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.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 943-969
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.