Berkeley Digital Library

A Curriculum for Middle and High School Students

Art and Literature of Social Change

[ Go to Curriculum ]

Topics Exhibits
Its potential as a mirror of the society.
As source of inspiration.
As it experiments with forms and representations of social issues, and its accompanying bohemian subculture.

Suggested Activities

Background to the Exhibits

In turn­of­the century New York and western Europe, artists and social activists alike challenged conventional forms and ideas. The excitement of the discovery of new ways of looking at the world and envisioning the future created a lively international bohemian culture, of which Emma Goldman was a part.

Goldman recognized the power of art and literature to influence and inspire political awareness and action. Her love of the modern drama and her interest in classic literary works as well as the new artists and photographers of her time was evident in her lectures and in her magazine, Mother Earth. She believed that exposure to the beauty of literature and art should not be the exclusive privilege of the rich and educated, but should be an integral part of everyday life for all people. Goldman was as comfortable giving a lecture on the social significance of modern drama to an exclusive women's literary club one day, as she was giving the same lecture to coal miners in a mineshaft the next day. What she drew from most of these theatrical performances and artistic expressions was the dignity and beauty of small individual acts of courage in daily life that make the vision of social harmony a tangible possibility.

Suggested Activities

  1. What is the purpose of studying the social, political, literary, and artistic changes during the period of Emma Goldman's life (1869­1940)? Find examples of the major artistic and photographic movements of the time and intuit how you think Goldman would have responded to them.

  2. Read a novel (e.g. All Quiet on the Western Front, Bread Givers, Sister Carrie) or short stories from the period and comment on whether they correspond to or contradict Goldman's ideas.

  3. Paint, draw, write, or perform something that might elicit a resolution to a conflict at your school.

Document maintained at: by the SunSITE Manager.