The Uses of Literacy
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Richard Hoggart’s The Uses of Literacy: Aspects of Working-Class Life, first published in 1957, is one of the classics of British Cultural Studies. Rather unusual for an academic book, it became a bestseller in the late 1950s and even led to Hoggart becoming a regular interviewee on TV and being called as a witness during the 1960 Lady Chatterley trials. It has since become “one of the few truly essential books about British society to have been published in the last fifty years”, as Linsey Hanley remarked in her introduction to the 2009 edition. The book examines the many facets of Britain’s class division and the way they have persisted and transformed in the time of post-war affluence, changes in the education system, housing, welfare and the emergence of popular culture and new media. In its unique approach that merges sociology with autobiography, it has become an influential text for cultural studies and for other authors’ writings such as Didier Eribon’s Retour à Reims (2009) and La société comme verdict (2013).
In this course, we will embark on a detailed reading of Hoggart’s book. We will examine its arguments and methods, explore its historical context and study its legacy in cultural studies today by looking at work influenced by or comparable to Hoggart (Didier Eribon, Pierre Bourdieu and others) and by applying it to phenomena of British and international culture.
Participants are expected to buy Richard Hoggart’s The Uses of Literacy: Aspects of Working-Class Life in the 2009 Penguin Modern Classics edition before the first session.
Additional texts will be made available via Moodle and the EF library.
Regular attendance, participation in an expert group plus additional assignments depending on your course of studies.
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