By Michael Demson
Masks of Anarchy tells the extreme tale of Percy Shelley’s poem “The Masque
of Anarchy,” from its notion in Italy and suppression in England to the instant it turned a
catalyst for protest between manhattan urban staff a century later.
Shelley penned the poem in 1819, after listening to of the Peterloo bloodbath, the place British cavalry
charged peaceable political demonstrators close to Manchester. His phrases might later motivate figures
as wide-ranging as Henry David Thoreau and Mahatma Gandhi—and additionally Pauline Newman, the
lady the hot York occasions referred to as the “New Joan of Arc” in 1907. Newman used to be a Jewish immigrant who labored within the Triangle Shirtwaist manufacturing facility, and got here to be a number one organizer—and
the 1st lady organizer—of considered one of America’s strongest unions, the foreign Ladies’
Garment staff’ Union. As she marched with tens, occasionally thousands of New
Yorkers within the streets, Shelley’s poem by no means ceased to motivate her.
“Shake your chains to earth like dew,” it implores. “Ye are many—they are few.”
Read or Download Masks Of Anarchy: The History Of A Radical Poem, From Percy Shelley To The Triangle Factory Fire PDF
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Extra resources for Masks Of Anarchy: The History Of A Radical Poem, From Percy Shelley To The Triangle Factory Fire
Far from working in isolation, Percy Shelley surrounded himself with people, many of whom were genius women. So often his poetry celebrates a solitary or reclusive life that we forget that he was in fact dependent on a society of rebels and outcasts, and that his work emerged from his conversations, his collaborations, his correspondence. In Masks of Anarchy, I have tried to present both the tragic consequences of this myth, which prompts creators to turn away from or otherwise neglect those around them (in the Shelley story), and (in the Newman story) the political potency in the recognition of genius as a social phenomenon and magnetic force that draws people together.
I published an article on Shelley and Newman in European Romantic Review, a journal on Romantic literature. I was proud of the finished product, but still felt that I had not done enough to celebrate Newman’s own career. Newman overcame every barrier set in her path: she was a foreigner, she was Jewish, she was a woman, she lost her father at a very young age, she did not speak English, she was compelled into brutal labor conditions and lived in poverty as a child—and yet, she learned English, she fought for a decent life not only for herself and her family but also for whole communities, and she became a driving force in the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union.
From a visual standpoint, today’s comics are inspired and shaped by a contemporary readership that is not only substantially larger than in the past, but also arguably more aesthetically sophisticated than its predecessors in the “reading” of the comics. As late as 2000, the nonfiction component (a microscopic corner of the so-called graphic novel world) would have seemed most unlikely to grow much or to make an impact. How it has since done both is a story wound around a larger comic art history, which has gained more facets but also more clarity than one could have imagined only a decade or so ago.