Impossible heroes: Trades unionists, communists and miners in Joe Corrie’s Black Earth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Black Earth is a proletarian novel, written in 1928 and published in 1939, by Scottish playwright and ex-miner Joe Corrie (1894-1968). Following publication, it was rejected by left-wing critics, bewildered by Corrie’s bleak tone and apparently nihilistic views. The present article is an attempt to contrast early reviews by providing the first in-depth reading of Black Earth. This is achieved by highlighting internal conflicts in Corrie’s work between issues of class fidelity, masculine culture, and political idealism. Indeed, such tension accounts for Corrie’s rejection of Communist heroism, whose encouragement of virile, utopian behaviours is portrayed as a threat for working-class families in thrall to capitalistic exploitation. Corrie’s anti-heroism is better understood not as a reactionary satire against socialist literature, but in the broader interwar context of ‘littérature prolétarienne’, which sought working-class authenticity beyond any sort of ready-made worldview.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-50
Number of pages15
JournalTwentieth-Century Communism
Issue number23
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2022


  • Joe Corrie
  • Miners
  • Black Earth
  • Communism
  • Proletarian Literature
  • Scottish Literature


Dive into the research topics of 'Impossible heroes: Trades unionists, communists and miners in Joe Corrie’s Black Earth'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this