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Poor Reporting: The Political Unconscious in Journalistic Responses to Poverty and Protest During the Cotton Crisis.

Broady, R (2019) Poor Reporting: The Political Unconscious in Journalistic Responses to Poverty and Protest During the Cotton Crisis. Doctoral thesis, Liverpool John Moores University.

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Abstract

The poor do not represent themselves in the Press; despite being the first victims of economic crises, they are instead presented by journalistic mediators. This thesis utilises the methodology outlined in Fredric Jameson’s seminal text The Political Unconscious Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act (1981) to unearth that mediation. The thesis posits that, by examining journalistic responses to poverty and protest, during a time of recognised and short-term economic crisis, it is possible to unearth the political unconscious, and strategies of containment employed which are intended to conceal the relationship between labour and value, in order to defend the status quo. It is further posited that an investigation of three politically and commercially competitive newspapers will reveal a broad strategy of containment beyond the political binary of left and right. As such, the study considers the liberal Manchester Guardian, the conservative Manchester Courier and the radical Manchester Examiner and Times. The analysis focuses on the reporting of political agitation in Stevenson Square, Manchester, during the Lancashire Cotton Crisis and the American Civil War and around the subject of legislation employed to manage poverty. The Cotton Crisis between 1861 and 1865, saw destitution among unemployed cotton workers, who faced the Labour Test when seeking ‘famine relief’ in order to survive. This economic crisis is of recognised international political and historical significance and is well-researched, but there has not been a broad study of the journalistic response in its representation of poverty and protest in Manchester. The British response to the American Civil War, spanning the same time period, is the focus of much debate, with a focus on Manchester, as is the responses to relief payments to the unemployed, with reference to the city, but analysis of political protest in Manchester in reaction to poverty legislation is scant. Further, available research, while extensive in regard to the history of the Victorian press, is less developed into the ideology of mid nineteenth-century journalism as specifically contributing to an understanding and presentation of poverty. The response of the unemployed workers is researched with regard to the experience of poverty, particularly in terms of poetry and dialect, but the journalistically reported words of their political protests during the Cotton Crisis has not, until now, been thoroughly analysed. This thesis, in considering journalistic copy totalling 43,000 words from late 1862 to early 1863, argues that the political unconscious masked the horror of poverty and mediated the collective experience of working class existence to defend the status quo.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Poverty, Class, Marx, Protest, Jameson, Cotton Crisis, Cotton Famine; Journalism, Critical Discourse, Media
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
N Fine Arts > NX Arts in general
Divisions: Liverpool Screen School
Date Deposited: 03 Jun 2019 07:22
Last Modified: 03 Jun 2019 08:26
DOI or Identification number: 10.24377/LJMU.t.00010763
Supervisors: Hodgson, G, O'Brien, G and McLean, R
URI: http://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/10763

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