shelagh, Taste of Honey. (1958) London: Methuen, 2014
  • De Waal, Kit (ed), Common People: An Anthology of Working-Class Writers (Unbound, 2019)
  • Gaskell, Elizabeth, Mary Barton. (1848) Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1996
  • Hudson, Kerry, Lowborn. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2019
  • Roberts, Kate, Feet in Chains. (1936) Cardigan: Parthian, 2012
  • Selvon, Sam, The Lonely Londoners. (1956) Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2006

Library and computing facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University’s library and computing facilities. Find out more about using these facilities.


Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and dyslexia screening.