Spectres of Class Conference, 15 -16 July 2011

'Spectres of Class: Representing Social Class from the French Revolution to the present' was an interdisciplinary conference organised by members of the English Department on 15 - 16th July.

We would like to thank our plenary speakers and all the people who delivered papers.

Please keep checking this website for news of publications and follow-up events.

"The labels ‘working’, ‘middle’ and ‘upper’ first appeared in the 19th century [...] It's clear that social divisions have far from disappeared, and the traditional language of class still pervades public affairs, shapes political thinking, and influences our personal careers." - BBC 'Great British Class Survey' (Jan, 2011)
Professor Mike Savage

This interdisciplinary conference seeks to give a name to one of many spectres haunting the West: the spectre of class (manifested as movements, protests, identities, and inequalities). The gap between the rich and poor in the UK is currently the widest since the Second World War, according to a 2010 report by the National Equality Panel, and, as the consequences of global recession deepen, the cuts imposed by governments in the West are likely to exacerbate social inequalities.

In response to these forces, the Spectres of Class conference considers the ways in which class is represented in language, literature and other cultural formations since the French Revolution, seeking to understand the historical basis of class identities and their manifestations today. Class was a central preoccupation of academic discourse in the twentieth century.

In the last twenty years, however, the emphasis on class identity has become less pronounced as academics explore the power imbalances associated with gender, ethnicity, sexuality, disability status and nationality. Many important studies have emerged from these investigations. However, class issues cut across all these areas and, in the current climate of economic uncertainty, the material basis of class identities may come to challenge poststructuralist notions of identity as a lifestyle ‘choice’.

Topics include:

  • Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) studies of class, ideology, hegemony etc.
  • Protest movements (e.g. student protests, Chartists, anti-Poll Tax Unions, trade union action)
  • Material and cultural influences on class identities
  • Rereading Marx
  • Class as performative
  • Social mobility/stasis
  • Class cultures: bourgeois, aristocratic, gentry, working class
  • Performances of class (art, music, theatre, photography, film and television)
  • Corpus linguistic studies of ‘class’ in news media and other genres
  • Representations of revolution and reform
  • Humorous/satirical representations of class

For further information contact Dr Matt Davies at matt.davies@chester.ac.uk