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April 2012

Lecturer charts literary history of class and capitalism

A new book by a Leeds Metropolitan University academic that examines American literature in the context of the turbulent nineteenth-century economy is set to be published by the Oxford University Press on Thursday 31 May.

Downwardly Mobile: The Changing Fortunes of American Realism documents a group of nineteenth century American writers, including William Dean Howells and Henry James, whose families all suffered economic hardship that threatened their middle class identities.

Dr Lawson, Course Leader of the BA (Hons) English Literature course at Leeds Metropolitan, commented: Studying the experience of downward mobility revealed to me the complexity of class identity, since the writers whose family history I researched might have had social status, but no longer possessed wealth in the form of money and property. Its a timely subject, since the on-going financial crisis has demonstrated that free markets cannot provide people with economic stability or social justice. The humanities need to engage with questions of class as well as cultural difference in todays global economy, where opportunities exist alongside inequality, insecurity, and risk. To understand the impact of downward mobility on the writers families, Dr Lawsons research extended to census records, tax records, and land deals as he pieced together the literary, social and economic history of the era, contributing to an emerging area of study: the history of capitalism.


For further details please contact Carrie Braithwaite in the Communications team at Leeds Met on 0113 812 3022 or email

Notes for editors: Leeds Metropolitan University has over 25,000 students and around 3,000 staff. The Vice Chancellor of Leeds Metropolitan University is Professor Susan Price and the Chair of the Board is Lord Woolmer of Leeds. Leeds Metropolitans four faculties are: Arts, Environment and Technology, Business & Law, Health and Social Sciences, and Carnegie. Leeds Metropolitans heritage can be traced back to the founding of the Mechanics Institute in Leeds in 1824. International students rated the University top in the UK for language support, accommodation quality and learning spaces in the 2010 Autumn Wave of the International Student Barometer and sixth in the world for the quality of its lectures. We have over 1,500 international students from 122 countries around the globe. The Universitys award-winning learning environments include

Broadcasting Place, which was voted the best tall building in the world in 2010 by the Chicago-based Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) and also winner of the 2010 Leeds Architecture Awards New Building category.