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The representation of the workhouse in nineteenth-century culture

Foster, Laura 2014. The representation of the workhouse in nineteenth-century culture. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Drawing together a range of visual and textual materials, this thesis explores the multiple social, political and cultural meanings of the workhouse in the period 1834-1900. Chapter one discusses the ideas of cleanliness and dirt that were so intrinsically associated with the institution and analyses them in relation to the representation of the workhouse poor. In chapter two, I focus upon the representation of the workhouse master, a figure associated with cruelty and abuse. I suggest that satirical attacks on this Poor-Law official neutralised his threat by constructing an aura of ridicule that was impossible to shake off. Chapter three analyses the accounts of middle-class visitors who traversed the workhouse space and argues that these texts fed into the construction of a bourgeois sense of self. Finally, chapter four examines visual representations of the workhouse, exploring the ideologies embedded within these images and tracing how they shifted across the century. In its focus upon the multiple and contradictory depictions of the workhouse that circulated throughout the period, the thesis demonstrates the culturally-constructed nature of the institution and argues that analysis of these various representations sheds light upon their cultural moments of production. Overall, the thesis makes the case that workhouse representations provide an insight into the issues and anxieties of nineteenth-century society.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Funders: AHRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 10 Oct 2017 15:50

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