Friday, May 09, 2008

Meme: Passion Quilt

Read More Marx!

Philosopher's Playground tapped me for this quick and easy blog meme:
Post a picture or make/take/create your own that captures what YOU are most passionate for students to learn about.

Give your picture a short title.

Title your blog post "Meme: Passion Quilt."

Link back to this blog entry.

Include links to 5 (or more) educators.
I've been looking for an excuse to post this picture. It's from Hugo Gellert's 1934 Marx' 'Capital' in Lithographs – an early graphic novel retelling of Capital, Volume I through Art Deco prints – a marvelous artifact. Perhaps one day I'll break down and have this picture done as a tattoo.

By far the most important public service I do for my students is to make them read Capital, Volume I. I've come to find that whatever else they may be studying or thinking about, it is helped along by a liberal dose of Marx. And, evidently, some of that passion seeps into my lectures.

Now I get to inflict this meme on five unsuspecting victims, so I will tap:
  1. The Doctor Isn't
  2. Rough Theory
  3. Professor Zero
  4. Citizen of Somewhere Else (again)
  5. A Gentleman's C (just to see what happens)


  1. Fun meme. I've been meaning to do the other recent one you did. I'll get to 'em both once I'm a bit further along with grading.

    That "Capital in Lithographs" looks really interesting! Thanks for sharing it.

  2. I've had the same experience teaching Marx. At least some of the students get really excited every time. Some of them in a how they see the world kind of way, and others of them in a now they get (or are less impressed by) some of the name dropping they encounter elsewhere at school kind of way. And I think all of them benefit just from reading hard material closely.

    I'm curious - how do you pitch it to your students? Like how do you frame in the classroom why you're having them read this stuff and what you want them to get out of it? I plan to steal anything you say for my own use. :)

    take care,

  3. Since it's usually a semester long course that I teach made up almost entirely of volunteers, I have the luxury of not having to work too hard at having to frame and justify the class. The students are already hooked.

    But I do have one line that I use sometimes to help combat the, "why study Marx - communism has already been proved wrong - just look at what happened to the Soviet Union" meme. The riff I use is on the title of the book, Capital. The book isn't called Communism, and in fact in 1000 pages Marx never even mentions communism in Volume I. Since no one wants to dispute that capitalism is still alive and well and having an impact on our lives, Marx's sharp and clear-eyed analysis of capital is likely to still be relevant to our lives today. And since capitalism is the background which shapes almost every other field of study from literature and anthropology to art, music, and science students ignore it at their own peril.

    Lately, though, some of the cool kids who sign up for a Marx class have been more interested in identifying themselves with anarchism rather than Marxism which they tend to see as so last century. I haven't quite found a way to frame Marx so as to make it more relevant for this crew -- somehow that Marx kicked Bakunin's ass fails to impress. And the Marxist genealogy of the Zapatistas seems to met with open denial. It's a curious situation. Suggestions would be welcome.

  4. First, thought I'd let you know that I completed the meme.

    Second, the conversation on how to explain teaching Marx is interesting. One of the discussions I've had with students is that dismissing a school of thought based on the failure of one application (and note that it ignores that both Cuba and China have continued to thrive with their interpretations of Marxist theory) would be like dismissing the lessons of the Bible because a particular group (the Gnostics, the Branch Davidians, etc) failed in their view.

    But I've also lucked out. Maybe it's because my last two teaching positions have been in places that are, for the U.S., economically devastated, but teaching Marx has been welcome because so much of it makes sense. Sometimes the name itself is loaded, but the ideas without the label attached, are not only usually of interest but are often embraced.