Article

Factory Girl Literature across the World

Ruth Barraclough

in Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature


Published online February 2018 | e-ISBN: 9780190201098 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190201098.013.50

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  • Literary Studies (British and Irish)
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Factory girl literature emerged as a powerful critique of the culture of industrialization, delving into mills, canneries and sweatshops to detail the lives of the women and girls who generated industrial development. First appearing in 19th-century Euro-American fiction, from the early 20th century, the form has been dominated by authors writing from Asia. Penned by working women themselves, many of these autobiographies, memoirs, short stories and novels have become literary classics in their own language but their translation and dissemination was impeded by Cold War qualms about sponsoring ‘leftist culture’. Factory girl literature is related to broader categories of industrial and proletarian literature that underline the agency of working-class protagonists. It is unique in highlighting the sexed figure of industrialization and this focus on the gendered experience of rapid development uncovers the costs of the sexual and class violence of industrial life for women. A genealogy of factory girl literature reveals the importance of writing and authorship in labor activism, and feminist politics.

Keywords: cultures of industrialization; labor organizing; queer politics; indigenous politics; East Asian industrialization; postcolonial development; Cold War culture; translation; communism; anti-communism

Article.  5723 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (British and Irish) ; Literary Studies - World ; Literary Studies (Postcolonial Literature)

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