Of School and Proletarian Literature

by RS on March 20, 2013

A few months ago I learned about Coursera, which offers online courses taught at universities. Just for the hell of it, I decided to take English Composition I for Academic Writing. The reason I decided to to do this was to get to know Corinne’s flaw as a writer.

What do I mean by this? Early in the story Jake monopolizes the concept of the magazine and demotes Corinne as co-editor to fiction editor with the idea that she’ll find short story writers to contribute to the magazine. Essentially she handles the slush pile and doesn’t get to write at all about the important issues that matter to her like healthcare, international and national politics, labor and the economy, and so forth. It’s an area of contention with Jake telling Corinne that she’s not a journalist and that her writing is too academic, too far to the left that will antagonize readers. Of course she bristles at the notion—and even more so when Jake decides to hire Doug Barron, who has a Ph.D., to be a contributing columnist—a slap in Corinne’s face because: a) she never completed her doctorate and b) Jake feels she doesn’t have the clout to write the editorials.

But she does get her revenge—both in keeping the Marxist spirit alive in Julius (really, that’s not supposed to be a pun) and by focusing on proletarian literature, and frequently contributing with her own essays. Now you might wonder about Jake’s logic of allowing her to write for the fiction section, but as it turns out that’s what becomes the draw to Julius, both online and in print. It’s those readers who subscribe to the magazine–the meager bread and butter of Julius. It’s one battle that Corinne wins—sort of.

But back to my writing class. We’ve been given an assignment to write a case study about our area of expertise and I’ve chosen, for obvious reasons, proletarian literature. Among the materials used will be Proletarian Literature in The United States, edited by Granville Hicks, Joseph North, Michael Gold, Paul Peters, Isidor Schneider, Alan Calmer and Joseph Freeman; Trinity of Passion: The Literary Left and the Anitfascist Crusade, by Alan Wald; The New Masses Anthology, as well as various issues of The New Masses that are found online at www.unz.org.

Granted much of it is very dated—specifically the Granville Hicks, et al tome, which takes a pro-Soviet stance (it was published in 1935). Nevertheless, I’m excited about this assignment because it helps me to get more into my character’s head.  I’ll end this post with a poem (so you can see what sort of stuff gets Corinne excited), written by Mike Gold, who was considered the preeminent editor and author of proletarian literature—remember, it’s dated, or maybe not, you decide.

EXAMPLES OF WORKER CORRESPONDENCE*

Indianapolis, Ind.

We held a red funeral for a child who died of hunger.

We marched in thousands to her grave.

Red roses came from the Communist Party

A wreath of lilies from the Unemployed Councils.

Our banners flashed the sun

But our hearts were dark with anger.

When at the grave like red soldiers

We swore to end the world’s poverty

Brave comrades were seen to weep

Father and mothers of hungry children.

                                                Ashtubula, O.

I am resigning from the American Legion

It reminds of a dog I used to have

That picked up toads in her mouth

And was sick of the yellow acid in their glands

But it did it again and again, the dumb fool

And the more misery and famine and bunk

The more the Legion seems to like it.

But I am not a dog and can understand

That now is the time to end capitalism.

*Proletarian Literature in the United States: An Anthology, edited by Graville Hicks, et al. International Publishers, New York, NY 1935. Page 160.

 

 

 

 

 

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