Lecturer charts literary history of class and capitalism
Downwardly Mobile: The Changing Fortunes of American Realism documents a group of nineteenth century American writers, including William Dean Howells and Henry James, whose families all suffered economic hardship that threatened their middle class identities.
Dr Lawson, Course Leader of the BA (Hons) English Literature course at our University, commented: "Studying the experience of downward mobility revealed to me the complexity of class identity, since the writers whose family history I researched might have had social status, but no longer possessed wealth in the form of money and property. It's a timely subject, since the on-going financial crisis has demonstrated that free markets cannot provide people with economic stability or social justice. The humanities need to engage with questions of class as well as cultural difference in today's global economy, where opportunities exist alongside inequality, insecurity, and risk."
To understand the impact of downward mobility on the writers' families, Dr Lawson's research extended to census records, tax records, and land deals as he pieced together the literary, social and economic history of the era, contributing to an emerging area of study: the history of capitalism.