Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Committee Chair

St. Clair, Robert N.

Author's Keywords

Working class; Cultural studies; Films; Identity; Britain; Ideology


Working class in motion pictures; Motion pictures--Great Britain


Britain was the first country to industrialize with the Industrial Revolution and therefore had the world's first industrial working class. In the 20th century, the traditional British working class went through many social and political changes, represented especially by the post-war "rise" and a lasting "decline" since the 1970s, a fate which is worth academic study. Class matters not only in sociological sense, but also in cultural sense. This dissertation, through close text analysis of seven British social realist films--two New Wave ones, Room at the Top (Jack Clayton, 1959) and Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (Karel Reisz, 1960); three bleak ones by independent directors, High Hopes (Mike Leigh, 1988), My Beautiful Laundrette (Stephen Frears, 1985), and Sweet Sixteen (Ken Loach, 2002); and two commercial comedies, Brassed Off (Mark Herman, 1996) and The Full Monty (Peter Cattaneo, 1997), explores major themes in the screen representation of British working class from the 1950s to the present and analyzes the changes from the theoretical framework of British Cultural Studies, probing into the relationship between identity, power, the impact of ideology and cultural resistance behind the working-class identities. It also adopts an interdisciplinary approach to the understanding and evaluation of the cultural identity of British working class, with sociological and historical understanding of the issue of class and working class provided. The dissertation concludes that the British working class screen identity has transformed from an image of masculine energy, pride and dignity of the 1950s and 1960s to "underclass" collective shame and loss of respect in the 1990s and 2000s. The shift reflects changes in fundamental attitudes in British post-war society from welfare egalitarianism to the neo-liberal enterprise culture. The cinematic representation has reflected and reinforced dominant ideological position, but at the same time conveyed more left-wing progressive views. The dissertation therefore calls for cultural policy support for socially purposive British national cinema to keep social realism as a democratization of representation of national cultural life as well as a sustained concern for working-class dignity.