‘I’m writing about strange people, people on the edge, people that society doesn’t like much’: the precariat in the work of Agnes Owens.

Ronald Paul


This article explores the way in which Agnes Owens, a 20th century working-class writer from Scotland, gives a literary voice to those most marginalized and underprivileged, a category of workers that is often defined as the precariat. The first part of the article traces the historic origins of the term precariat within marxism, then linking it to the growing number of people working today in low paid, short-term and uninsured jobs often beyond the pale of the rest of society. Their accompanying condition of neo-poverty is what Agnes Owens sought to dramatize in her novels and short stories, two of which – “Arabella” and Bad Attitudes – are chosen for more detailed discussion. The article seeks to show how Owens not only documents the lives of this modern precariat, but also how these new forms of social deprivation are feminized, since it is clearly the women who are most vulnerable in this new context of social and economic precarity.


Agnes Owens, Scottish working-class literature, precariat

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