1st Edition

The Routledge Companion to Working-Class Literature

Edited By Ben Clarke Copyright 2025
    444 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    The Routledge Companion to Working-Class Literature provides an overview of the history, theory, and analysis of working-class literature. Taking a global and intersectional approach, the Companion demonstrates that literature is central to the (re)interpretation of the working class, a process that involves rereading the past as well as mapping the present.

    The collection examines how working-class literature is defined and the functions the term serves. It maps current debates and traces the ways in which a wide variety of theoretical and political movements have shaped the field. Challenging the stereotypical view that working-class writing is concerned solely with white, male industrial labourers in the Global North, the volume features chapters on subjects from early modern writing about the poor in England to contemporary poetry by Asian migrant workers. Exploring the theoretical problems of writing about class as well as providing detailed readings of specific texts, it demonstrates the richness and diversity of this rapidly developing field and looks to the future of working-class literature.

    The Routledge Companion to Working-Class Literature is an accessible, wide-ranging resource. It emphasizes difference and debate, bringing distinct texts, traditions, and critical perspectives into dialogue and is essential for any student or researcher looking at concepts of class within literary studies. 

    List of Contributors


    Introduction: What is Working-Class Literature?

    Ben Clarke


    Part I. Theorizing Working-Class Literature

    Chapter 1. Working-class literature(s)

    Magnus Nilsson


    Chapter 2. Revolutionary Tendencies: Theories of Working-Class Writing

    Kevin Potter


    Chapter 3. Writing a Class to Come: Social Fiction, Heterogeneity, and the Political

    Roberto del Valle Alcalá


    Chapter 4. Seeing Anew: Making Working-Class Literature Visible Through a Working-Class Intersectional Gaze

    Sherry Linkon and Pamela Fox


    Chapter 5. Struggle as Class Motif: ‘Difficulty’ in Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain

    Simon Lee


    Part II. Literature and the Making of the Working Class

    Chapter 6. Literature and the Labouring Poor in Early Modern England

    Chris Fitter


    Chapter 7. The Rhyme of the Ancient Labourer: working-class poets and the classics

    Henry Stead


    Chapter 8. The Invisibility of Working-Class Self-Representation in Literary Classrooms, with a Focus on the Romantic-Period

    Cassandra Falke


    Chapter 9. Working-Class Writing in Victorian Britain, 1837-1901

    Victoria Clarke


    Chapter 10. Working-Class British Women Writers, 1840-1914: Resistance and Community

    Florence Boos


    Chapter 11. One Hundred Years of Defining (German) Working-Class Literature

    Sabine Hake


    Part III. Working-Class Literature in the Age of Extremes

    Chapter 12. D. H. Lawrence, Class and Culture

    Neil Roberts


    Chapter 13. Work, Sex, and Women in D.H. Lawrence’s Fiction: Intersections of Class and Gender

    Tonya Krouse


    Chapter 14. ‘Clamouring for Revolutionary Literature’: Working-Class Writing in the Caribbean

    Michael Niblett


    Chapter 15. Coalitional Politics for Exiles and Nationalists: H. T. Tsiang’s And China Has Hands

    Sydney Van To


    Chapter 16. Broken Hands: Class and Disability in 20th-Century American Poetry

    Andrew David King


    Part IV. Neoliberalism and the Future of Working-Class Literature

    Chapter 17. Dramatic Representations of ‘Them’ and ‘Us’ Class Struggle in Neoliberal Britain

    Elaine Aston


    Chapter 18. Music and hope in Irish working-class recession writing: Roddy Doyle’s The Commitments and Emmet Kirwan’s Dublin Oldschool

    Michael Pierse


    Chapter 19. Representations of Class and Race in East African Asian Literatures

    Michael A. Rumore


    Chapter 20. Beyond Human Futures in Indra Sinha’s Animal’s People

    Shoumik Bhattacharya


    Chapter 21. The Labor of Migrant Subjectivity

    Peter Hitchcock


    Chapter 22. Migrant Workers in Asia Today: A Brief Introduction.

    Luka Lei Zhang


    Chapter 23. Working-Class Representation in Cinema and Literature in the Digital Age

    Isabel Roque


    Chapter 24. Common People: Breaking the Glass Ceiling in UK Publishing

    Katy Shaw


    Chapter 25. An Alternative History of Working-Class Theatre

    Rebecca Hillman


    Chapter 26. Keeping Class Visible in Recession-Era Irish Poetry

    Mary McGlynn


    Chapter 27. Proletarian Futures: Some Representations of the Working Class in Science Fiction”

    Nick Hubble




    Ben Clarke is Associate Professor of Post-1900 British Literature at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, USA. His publications include Orwell in Context: Communities, Myths, Values (2007), Understanding Richard Hoggart: A Pedagogy of Hope (with Michael Bailey and John K. Walton, 2012), and Working-Class Writing: Theory and Practice (co-edited with Nick Hubble, 2018).