Region, class, culture : Lancashire dialect literature 1746-1935
The thesis looks at the origin and development of Lancashire dialect literature between the publication of John Collier's ('Tim Bobbin') A View of the Lancashire Dialect in 1746, and the death of Allen Clarke ('Teddy Ashton') in 1935. The thesis is partly chronological, paying particular attention to the largely unexplored period of dialect writing between the 1890s and the 1930s, which suggests that earlier assessments of dialect literature need revision. The period before the First World War witnessed the development of a dialect literature closely linked to the labour movement in Lancashire, and contributed to the development of a distinctive socialist culture. For a time at least, dialect literature escaped from the middle class patronage which characterised it in the 1850s and 1860s, aided by the existence of an independent, Lancashire-based, press. Dialect literature was never a pure, unadulterated 'voice of the people', and it was used both by middle and working class social forces to support rival value systems. An argument in dialect suggested a practical, common sense, wisdom, regardless of the actual message. Dialect poetry was used by different writers to support imperialist adventures, Irish home rule, left-wing socialism, and to oppose strikes, women's suffrage, and restrictions on access to the countryside. The literature represented divisions within the working class, as well as attempts from the middle class to influence it. Differing class and political standpoints were, on occasions, transcended by a wider regional consciousness in which dialect had a prominent place. Particular themes within dialect literature are explored, contributing to current debates on class, identity, and gender. The treatment of women, war and imperialism, work, and the 'Cotton Famine' of 1861-4 are examined in separate chapters. Selfcriticism, and defences of dialect writing, are looked at in Chapter 6 on "Defending Dialect".