Working-class writing and Americanisation debates in Britain and Australia: 1950-1965

PhD Thesis

Herbertson, Ian Richard. 2006. Working-class writing and Americanisation debates in Britain and Australia: 1950-1965. PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland.

Working-class writing and Americanisation debates in Britain and Australia: 1950-1965

TypePhD Thesis
AuthorHerbertson, Ian Richard
SupervisorMusgrove, Brian
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages364

[From Introduction]: ‘Work’ is not a topic that much concerns contemporary novelists or fires the creative imagination. Today, writing about work is primarily done by investigative reporters like Elizabeth Wynhausen, whose Dirt Cheap: Life at the Wrong End of the Job Market (2005) is a striking – if rare – under-cover exposé of what ‘economic reform’ really means for menial Australian workers. There is certainly no literary equivalent now of the British and Australian novels, appearing in the 1950s and 1960s, preoccupied with the relationship between changing patterns of work and working-class experience: the lived transformations of traditional class and family ties; the impact of new consuming habits and popular cultural pursuits; the political situation of ordinary working people, and shifts in their attitudes and values. These British and Australian novels generally assumed that reorganisations of the working coal face or factory floor extended into the private sphere, informing or producing the stressful personal dramas played out in communities and at the kitchen sink.
This thesis argues that these novels were elements of a broader dialogue in the 50s and 60s: one in which work and working-class life were significant subjects, articulated in a range of complementary discourses that were interlocutory – economic and political analysis, sociology, nascent cultural theory, popular newspaper commentary and literature. Consequently, a main objective of this thesis is to reveal how these representational forms or disciplines converged in the period 1950–1965: to examine their common themes and interests, and their collective
responses to questions concerning working-class life. The thesis argues that all these forms or disciplines shared the view that the condition of the working classes, in both Britain and Australia, crucially mattered to the overall social architecture of the time. It also argues that they all regarded the presence of America, the era’s pre-eminent global force, as central to such questions; and that America was complexly understood as an idealised political concept, a power-house of popular cultural production, and a very real engine of socio-economic change.

Keywordsworking class writing; working class; Britain; Australia; British; Australian; novels; Americanisation; 1950-1965; 1950s; 1960s
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020470504. British and Irish literature
470502. Australian literature (excl. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander literature)
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