Sites of struggle
Disability in working-class coalfields literature
in Disability in industrial Britain

This chapter analyses representations of disability in working-class coalfields literature of the twentieth century. It argues that in this writing the paradigmatic industrial worker (both men in the mines and women in the home) is an impaired worker. Indeed the ubiquity and typicality of disability in the communities represented in the literature arguably requires us to revise what is considered ‘normal’. This chapter looks at realist fiction, in which disability and disabled characters are often used to show the way different historical forces – in particular, economic and political forces – interact in modernist writing, with its emphasis on fragmentation and disjuncture. It considers the seam of disability humour and religious iconography which runs through much coalfields writing, including portrayals of the miner as a ‘disabled Christ’. In the second half of the chapter we focus on the centrality of disability to representations of community protest, solidarity and mutualism which in some ways anticipate disability theories of interdependency.

Disability in industrial Britain

A cultural and literary history of impairment in the coal industry, 1880–1948


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