Ernest Richard Shotton (Born 1878): Life Writing, Class and Identity – Writing Lives

Ernest Richard Shotton (Born 1878): Life Writing, Class and Identity

Regenia Gagnier argues that the working class autobiography changed in the way it was written in the 19th century. She argues that “bourgeois subjectivity” was now a “dominant ideology” for writers to consider and some adopted middle-class models of life-writing emphasising progress and success.

After closely examining Ernest Richard Shotton’s writing, I have determined that his memoir can fit with one of Regenia Gagniers six different types of life writing. I think his memoir can be linked to the area self- examination that she talks about. His memoir doesn’t necessarily fit all the characteristics that Gagnier talks about but I believe this is the closest. One of my main reasons for this is that the majority of his memoir talks almost solely about himself and the things he has done in his life.  He adheres to some of the other characteristics of this particular type of life writing, in the way that his writing is quite introspective and in parts self-critical. Although he does talk a lot about himself he doesn’t ever talk arrogantly about his own achievements. His writing is mostly informative; it is Ernest telling his own story.

imagesGagnier claims that self-examination more characteristic of bourgeois life-writing. Although this may not have been true of Ernest’s own class, he writes as if he is not trying to sell his work. His writing creates a narrative of his life as it flows directly from the beginning to the end of his time.

Class isn’t something that as a reader of Ernest’s memoir you could consider as being something that was very important to him. However he does make a point of talking about how he has remained true to his class even when his business was at its most successful. As one of the managing directors of a business that did very well, you could almost guarantee that Ernest lived quite comfortably for a lot of his life. The grand family Christmases along with other things show how in parts of his life he had climbed up the social ladder. However he does at points mention his appreciation of his working class family and he did go on to bring his own children with the work ethic he gained as a child.





Gagnier, Regenia. ‘Social Atoms: Working-Class Autobiography, Subjectivity, and Gender.’ Victorian Studies, 30. 3 (1987), 335-363

Rogers, Helen. ‘Bringing Life-writing to Life’ (Edinburgh University, 2013)

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