Styron’s Confessions of Nat Turner

William Styron’s historical novel The Confessions of Nat Turner won the Pulitzer Prize in 1968. The novel made the world conscious of the slave revolt in Virginia led by Turner in 1831. Styron was a white writer from Virginia. In response to the success of Styron’s novel, an anthology of African-American criticism was published by Beacon Press featuring the work 10 different critics. In addition to the criticism of Styron there were a number of African-American writers who were encouraged and praised Styron for his work, most notably James Baldwin. Baldwin predicted that the history of the rebellion would continue to be written for years. This remains true today.

This May, our Thursday literature group will read Styron’s novel, the Beacon Press anthology, William Styron’s Nat Turner: Ten Black Writers Respond, as well as the essay Baldwin wrote in defense of Styron. Many profound questions concerning race, class, the rendering of historical presentation, claims on sectors of our shared history, etc. are raised in the novel and in the anthology. We will discuss as many of these questions as possible including having a careful read of Baldwin’s essay on the work. This class is also part of The MEP noting this being a half-century since the pivotal year of 1968.

THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLES READING GROUP which has grown from the enthusiastic call for the need of greater understanding of the long history of the peoples of North America and other continents of the world who were of those continents before and remain after the European colonists came to settle and bring this capitalist relations to every corner of the globe. Our group began following a stirring presentation by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz September of 2014 where she introduced An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States.

Please follow and like us:

Day 3, Session 1: Slackers, Sabotage, and Syndicalism

American Labor History and the Refusal of Work
Kristin Lawler

In this session, we will consider the labor movement tactic most associated with the Industrial Workers of the World — sabotage, or the collective withdrawal of efficiency — engaging the history of the American slacker to think through possibilities for working-class freedom and power vis-a-vis capital today. The term slacker originated during WWI and disparaged those (primarily Irish) coded “lazy,” “vagrant,” and resistant to a proper Protestant work ethic; it also referred to those who would not fight on the side of the Americans (and of course, the British) during WWI. We can deploy this history to analyze the relationship between labor supply and worker power, and between anti-imperialist national liberation struggles (like Ireland’s) and struggles at the point of production, drawing out these connections for a new generation of scholars taking a look at the militant radicalism of the IWW in the context of a resurgence in the US and Europe, since at least 1999, of an anarcho-syndicalist, direct action-oriented politics.

Kristin Lawler is Associate Professor and Chair of the Sociology Department at the College of Mount Saint Vincent in the Bronx. Her first book, The American Surfer: Radical Culture and Capitalism, was published by Routledge in 2011 and examined the politics of American surf culture during the twentieth century. She is a member of the editorial collective of the journal Situations: Project of the Radical Imagination; her work has been published there as well as in several edited collections, Z Magazine, and the digital forum of the Social Science Research Council. She is currently at work on her new book, Shanty Irish: the Roots of American Syndicalism.

Please follow and like us: