Choosing Death: Working-Class Coming of Age in Contemporary British Cinema


Dave, P. 2013. Choosing Death: Working-Class Coming of Age in Contemporary British Cinema. Journal of British Cinema and Television. 10 (4), pp. 746-768.
AuthorsDave, P.

Starting with Franco Moretti's hypothesis of a relationship between the experience of modernity and the coming of age narrative in the European novel, this article explores representations of the working-class Bildung in contemporary British films that can be seen as responding to social and economic changes generally associated with neoliberalism. Contrasting the emphasis on the individual negotiation of social space in the films of Danny Boyle with work from a range of directors, including Ken Loach, Penny Woolcock, Shane Meadows and Anton Corbijn, along with recent production cycles such as the football film, the article seeks to identify representations of working-class experiences, both limiting and liberating, which mark the inherently problematic attempt to imagine a successful working-class coming of age. In doing so, the article considers the usefulness of Raymond Williams' class-inflected account of traditions of the social bond, in particular his notion of a 'common culture'. At the same time, it examines how such representations of working-class life often emphasise the experience of class conflict, distinguished here from class struggle, and how, formally, this emphasis can result in narratives which are marked less by what Moretti describes as the 'novelistic', temporising structures of the classical Bildungsroman and more by the sense of crisis and trauma found in the late Bildungsroman and modern tragedy. Ultimately, the article argues for the relevance of the long view of the social history of Britain, as a pioneer culture of capitalism, in understanding these aspects of the representation of class cultures in contemporary British film.

JournalJournal of British Cinema and Television
Journal citation10 (4), pp. 746-768
PublisherEdinburgh University Press
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PrintOct 2013
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Deposited04 Dec 2013
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