Living Emma Goldman's Life
Alice Wexler opens her biography of Emma Goldman with a quotation from Margaret Anderson, the editor of the avant-garde Little Review: "Her name was enough in those days to produce a shudder...She was considered a monster, an exponent of free love and bombs." Wexler went on to say "Almost the moment she entered the anarchist movement in 1889 at the age of twenty, Emma Goldman enjoyed a notoriety unequalled by any other woman in American public life." Indeed, a strong argument could easily be made in support of the assertion that Emma Goldman lived the most independent life of any woman in the nineteenth or twentieth century. That independence was so threatening to public order that the United States government mobilized its forces to remove Emma Goldman from American soil by any means necessary, in the process launching the career of the future FBI's J. Edgar Hoover. Emma Goldman, or as she was known to her friends, E.G., was a constant source of news in the pages of American periodicals from the New York Times to Lucifer: The Light-Bearer. Her struggles to speak in public launched the free speach movement in the United States and had a direct impact on Roger Baldwin, the founding energy behind the American Civil Liberties Union. E.G.'s advocacy of birth control landed her in jail on multiple occasions, in the process paving the way for Margaret Sanger's birth control movement. The last two years she spent in American jails before her deportation to the Soviet Union were the result of her anti-war efforts, efforts which had a lasting impact on the anti-war movement and conscientious objection in the United States. In exile, E.G. became an ardent opponent of the Soviet regime, and spent her last years working as a propagandist for the Spanish anarchists during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). Her most lasting impact, however, was the result of making the "personal" "political" through her advocacy of "Free Love" and her analysis of the institutions of marriage and prostitution.
In this seminar we will vicariously re-live Emma Goldman's life. Through that experience we will gain a sense of America's political culture from the 1880's through the 1940's, and in particular develop a feel for radical political culture during that period. Because Emma Goldman touched the lives of so many prominent intellectuals, activists, journalists, workers and politicians, her life can be used as a roadmap to the era. Over the course of the semester we will take side-trips into the lives of those with whom Emma came into contact. Through these side trips and the main journey following E.G. as she lived her life, we will gain a deeper understanding of the history and philosophy of anarchism, the origins of the radical feminist movement, the struggle for freedom of expression, the fight for reproductive rights, and the difficulties faced by anyone daring enough, in any era, to live "as if the day were here."
Before each class session there will be about fifty pages of reading to do. These readings come almost entirely from Emma Goldman's own writing, including her highly acclaimed autobiobraphy, Living My Life and her first book, Anarchism and Other Essays, both of which are online. Living My Life has also been ordered for purchase at the book store. In addition to the assigned reading, you will be expected to do additional reading in pursuit of issues raised by Goldman's writing. As you read each section of the autobiography, you should be actively learning about the people and issues mentioned. For example, in the second paragraph of the autobiography Emma mentions Johann Most and his journal Freiheit. You should find out who Most was and what role Freiheit played in the anarchist movement. There are a number or resources available to pursue these threads in the fabric of Emma's life. Anarchy Archives will have something about almost every anarchist mentioned, and there are two online sources you might find useful: Biography.com and Britannica's On-line Guide. However, the library will be your most important resource. I urge you to get in the habit of reading at the library where you will have access to extensive reference materials that will enable you to understand who the people Emma mentions are. It is through this "active" reading that you will learn the most and be able to contribute to class discussions. Each class session will focus on the reading for that week. Each of you will come to class with at least one well thought out question or issue you want to discuss and each of you will be prepared to open the discussion by explaining why you think the question is important as well as your views on the issue.
Each week, based on the readings, you will write a 2-4 page essay focusing on some issue raised by Emma Goldman's life. For example, one essay might be on the difference between Emma Goldman's version of Free Love and promiscuity, or on whether or not women's suffrage was a step forward or backward in women's emmancipation, or whether or not violence is a legitimate means of political struggle, or the impact of Emma's family life on her political philosophy, and so forth. The best essays may be included in Emma Goldman's section of Anarchy Archives. You will find many valuable resources for your essays in the Goldman Archive and Anarchy Archives in general. In addition, I have a large body of literature on Emma Goldman and anarchism in my office which you are welcome to consult. It would also be a good idea to read other biographies of Emma Goldman. These alternative perspectives on her life provide not only additional information, but raise criticisms that can be the basis for weekly essays. Among the major biographies of Goldman, the following are the most useful:
In addition to the weekly issue papers, there will be one group project, and one final project. The group project will be developed over the course of the semester, but may include writing a screenplay depicting E.G.'s life, or putting on a performance of one of the several plays written about Emma Goldman, or producing a collection of newspaper articles about Emma, producing material to be published in Anarchy Archives, and so forth. In the first few weeks we will devote some time to deciding what the group project will be. The group project must be completed prior to the last week of classes. The final project will be a ten page analytic paper focusing on some aspect of Emma Goldman's life, work, and philosophy. The rough draft for the final paper will be due November 2, and the final draft of the paper will be due during the time scheduled for the final exam. Between November 2 and the final exam, I will respond to subsequent drafts of the final paper as time permits, so the earlier additional drafts are submitted, the more extensive my comments can be. A useful resource for all your papers is the APA style guide. The online guide to APA style, including internet citations can be found at PsychWeb.
Grades will be based on class participation, the weekly issue papers, the group project, and the final paper. We will discuss in class what weight each of these activities should have and how they will be evaluated. The resolution of that discussion is as follows: Participation (based on effort, progress and contributions inside and outside of class) will be 15% of the grade. The weekly issue papers will be 40% of your final grade (the two worst grades will be omitted from the calculation), the group project will be 15% of your grade, and the final paper will be 30%. The final paper must be a research oriented paper that relies on sources other than Living My Life (although you can of course use LML in the paper). The paper must have a thesis/argument that you are trying to demonstrate is true or convince the reader is correct.