Dynamite! Dynamite! Of all the good stuff, that is the stuff! Stuff several pounds of this sublime stuff into an inch pipe (gas or water pipe), plug up both ends, insert a cap with a fuse attached, place this in the immediate vicinity of a lot of rich loafers who live by the sweat of other people's brows, and light the fuse. A most cheerful and gratifying result will follow. -- Lucy Parsons, The Alarm, February 21, 1885

English 66: The Radical Imagination meets MW 330-515
O'Connor 209

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

office hours:
M 130-330
and by appt.

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Contact pmbousquet@gmail (dot) com

Teaching.. Publications.. Video Blog.. marcbousquet.net

This course surveys the literature, rhetoric and cultural production of the large and often neglected tradition of political radicalism in the United States, including prominent anarchists, communists, and socialists like Emma Goldman, Amiri Baraka, and Oakland’s Jack London (now more famous for his “nature” stories such as Call of the Wild and White Fang).  We’ll study some of the more well-known radical movements and writers, such as the Beats’ Allen Ginsberg and Langston Hughes of  the Harlem Renaissance. We’ll also look at the organized literary movement of proletarian writers like Tillie Olsen and Meridel LeSueur, and the intentional culture of the IWW (International Workers of the World, or “Wobblies,”) whose early-century songs, theater and political imagery informed the consciousness of American radicals well into the McCarthy era and beyond.  

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

Waiting for Lefty and Other Plays
by Clifford Odets

Anarchism, and Other Essays
by Emma Goldman

The Iron Heel
by Jack London

The Leroi Jones/Amiri Baraka Reader
by Imamu Amiri Baraka

Uncle Tom's Children
By Richard Wright



Monday,  January 7 Hand out syllabus and reading in photocopy: Lucy Parsons, “Dynamite, Dynamite” and Langston Hughes, “Letter to the Academy.”Introduction: discuss major themes. What does it mean to be "radical"? How do we understand the notion of "revolution"? What relationships do we see between social movements? What can we gain by trying to understand the role of social class in structuring U.S. society? How many "classes" are there? What role do education and culture play in maintaining a class society and to what social class do highly educated persons belong? What roles do law, force, power, and violence play in social change?

Wednesday, January 9 Jack London, The Iron Heel:
Introduction, Chs 1-5

1. Anarchism and Revolutionary Communism


Monday, January 14  Iron Heel, chs 6-16

Wednesday, January 16 Iron Heel chs 17-25

Monday January 21 Martin Luther King holiday; no class

Wednesday, January 23  Emma Goldman, “Anarchism” (47-69); “Hypocrisy of Puritanism” (167-176); “Woman Suffrage” (195-212)

Monday, January 28 Selected poetry, songs, drama and reports by the IWW. Also Langston Hughes: “Good Morning, Revolution,” “White Man,” “Our Spring,” “Song of the Revolution,” “Revolution,” “The Same” (GMR 5-11);

Presentation Robin D.G. Kelley, Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists and the Great Depression

2. Political Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance


Wednesday, January 30
Langston Hughes: “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); “Moscow and Me,” “Going South in Russia,” “The Soviet Union,” “The Soviet Union and Jews,” “The Soviet Union and Color,” The Soviet Union and Women,” “The Soviet Union and Health.” “Faults of the Soviet Union,” “Lenin” (GMR 71-98); “The Revolutionary Armies in China—1949,” (GMR 129-130); “To Negro Writers” (GMR 135-137); “Concerning ‘Goodbye, Christ,’” “My Adventures as a Social Poet,” precis of testimony before the McCarthy committee, “Information on Langston Hughes and Red Baiting,” (GMR 147-161).

Presentation:  William Maxwell, New Negro, Old Left: African American Writing and Communism Between the Wars

Presentation: Bill Mullen, Popular Fronts: Chicago and African-American Cultural Politics, 1935-46.

