Freedom only for the members of the government, only for the members of the Party — though they are quite numerous — is no freedom at all. Freedom is always the freedom of dissenters. The essence of political freedom depends not on the fanatics of "justice", but rather on all the invigorating, beneficial, and detergent effects of dissenters. -- Rosa Luxembourg

English 100: Literature and Democracy
Spring 2008

Meets 5:30-8:30
Mondays in O'Connor 209

Marc Bousquet
pmbousquet@gmail (dot) com 
223 St. Jos. Hall

office hours:
M 1:30-3:30
and by appt.

Some rights reserved.

Contact pmbousquet@gmail (dot) com

Teaching.. Publications.. Video Blog..

This course surveys the literature associated with efforts to extent political, economic, and social democracy in the U.S. in the context of world literatures and transnational political movements, especially Marxism, feminism, and anti-colonial struggle. We’ll begin our first unit by surveying the relationship between rhetorical (or “political”) intentions and literary form in six transnational genres: melodrama, naturalism, modernism, proletarian fiction, reportage and historiographic metafiction. A second unit explores key texts and issues associated with international revolutionary movements before the Great Depression, including slave rebellion, anarchism, syndicalism and communist internationalism including, notably, key figures in the Harlem Renaissance. Focussing on just one writer, Meridel LeSueur, the third unit explores key themes of the 1930s, especially the emergence of proletarian voices exploring race, ethnicity, and gender in relation to the concept of “class war from above."

Many texts will be available on Angel. Books to buy:

U.S.! A Novel.
By Chris Bachelder
Bloomsbury USA ISBN-10: 1582346364
ISBN-13: 978-1582346366EY:

Babouk  by Guy Endore Paperback
Publisher: Monthly Review Pr (May 1991)
ISBN: 085345745X

The Communist Manifesto (Paperback)
by Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels,
Publisher: Signet Classics; Reprint edition (October 1, 1998)
ISBN: 0451527100

Chicago Poems (Dover Thrift Editions) (Paperback)
by Carl Sandburg
Publisher: Dover Publications (May 20, 1994)
ISBN: 0486280578

The Portable American Realism Reader (Viking Portable Library) (Paperback)
Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics) (December 1, 1997)
ISBN: 0140268308

Green Grass, Running Water (Paperback)
By Thomas King
ISBN: 0553373684

Quiet Rumours: An Anarcha-Feminist Reader (Paperback)
by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz (Introduction)
Publisher: AK Press; 2Rev Ed edition (August 1, 2002)
ISBN: 1902593405

Italicized texts have been ordered into the bookstore; a list of ISBNs is attached at the end if you’d like to pursue an alternate provider (such as Powell’s--a unionized alternative to Amazon or Borders--or ABE, a consortium of used book purveyors).

(A)=download from Angel
(O)=download from online source other than Angel




Political Intentions and Literary Form.

“The strike is not just a strike; it is many, many things, and since most of these things are quite unalike, they cannot all be the truth.  Only one can be the truth; only one can serve the writer who desires realism as his product. How does he decide?

“To the plant owner, the strike is an unlawful attempt on his property and his profit; to the worker, the strike may be a life-and-death matter, a matter for survival for himself and his family; to the local newspaper the strike may be considered a public nuisance; to some consumers the strike may be an inconvenience—and so forth and so on. Obviously, the truth is not an apple that anyone can pick. The truth is one side or another, and before the writer can ascertain the nature of the truth, he must choose sides. The truth is partisan, not neutral.”—Howard Fast, Literature and Reality (1950)

Monday January 7    Melodrama and Public Culture. Screening: V for Vendetta (Wachowski bros.) Handout in class: J.S. Jones, “The People’s Lawyer” (1839) Dion Boucicault, “The Poor of New York” (1857; ad. Pauvres De Paris); Daniel Gerould, “The Americanization of Melodrama” (all H)

Monday January 14     Summoning the Spectre: Chris Bachelder, U.S.!

Monday January 21 Martin Luther King day, no class.

Monday January 28 Realism, Naturalism, Modernism. In Portable American Realism Reader: Hamlin Garland, "Under the Lion's Paw;" Theodore Dreiser, "The Curious Shifts of the Poor;" Jack London, "The Law of Life;" Frank Norris, "A Deal in Wheat;” Paul Laurence Dunbar, "The Lynching of Jube Benson" Mary Wilkins Freeman, "A Church Mouse" Carl Sandburg, Chicago Poems (1-32, plus “Handfuls,” 33-36, and the poems on pp 74-80)

In class handout: Vladimir Mayakovsky, “150,000,000;” “Left March"

Presentations: Emile Zola, "The Experimental Novel"(A); Jack London, "Revolution" and “The Somnambulists” (O). 

