Abstract

By examining Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti’s 1920s trial—and the radical and progressive literature written in its wake—this article offers a revised explanation for anarchism’s decline before World War II. It contends that the era’s legal and literary discourses shared a common drive: each forced Sacco and Vanzetti to represent. Placing two anarchists within these representational discourses effectively erased anarchism: the trial disposed of the criminal bodies and eliminated anarchism’s threat to the nation while denying any interest in radical politics; the literary Left then sublimated anarchism in order to form a nonanarchist collective and to reshape—yet retain—national government. Ultimately, then, the essay argues that anarchism faded during the period because it faced a paradox: it must be represented to appear as a meaningful political movement, even as it challenged the structures of representation that sustained American criminal law and democracy.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6490
Print ISSN
0003-0678
Pages
pp. 943-969
Launched on MUSE
2014-12-15
Open Access
No
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