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Nothing to Declare: Identity, Shame, and the Lower Middle Class

Rita Felski
PMLA
Vol. 115, No. 1, Special Topic: Rereading Class (Jan., 2000), pp. 33-45
DOI: 10.2307/463229
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/463229
Page Count: 13
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Nothing to Declare: Identity, Shame, and the Lower Middle Class
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Abstract

In contemporary literary and cultural studies, little attention has been paid to the lower middle class, described by one scholar as "the social class with the lowest reputation in the entire history of class theory." This article discusses the representation of the lower middle class in literature and scholarly writing. George Orwell's novels of the 1930s and Hanif Kureishi's The Buddha of Suburbia offer some illuminating perspectives on the British lower middle class, though Orwell's novels also reveal a conspicuous disdain for their subject. This disdain is echoed in much of the scholarly writing on the lower middle class. Decried for its reactionary attitudes by Marxists, the "petite bourgeoisie" also poses problems for a contemporary cultural politics based on the idealization of transgression and on the romance of marginality. Rather than embody an outmoded or anachronistic class formation, however, the lower middle class may offer an important key to the contemporary meaning of class.

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