Monday February 4   Truth Without Objectivity: Proletarian Fiction and Reportage.  Meyer Levin, “Citizens” (1-89) (A); Tess Slesinger, “The Mousetrap” (A) Richard Wright, “Fire and Cloud,” Tillie Olsen, “The Strike” Meridel LeSueur, “The Fetish of Being Outside;”  Agnes Smedley, “The Dedicated,” “The Living Dead,” “The Martyr’s Widow;” “A White Episode” (A)

Monday February 11 Historiographic Metafiction: Green Grass Running Water

Anarchism and the Communist Internationals

"If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal.”—Emma Goldman

Monday February 18 Presidents' Day, no class

Monday February 25  Slave Rebellion and the Project of World Revolution. Guy Endore, Babouk and Karl Marx, Communist Manifesto, CLR James, “Revolution and the Negro”(O)

Monday March 4 The Red Harlem Renaissance, Anarchism, and the IWW. Poetry by Langston Hughes: “Good Morning, Revolution,” “White Man,” “Our Spring,” “Song of the Revolution,” “Revolution,” “The Same” (GMR 5-11); “Johannesburg Mines,” “Black Workers,” “Cubes” (GMR 13-15) “Poet to Patron,” “Advertisement for the Waldorf Astoria” (GMR 22-26), “Air Raid over Harlem: Scenario for a Black Movie” (GMR 37-40); “Goodbye, Christ” (GMR 49-50)  (A); Dark Star Collective: Quiet Rumors, 11-68; 81-115; Rosa Luxemburg, Women’s Suffrage and the Class Struggle (O)

The Thirties

"Only the working class, through its own activity, can make the word flesh." --Rosa Luxemburg

Monday March 11   Essays, Reportage and fiction by Meridel LeSueur: “Women are Hungry” (R 144-157), “I Was Marching” (R 158-165), “Women Know A Lot of Things They Don’t Read in the Papers, And They’re Acting on What They Know” (R 171-174), “The Girl” (R 202-204), “The Dark of the Time” (R 231-239); Sequel to Love and They Follow Us Girls; (A--the last two stories are in the selection titled Short Fiction From “The Anvil” and “New Masses”)

Grades, Policies, Final Project.

My preference is to weight grading as follows:  2/3 engagement with assigned reading, 1/3 final project and class presentation. How you engage the reading, and how you share that engagement with me, is up to you. If you prefer to demonstrate that engagement by taking copious notes, fine. If you’d like to set up a weblog or discussion list (say, “Left Book Talk”) where you  and others stream your thoughts on the reading, I can help you do that. If you prefer to come prepared to talk in class--perhaps with a list of thoughtful questions or scenes that raise interesting issues for you--that’s fine too. If you have a different idea about the weighting of grading, please come see me to make other arrangements.

Everyone will do one 10-minute class presentation: we'll discuss the details of that in class. Essentially, I'd like you to choose one book and one website from the list below (or substitute others, with my approval) and relate them in a detailed and meaningful way to the course reading for the week.

Books on reserve:

Robin D.G. Kelley, Hammer and Hoe
William Maxwell, New Negro, Old Left
Bill Mullen, Popular Fronts
Cary Nelson, Revolutionary Memory
Paula Rabinowitz, Labor and Desire
Michael Denning, Cultural Front
Barbara Foley, Radical Representations
Constance Coiner,  Better Red
Michael Thurston, American Political Poetry
Alan Wald, Exiles From a Future Time
Michael Denning, Cultural Front
Robin Kelley, Race Rebels
Stanley Aronowitz, Death & Rebirth of American Radicalism
Michael Hardt & Antonio Negri, Empire
David Harvey, Spaces of Hope


For a final project, I’m open to all kinds of ideas that involve the course materials.

You may want to research radical periodicals, theater, poetry, or fiction, in the public domain and create a web-delivered edition, with your own commentary. (I can arrange for you to get private tutorial in the software: it takes about an hour to learn.)

You may want to engage in the creation of contemporary melodrama, an item of reportage or proletarian writing, employing a variety of media, and possibly the web for publication. You can create a film as an act of radical reportage or testimony, and I'll help you publish it to youtube.

Or you can do a research paper of, say, fifteen pages, using 5-6 primary and 10-12 secondary sources.  A research paper or website might treat such topics as:

a) the consequences for thinking about race and gender in the context of class war from above; 

b) the degree to which literary practices associated with political radicalism remain viable today (on the web, in indymedia, etc)

c) the historiographic turn in contemporary fiction (eg, the re-appearance of radical socialist Upton Sinclair in Chris Bachelder’s “US!”

d) the ways in which China, the former Soviet Union, or post-colonial societies in Africa, Asia, or South America might occupy the attention of the Western political left today.

Attendance, academic integrity, and disability accomodation statement.  This class meets only once per week this term: I suggest that you miss or arrive late to not more than one class. Unexcused attendence problems affecting a second class will be reflected by a reduction in your final grade; attendance issues in three classes will usually result in a failing grade. SCU maintains a detailed policy on academic integrity that applies to this course and which you may consult in the University Bulletin. Students who experience a circumstance or condition that may affect their ability to complete assignments or otherwise satisfy course criteria are encouraged to meet with me to identify, discuss, and document any feasible intructional modifications or accommodations. You may contact the Disabilities Resource Center in 214 Benson (extension 4111, TTY ext 5445). An

y other issues? Please email or drop in.