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Men without Work: White Working-Class Masculinity in Deindustrialization Fiction

Men without Work: White Working-Class Masculinity in Deindustrialization Fiction SHERRY LEE LINKON he classic image of the American working-class person pictures a white, male manual laborer, most often an industrial worker. Many fictional and popular examples spring to mind: Thomas Bell's steelworkers in Out of This Furnace, packinghouse workers in Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, the muscular men in Lewis Hine's black and white photos, and more recently the commercial fishermen, truck drivers, and motorcycle mechanics of work-centered reality television programs. These representations do not simply reflect the imagined associations of industrial work with white masculinity; they represent the real social, economic, and psychological resources for constructing masculinity that industrial work made available for most of the twentieth century. While the work itself was often boring, unpleasant, and dangerous (accidents were common, and former industrial workers sometimes battle work-related diseases and injuries for the rest of their lives), the mythology surrounding productive labor, with its associated benefits of the family wage, labor solidarity, and physical prowess, has long played a key role in defining workingclass and masculine identities. The American working class has never been solely male or white, of course. While women have always worked in factories, and many representations of the working class feature women, for http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Contemporary Literature University of Wisconsin Press

Men without Work: White Working-Class Masculinity in Deindustrialization Fiction

Contemporary Literature , Volume 55 (1)

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Publisher
University of Wisconsin Press
Copyright
Copyright © the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin.
ISSN
1548-9949
Publisher site
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Abstract

SHERRY LEE LINKON he classic image of the American working-class person pictures a white, male manual laborer, most often an industrial worker. Many fictional and popular examples spring to mind: Thomas Bell's steelworkers in Out of This Furnace, packinghouse workers in Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, the muscular men in Lewis Hine's black and white photos, and more recently the commercial fishermen, truck drivers, and motorcycle mechanics of work-centered reality television programs. These representations do not simply reflect the imagined associations of industrial work with white masculinity; they represent the real social, economic, and psychological resources for constructing masculinity that industrial work made available for most of the twentieth century. While the work itself was often boring, unpleasant, and dangerous (accidents were common, and former industrial workers sometimes battle work-related diseases and injuries for the rest of their lives), the mythology surrounding productive labor, with its associated benefits of the family wage, labor solidarity, and physical prowess, has long played a key role in defining workingclass and masculine identities. The American working class has never been solely male or white, of course. While women have always worked in factories, and many representations of the working class feature women, for

Journal

Contemporary LiteratureUniversity of Wisconsin Press

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