Escaping Origins

  • Mary Eagleton


For the clever girls of the 1950s and 1960s, getting to university and escaping their origins is the route to upward mobility. This chapter considers novels by Andrea Newman, Margaret Drabble and Barbara Trapido. The protagonists in Drabble’s and Trapido’s work seek a new, enabling family that will be the conduit to a more rewarding life. Employing the work of Steph Lawler on narratives of women’s upward mobility and Pierre Bourdieu’s concepts of capital and habitus, Chap.  2 examines how the protagonists supplement their educational capital with the social and cultural capital of their new families; how they struggle both to understand and to enact the processes of social mobility; and how their habitus is challenged. Though the fiction gestures towards some resolution with origins, the new social position is hard won and any slippage back has to be guarded against.


  1. Beer, Patricia. 1993. The Lost Woman. In Sixty Women Poets, ed. Linda France, 52–53. Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe Books Ltd.Google Scholar
  2. Bourdieu, Pierre. 1972. Outline of a Theory of Practice. Trans. Richard Nice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  3. ———. 1984/1986a. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. Trans. Richard Nice. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  4. ———. 1986b. The Forms of Capital. Trans. Richard Nice. In Handbook of Theory of Research for the Sociology of Education, ed. John Richardson, 46–58. New York: Greenwood Press.Google Scholar
  5. ———. 1990. The Logic of Practice. Trans. Richard Nice. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  6. ———. 1992. The Purpose of Reflexive Sociology (The Chicago Workshop). In An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology, ed. P. Bourdieu and Loïc J.D. Wacquant, 60–215. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  7. ———. 2005. Habitus. In Habitus: A Sense of Place, ed. Jean Hillier and Emma Rooksby, 43–52. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Ltd.Google Scholar
  8. Bourdieu, Pierre, and Abdelmalik Sayad. 2004. Colonial Rule and Cultural Sabir. Ethnography 5 (4): 445–486.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Byatt, A.S. 1985/1995. Still Life. London: Vintage.Google Scholar
  10. ———. 1996. Babel Tower. London: Chatto and Windus.Google Scholar
  11. Collini, Stephan. 2015. Whisky Out of Teacups. London Review of Books 37 (4): 13–15.Google Scholar
  12. Drabble, Margaret. 1967/1969. Jerusalem the Golden. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  13. ———. 1998. Women Writers as an Unprotected Species. In Writing: A Woman’s Business: Women, Writing and the Marketplace, ed. Judy Simons and Kate Fulbrook, 163–171. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Forster, E.M. 1910/1968. Howards End. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  15. Freud, Sigmund. 1959. Family Romances (1909). In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, ed. James Strachey, Vol. 1X, 235–241. London: The Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psychoanalysis.Google Scholar
  16. Friedmann, John. 2005. Placemaking as Project? Habitus and Migration in Transnational Cities. In Habitus: A Sense of Place, ed. Jean Hillier and Emma Rooksby, 299–316. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Ltd.Google Scholar
  17. Grosz, Elizabeth. 1989. Sexual Subversions. St. Leonards: Allen and Unwin.Google Scholar
  18. Hadley, Tessa. 2013. Clever Girl. London: Jonathan Cape.Google Scholar
  19. Hanson, Clare. 2013. Eugenics, Literature and Culture in Post-war Britain. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  20. Hey, Valerie. 2003. Joining the Club? Academia and Working-Class Feminists. Gender and Education 15 (3): 319–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Irigaray, Luce. 1981. And the One Doesn’t Stir without the Other. Trans. Hélène Vivienne Wenzel. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 7 (1, Autumn): 60–67.Google Scholar
  22. Lawler, Steph. 1999. “Getting Out and Getting Away”: Women’s Narratives of Class Mobility. Feminist Review 63 (Autumn): 3–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. ———. 2000a. Escape and Escapism: Representing Working-Class Women. In Cultural Studies and the Working Class: Subject to Change, ed. Sally R. Munt, 113–128. London: Cassell.Google Scholar
  24. ———. 2000b. Mothering the Self: Mothers, Daughters, Subjects. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  25. Mantel, Hilary. 2003/2010. Giving Up the Ghost: A Memoir. London: Fourth Estate.Google Scholar
  26. Newman, Andrea. 1964/1979. A Share of the World. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  27. ———. 1966/1978. The Cage. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  28. Okely, Judith. 1986. Simone de Beauvoir. London: Virago Press.Google Scholar
  29. Reay, Diane, Gill Crozier, and John Clayton. 2009. “Strangers in Paradise”? Working-Class Students in Elite Universities. Sociology 46 (3): 1103–1121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Rich, Adrienne. 1976/1977. Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution. New York: Bantam Book.Google Scholar
  31. Rose, Jacqueline. 2014. Mothers. London Review of Books 36 (12): 17–22.Google Scholar
  32. Sage, Lorna. 1992. Women in the House of Fiction: Post-War Women Novelists. Basingstoke: Macmillan Press Ltd.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Savage, Mike, et al. 2015. Social Class in the 21st Century. Milton Keynes: Penguin.Google Scholar
  34. Spark, Muriel. 1958/2002. You Should Have Seen the Mess. In The Complete Short Stories, 242–248. London: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  35. Steedman, Carolyn. 1986. Landscape for a Good Woman: A Story of Two Lives. London: Virago Press Ltd.Google Scholar
  36. Sweetman, Paul. 2003. Twenty-first Century Disease? Habitual Reflexivity or the Reflexive Habitus. The Sociological Review 51 (4): 528–549.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Trapido, Barbara. 1982/2009. Brother of the More Famous Jack. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  38. Wacquant, Loïc. 2004. Habitus. In International Encyclopedia of Economic Sociology, ed. Jens Beckert and Milan Zafirovski, 315–319. London: Routledge.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mary Eagleton
    • 1
  1. 1.YorkUK

Personalised recommendations