Explores how creative artists have grappled with coalmining in their depictions
Caverns of Night explores the aesthetic challenges of representing Western European and American coal-mining experiences in art, literature, and film. Nineteen diverse and compelling essays offer critical analyses of gender, class, and ethnicity as portrayed in nineteenth- and twentieth-century works focusing on an enterprise distinguished by its enormous scale and terrible human cost. The volume's contributors show that for more than two centuries writers and artists have responded to this unique sphere of human activity by producing works that capture its authenticity and, at times, its beauty. The contributors also examine how some writers and filmmakers have concentrated on less appealing aspects of the enterprise, incorporating social commentary and ideological intent in their artistic expressions.
Analyzing works of poetry, prose, fiction, music, painting, and other art forms, the contributors consider a diversity of writers and artists. They discuss the protest verse of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Joseph Skipsey, and Tony Harrison; the reformist proclamations of Richard Hengist Horne; and the novels of G. W. M. Reynolds, D. H. Lawrence, Upton Sinclair, and Denise Giardina. They also consider Claude Monet's and J. M. W. Turner's struggle to paint industrialized landscapes, the inherent contradictions in Loretta Lynn's autobiography, and the depiction of violence and betrayal in such films as The Molly Maguires and Matewan.
As they explore the problems associated with translating, recoding, and fashioning the horrible and sometimes disastrous conditions of the mines into artistic representations, some of the contributors debate whether the aesthetic representations approach reality directly or fully enough. Many of the essayists push the terms of analysis beyond the more common focus on social class considerations to gender issues and ethnic experiences.
William B. Thesing a professor of English at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, is the author or editor of fourteen books, thirty articles, twenty book chapters, and scores of book reviews.