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Disability in Coalfields Literature c.1880-1948: a comparative study / ALEXANDRA JONES

Swansea University Author: ALEXANDRA, JONES

DOI (Published version): 10.23889/SUthesis.38883

Abstract

This thesis examines disability in the literature of three coalfields: South Wales, North East England and Scotland. This focus on disability, informed by the growing field of disability studies, offers new perspectives on coalfields literature and, in particular, the relationship between the workin...

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Published: 2016
Institution: Swansea University
Degree level: Doctoral
Degree name: Ph.D
URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa38883
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Abstract: This thesis examines disability in the literature of three coalfields: South Wales, North East England and Scotland. This focus on disability, informed by the growing field of disability studies, offers new perspectives on coalfields literature and, in particular, the relationship between the working class body and the industrial environment. Disability was a commonplace experience in coalfields communities, where injuries and occupational diseases were almost an expected consequence of employment in the life course. Thus coalfields writing offers a potentially rich source of literary engagement with disability. The period in questions, 1880-1948, is important in disability history and coalfields writing. The late-nineteenth century saw the emergence of realist fiction from the coalfields and it was a time of major shifts in the relationship between workers and health, concluding in the late 1940s with the foundation of the National Health Service and nationalisation of the coal industry.In the first part of this study, representations of disability are explored in relation to the body in society, and with reference to the intersecting categories of age, gender, class, work and sexuality. The final chapters focus on four specific themes that emerged as central concerns of the literature: war, religion, medicine and humour. Conditions in the mines and the injuries experienced by colliers are often pictured with reference to the first world war in the literature of the 1930s, whilst Christianity provides another important framework of references, imagery and moral interpretations of disability throughout the period. Increasing medical scrutiny of the body of the industrial worker characterises the late nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, which is reflected in politicised and class-inflected portrayals in coalfields writing. Finally, the thesis considers the function of humour in coalfields literature, and the ways in which we can read and interpret the experience and social relations of disability through humour.
Keywords: People with disabilities in literature, Disability, Coal mines and mining
College: College of Arts and Humanities
Funders: 095948/Z/11/Z