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John Burnside's Living Nowhere as Industrial Fiction


This article approaches Burnside's novel from an unusual angle, arguing that its industrial theme is more than a subsidiary to the manifest ecological agenda, or one character's search for authentic living. In its focus on two working-class families and their environment, and its powerful attention to factory life, Living Nowhere shares a number of features with the tradition of industrial fiction as it developed from early Victorian times. The novel's distinctly new contribution to the genre lies in the far-reaching environmentalist sensibility challenging the practices of and assumptions behind an unchecked mode of industrial production. It shows environmental degradation at its source in a steel plant, its immediate impact on the workers' bodies and souls, their habitations, family and community life, but it also alerts the reader to the hidden hazards of certain kinds of industrial production whose results may only become visible in some distant future.

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