Slavic 158: “This machine kills fascists”: A Survey of Anti-Fascist Form

TuTh 5-6:30, Remote. Instructor: Djordje Popovic.

Units: 4 Satisfies L&S Historical Studies or Social & Behavioral Sciences breadth requirement.

“This machine kills fascists” was the message printed on a World War II-era sticker American machinists affixed to their metalworking lathes and drill presses. As the war intensified, the folksinger and leftwing political activist Woody Guthrie began inscribing these words on his acoustic guitars. A 1943 portrait of Guthrie holding his “lethal” instrument has since become one of the most recognizable images of a rare historical moment when even societies long vested in the separation of art and politics appear willing to accept what the German cultural critic Walter Benjamin saw as the necessary “politicization of art” in the face of fascist “aestheticizing of politics.” This class is designed as a comparative examination of antifascism as a political aesthetic in its own right, rather than a momentary wartime exigency. Our focus will mostly be on literary works—including those by Tadeusz Borowski, Bertolt Brecht, Daša Drndić, Vasily Grossman, Ernest Hemingway, Sinclair Lewis, Dubravka Ugrešić, and Elio Vittorini—with several basic theoretical works on fascism (by Benjamin, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Susan Sontag) and films (by Dušan Makavejev, Pier Paolo Pasolini, and Alain Resnais) shown in between. Class discussion and all readings are in English. There are no prerequisites for this course.