Working-class writers can challenge bourgeois literary conventions that are incompatible with their own experience of gender and class, and left-wing politics, through specific narrative tactics.
We can revise the traditional bourgeois bildungsroman in a way that calls into question popular assumptions about the individual and progression. We can rewrite the individual quest into a collective one through the use of heteroglossia, polyphony, multiple narrators, and family and gender solidarity to supplant the individual with the community; and we can use techniques that play on linearity, vertical narrative movement and temporal order.
We working-class women writers not only challenge capitalist values and the conventions of the classic bourgeois realist form of the novel as our male counterparts do, but we also challenge the male-centredness of texts. Women writers work within the existing working-class literary tradition by appropriating common themes, such as unemployment, poverty, regionality and community. However, in our appropriation of this tradition, we subvert its inherent maleness through our focus on women’s experiences and interpersonal relationships between women.
We can also challenge preconceptions that undermine the literary qualities of our working-class writing: the alledged historical image produced by the working-class novel is not merely a passive reflection of working-class conditions in ‘documentary’ realism. The ‘reality’ created maybe a documentary at one level because the work appears to be a faithful reproduction of aspects of working-class life at a specific historical moment. But in most cases, the text also questions its realism. It indicates its fictionality through strategies employed by the writer, such as narrative form, structure, and chronological time disruption.