'The red light of emotion' : reading anger in contemporary British women's working-class fiction
Wheeler, Patricia Ann
This thesis investigates the representation of anger in contemporary British women's writing. It argues that Helen Zahavi, Pat Barker, Livi Michael and Anne McManus foreground anger (frequently materialising as anxiety and offset with humour) to pose a series of questions with regard to gender, class and sexuality and that they do so in contemporary 'versions' of the British working-class novel. In exploring the writing of Zahavi, Barker, Michael and McManus I define them as both feminist and working-class writers, but not in an absolute or inviolable way. In this thesis I am more interested in how anger, women's writing and the working-class novel offer what Mikhail Bakhtin calls 'a play of voices in a social context'. The introduction examines antecedent working-class novels and discusses the 4slipperiness' of such literary terms as 'the working-class novel' and 'realism'. I suggest that the male-authored working-class novels of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century frequently objectify the working classes and place workingclass women within a literary straitjacket. Chapter I explores how working-class women writers have been silenced and are generally absent from a working-class tradition and explores notions of anger and anxiety that relate to their absence within the paradigms of more recent feminist theory. The subsequent chapters offer close readings of the writers under discussion to exemplify the ways in which their representations of anger offer original, inventive and complex interrogations of a range of issues. The final chapter draws on a range of recent fictions by women writers and argues that they use representations of anger strategically in imaginative and accessible narratives that focus on contemporary British society.