3.    The Rebel Poets, the Proletarian Left and Labor Internationalism


Monday February 4.
Tillie Olsen, the Rebel Poets & other worker lyrics: Olsen, “I want you women up north to know,” “There is a Lesson,” excerpt from Silences; Lucia Trent, “Breed, Women, Breed,” “Black Men,” “Parade the Narrow Turrets”; Kenneth Fearing, “Dear Beatrice Fairfax,” “$2.50,” “Dirge,” “Denouement,” John Beecher, “Report to the Stockholders,” “Beaufort Tides,” “Engagement at the Salt Fork,” Joseph Kalar, “Papermill,” George Kauffman, “Let Me Laugh,” H.H. Lewis, “Liberal,” Thomas McGrath, poem to be nameless, William Paterston, “and never never need they know,” Walter Snow, “Social Worker”

Presentation: Cary Nelson, Revolutionary Memory: Recovering the Poetry of the American Left

Presentation: Paula Rabinowitz, Labor and Desire

Wednesday February 6.  Short fiction from The Anvil & New Masses. Nelson Algren, “A Holiday in Texas,” “Within the City,”  Michael Gold, “Mussolini’s Nightmare." Meridel LeSueur, Sequel to Love and They Follow Us Girls, Louis Mamet, “Not Without Propaganda,” Frank Yerby, Thunder of God.

Presentation: Michael Denning, Cultural Front

Presentation: Barbara Foley, Radical Representations: Politics and Form in U.S. Proletarian Fiction, 1929-1941

Monday, February 11 Meridel LeSueur “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)

Presentation: Constance Coiner,  Better Red: The Writing and Resistance of Tillie Olsen and Meridel LeSueur

Wednesday February 13 Screening: Salt of the Earth

4. Left Modernism


Monday February 18 Presidents Day, no class

Wednesday February 20 Muriel Rukeyser, “Book of the Dead”

Thurston, American Political Poetry

Monday February 25 Sol Funaroff, “Factory Night: Time Is Money, Unemployed: 2am, Uprooted, A Worker, Poem, I Dreamed I was Master, Workman, Workman,” “What the Thunder Said: A Fire Sermon,” George Oppen, “Discrete Series,” Louis Zukofsky, “To My Washstand, “ “Mantis”

Presentation: Alan Wald, Exiles From a Future Time


5. The Cultural Front


Wednesday February 27 Clifford Odets, Waiting for Lefty

Presentation Michael Denning, Cultural Front

Monday March 3 Richard Wright, "Fire and Cloud" and "Bright and Morning Star"

Presentation: Robin Kelley, Race Rebels

6. Beat Sensibility and the New Left


Wednesday March 5 Allen Ginsberg, “America” and “Kaddish"

Presentation: Stanley Aronowitz, Death & Rebirth of American Radicalism

Monday March 10 Amiiri Baraka, selections

Presentation: Michael Hardt & Antonio Negri, Empire

Wednesday March 12 Last class. Screening: Cassavetes, Shadows

Presentation: David Harvey, Spaces of Hope

Requirements: One presentation, daily participation, final paper.

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. I'm always available to talk about the question of engaging the reading, and to discuss my sense of how you're doing in that regard.

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 contribute to the contemporary radical imagination, perhaps by creating a manifesto, an item of reportage or proletarian writing. You might employ a variety of media, and possibly the web for publication. A video in a radical or proletarian mode is a great idea for a final project.

Or you can do a research paper of, say, ten pages, using 3-4 primary and 6-8 secondary sources.  A research paper or website might treat any of the topics we discuss, and I'll provide a list of suggestions later in the term.

Attendance, academic integrity, and disability accomodation statement.  This class meets twice a week this term. I suggest that you miss or arrive late to not more than two classes. Unexcused attendence problems affecting a third or fourth class will be reflected by a reduction in your final grade; attendance issues in five 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). Any other issues? Please email or drop in.