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Writers and Miners

Activism and Imagery in America

Coal miners evoke admiration and sympathy from the public, and writers—some seeking a muse, others a cause—traditionally champion them. David C. Duke explores more than one hundred years of this tradition in literature, poetry, drama, and film. Duke argues that as most writers spoke about rather than to the mining community, miners became stock characters in an industrial morality play, robbed of individuality or humanity. He discusses activist-writers such as John Reed, Theodore Dreiser, and Denise Giardina, who assisted striking workers, and looks at the writing of miners themselves. He examines portrayals of miners from The Trail of the Lonesome Pine to Matewan and The Kentucky Cycle. The most comprehensive study on the subject to date, Writers and Miners investigates the vexed political and creative relationship between activists and artists and those they seek to represent.

About the Author

David C. Duke, professor of history at Marshall University, is the author of Distant Obligations: Modern American Writers and Foreign Causes.

Reviews

"Highly informative, widely-researched, ground-breaking. . . . General readers and scholars alike will find this volume an enormously useful resource because of the wealth of writers and texts it surveys."—Journal of Appalachian Studies

"Duke's attempt to shatter the myths that surround mining is welcome, particularly as the industry moves away from traditional mining practices, and serves to tell us that stereotyping is not exclusive to ethnicity or region."—Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

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