Wednesday, November 30, 2016

J. Michelle Coghlan's "Sensational Internationalism"

J. Michelle Coghlan is Lecturer in American literature and culture at the University of Manchester, UK. Her work has appeared in Arizona Quarterly, the Henry James Review, and Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities.

Coghlan applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Sensational Internationalism: The Paris Commune and the Remapping of American Memory in the Long Nineteenth Century, and reported the following:
Sensational Internationalism tells the story of the Paris Commune’s spectacular afterlife in American literary, visual, and performance culture following the suppression of the seventy-three day uprising in May 1871 and well into the 1930s (and beyond). In refocusing attention on the Commune as a key event in American cultural and political life, the book profoundly shifts our understanding of the relationship between France and the United States in the long nineteenth century as well as the role that a variety of nineteenth and early twentieth century media forms—from touring panorama and big-budget pyrotechnic shows to illustrated weeklies, children’s adventure fiction, and agit-prop pamphlets—played in sustaining the Commune as specter and spectacle in U.S. culture. But it also charts how the Commune provided a vital, if now largely forgotten, site for extra-national feeling and international solidarity that continued to resonate with a variety of American radicals for over five decades.

Page 99 finds us in the third chapter of the book, “Radical Calendars,” which explores the expansive annual role that the Commune occupied in late-nineteenth century U.S. radical print and performance culture, in particular the essays and speeches of three of the most prolific if still under-studied American women radicals of the period: Emma Goldman, Lucy Parsons, and Voltairine de Cleyre. Reading this spectacular annual cycle of commemoration—complete with oratory, tableaux vivants, music and dancing—as at once counter spectacles and radical acts of counter-cultural memory, I show how U.S. radicals reclaimed the crushed Parisian uprising as a living blueprint for revolutionary agitation and a key locus of international feeling rather than as a failed radical past.

From page 99:
The internationalist bent of this [Commune] festival is not surprising. As we’ve seen, cross-national anniversaries were being held across the country since the early 1870s and well beyond the turn of the century, and coverage of later Chicago festivals—for example, reports on the 1891 celebration that ran in the Atchison Champion and Raleigh (North Carolina) News and Observer—similarly observed, “The Paris Commune anniversary was celebrated by half a dozen nationalities in Chicago.” Its inclusion in the volume, however, signals an extra-national affiliation and culture of memory that highlights long before Haymarket and its aftermath how the history of American labor is a story at once within and beyond national borders.
This page encapsulates the argument I make in the chapter, but it also gets at the way that I tell that story. For in order to show how vital the Commune was to U.S. radical calendars and make this vibrant memory and movement culture more audible to American literary studies, I turned not just to the print archive left by radical organizers and publishers but also to the mainstream metropolitan newspapers which anxiously—and with no veiled hostility—telegraphed accounts of these speeches and gatherings across the country and far beyond the reach of radical print networks alone. In so doing, the book reveals both the remarkable aftershocks of the Commune and reverberations of leftwing culture in this period.
Learn more about Sensational Internationalism at the publisher's website.

My Book, The Movie: Sensational Internationalism.

--Marshal Zeringue