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Title: Women writers, world problems, and the working poor, c. 1880-1920 : 'blackleg' work in literature
Author: Janssen, Flore
ISNI:       0000 0004 7660 4484
Awarding Body: Birkbeck, University of London
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis uses the published work of professional writers and activists Clementina Black and Margaret Harkness to explore their strategies for the representation of poverty and labour exploitation during the period 1880-1920. Their activism centred on the working poor, and specifically on those workers whose financial necessity forced them into exploitative and underpaid work, causing them to become 'blacklegs' who undercut the wages of other workers. As the generally irregular nature of their employment made these workers' situations difficult to document, Black and Harkness sought alternative ways to portray blackleg work and workers. The thesis is divided into two parts, each comprising two chapters. Part I examines the two authors' strategies for representing blackleg work to a readership of potential activists across their intersecting literary and activist projects. The first chapter considers Black's approach of engaging her readers as consumers and potential agents for social change. The second chapter addresses Harkness's call for the recognition of blackleg work as an economic phenomenon in which contemporary society was complicit. Part II explores how the implications of the two authors' representative strategies changed in the context of a global economy that produced comparable economic and social problems internationally. The third chapter examines Harkness's work in translation and the difficulties of transferring her representations of blackleg work across borders. The fourth chapter considers how Black engaged consumers with increasingly complex production systems. The thesis concludes with an exploration of how the representative strategies developed by Black and Harkness continued to be used in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries by writers and journalists as well as investigative and regulatory bodies. Although their work is now little read, the enduring use of their methods highlights the relevance of their approach to the representation of social problems that remain difficult to document and scrutinize.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available