Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Marx’s Century cancelled

ENGL 2403.401
also offered as: COML 2403
TR 1:45-3:14pm


This course will introduce you to Karl Marx in the context of his century, and it will consider the nineteenth century in turn through the lens of his revolutionary social analysis. Much of our reading will focus on Marx’s own writing from his years in Paris and London, including the early essays and manuscripts, the Manifesto, The Eighteenth Brumaire, journalism on the Indian Rebellion and on the U.S. Civil War, and substantial portions of Capital vol. 1. No prior knowledge is required. Reading Marx and his frequent coauthor and collaborator Friedrich Engels closely will enable us to define some key terms including the commodity, labor, surplus value, private property, alienation, ideology, materialism, and class struggle. Since Marx himself claimed to have learned more from the great realist novelists of his day than from all the politicians and moralists, we will also read a selection of nineteenth-century fiction (including some of his favorite authors, Balzac, Dickens, and Gaskell) as another avenue to understanding capitalist societies and analyzing past and present struggles. As we discuss these novels we may also reflect on the possibilities of art under capitalism. In addition, we will explore and draw on later Marxist thought by critics and activists working across many contexts and extending into our own century, including decolonial and Black Marxisms and socialist feminism. Requirements will include active participation and three 4-6pp papers.

English Major Requirements
  • Literature Seminar pre-1900 (AEB9)
  • Sector 1 Theory and Poetics (AETP)
  • Sector 5 19th Century (AE19)
English Concentration Attributes
  • Theory & Cultural Studies Concentration (AETC)
College Attributes
Additional Attributes