The Radical Novel and the Classless Society analyzes utopian and proletarian novels as a single socialist tradition in U.S. literature. Utopian novels by such writers as Edward Bellamy, William Dean Howells, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Sutton E. Griggs and proletarian novels by such writers as Robert Cantwell, John Steinbeck, Richard Wright, Meridel Le Sueur, Claude McKay, and Ralph Ellison can help us conceive of a unity of utopian and Marxist socialisms. We can combine the imagination of the future classless society with present-day socialist strategy. Utopian and proletarian novels help us to imagine—and realize—the classless society as achieving the utopian goal of recognizing race and gender and the Marxist goal of overcoming social class.
Introduction. The Radical Novel and Socialism: Utopian and Scientific
Chapter One. The Radical Novel: Utopian and Scientific
Chapter Two. Recognition as Classless Society: Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, Hegel’s
Chapter Three. The Family as Trope of Recognition in the Utopian Novel: Bellamy, Howells, and Gilman
Chapter Four. The Convergence of Family and Criminal in the Proletarian Novel: Steinbeck and Wright
Chapter Five. The Rabble, or, The Prefiguration of the Classless Society in Le Sueur and McKay
Chapter Six. The Divided People, or Classless Society and Agent of History: Donnelly, Griggs, and Ellison
Conclusion. A Dialectic of Organizing and Art
Robert Birdwell’s down-to-business The Radical Novel and the Classless Society freshly defines the tradition of American radical fiction as a synthesis of utopianism and proletarianism, cultural recognition and economic redistribution. Its inclusive but clear-eyed view of the progressive past is just what the doctor ordered in an era in which dreams of a classless society have never seemed less historical.