In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

REVIEWS Patrick Joyce, Democratic subjects, The self and the social in nineteenth century England. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994). $54.95 US (cloth); $19.95 US (paper). Patrick Joyce's new book is both a development and a critique of the picture of popular culture and identity that he developed in Visions of the People. Industrial England and the Question of Class, 1840-1914, (1991): a development, in that he here broadens his attack on class as the fundamental structuring social condition and source of identity into a wholesale rejection of the very idea of the "social"; a critique, in that he accepts that in the earlier volume he did not perhaps go far enough down the post-modernist road, falling instead into the trap of replacing one paradigmatic identity — class — with another — the popular — while remaining wedded to "a nostalgia for collective social subjects and bedrock 'experiences' upon which values and culture could be based" (11). Here, he assures us in a substantial introduction which is the most complete expression to date of Joyce's modernist programme, he has "put the creation of subjectivities at the centre of [his] concern, taking nothing for granted as to how these were achieved" (ibid). The book essentially consists of three extended essays, each of about 30,000 words, through which Joyce attempts to chart the creation of (self-)identities, with a view to affirming the fall of class, no longer the "master category" of historical explanation, but "one term among many, sharing a rough equality . . ." (2). The first two of these essays are extended biographical studies of Edwin Waugh, the Lancashire dialect poet, and John Bright, die Liberal orator. The third is a much looser examination of the various narratives tiirough which Joyce suggests collective identity in nineteenth century England was created. Joyce stresses that although independent these tiiree studies engage with common themes and are best read in sequence. The central thesis is abundantly clear and pungentiy expressed. Joyce accepts the widespread contemporary use of class, and indeed the degree to which "The Britain of that time was almost caste-like in its Reviews75 observation of social differences" (130); but he highlights die flexibility of notions of class, "the sense of fluidity, die de-centredness of social vocabularies and identities" (131). Waugh and Bright are carefully chosen as "liminal figures" whose position on die borders of conventional class identities "dramatizes, and so reveals, die values and social relations of the time" (37). Joyce cleverly brings out the parallels and intersections of their lives. Both were born in Rochdale, and "die town was die conduit through which the rush of national events reached diem in die eventful years of die early nineteenth century" (87). Both kept diaries illustrating their different interior lives and processes of self-formation. Both made sense of their world in part through the narratives (of the Bulgarian agitation, for example) which are explored in die third essay. In both cases Joyce is able to use biographical study to dismantle conventional notions of class identity and reinforce his claim for a more complex process of self-identification. Waugh's diary, extant for die years 1847-1850, is for Joyce "Waugh's laboratory of die self, its confessional nature die ideal way to try out new personae as he scutded between self as author and self as audience" (80). Through it we can see a figure who drew little solace or pride from his work, and who looked beyond work to establish his social status and position. Using his diary as a repository of inner torments and anguishes, as a "narcotic of emotionalism" even (118-19), Waugh struggled to work out and dien to affirm his own sense of purpose, of identity and of values. Yet despite a humble background, lowly marriage, and insecure economic status, conventional notions of class cannot comprehend die result. As Joyce goes on to demonstrate through a study of Waugh's dialect writings, what emerges is a "religion of common humanity", rooted in "die getting of dignity" (28) through the "cult of the heart, of the sincerity of unalloyed human feeling" (46). For Waugh, dien, die poor are closest to real life, and though their labour...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 74-81
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.