This article explores the emergence of a new mode of representing the poor that became dominant in Britain in the early twentieth century—a mode in which the “point of view” of impoverished people themselves was increasingly foregrounded. Focusing on examples drawn from documentary film, Mass Observation, and the publications of Victor Gollancz Ltd., the article considers how, while marking a kind of formal shift away from a late Victorian discourse of poverty, this development maintains that earlier discourse’s disciplinary agenda. In examining three case studies—John Taylor, Arthur Elton, Edgar Anstey, and Ruby Grierson’s Housing Problems; Humphrey Jennings and Charles Madge’s Mass Observation Day Survey; and H. Beales and R. Lambert’s Memoirs of the Unemployed—it argues that the new point of view mode marked a continuation in the twentieth century of the outlook that shaped representations of poverty in the late Victorian era.
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Research Article| March 01 2022
Representing the Poor: Interwar Documentary Film, Mass Observation, and Victor Gollancz Ltd.
Luke Lewin Davies
Twentieth-Century Literature (2022) 68 (1): 1–24.
Luke Lewin Davies; Representing the Poor: Interwar Documentary Film, Mass Observation, and Victor Gollancz Ltd.. Twentieth-Century Literature 1 March 2022; 68 (1): 1–24. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0041462X-9668871
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