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Influence of Karl Marx on American Literature


Annual Northeast Modern Language Association


Washington, D. C.  March 21st to 24th, 2019

Gaylord National Resort Center


Influence of Karl Marx on American Literature


This being the 200th anniversary of the death of Karl Marx, a retrospective of his possible influence on American literature may be significant. For 200 years, theories espoused by Karl Marx have been threaded within the literature of America. Notable writers such as Edward Bellamy, Jack London, and Upton Sinclair each had a different perspective related to Marxian theory and practice. The transatlantic influence of Marx is evident in the utopian fiction of Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward and especially Bellamy’s Equality. It is also an integral part of dystopic fiction such as London’s Iron Heel and in Sinclair’s The Jungle.  Fiction writers have the latitude to focus on current issues of their time, often in the guise of fictional places and/or unusual characters. The focus of this panel is to study the influence of Marx on American writers. What parts of Marxian theory did the writer use? How does it impact the characters? How does the use of Marxian theory reflect the times? As we move into the 21st Century, what parts, if any, of the Marxian philosophy have impacted current American writers?