Marx Research Seminar | 25th April

Punks, Prushuns, and Gay-cats: on the road with Jack London and ‘A.No.1′

The Marx Research Seminar will be hosting Dr Owen Clayton (School of English and Journalism) on Tuesday 25th April in MC0025.

Paper begins at 4.15pm. Abstract below.

From the 1870s onward, repeated economic depressions forced thousands of men and women to travel across the USA in search of work, often illegally hopping trains. Among them were the writers Jack London and Leon Ray Livingstone (the latter known by his hobo moniker, A.No-1). As this paper will argue, London’s tramp writings are a battleground upon which his political and literary aesthetic of dominance clashes with the reality of his own vulnerability as a homeless youth. His account of hobo life,The Road (1907)is haunted by the spectre of submission to the will of other men, including, but not limited to, sexual submission. He attempts to exorcise this spectre in two ways: first, by portraying himself as a ‘tramp-royal’; and second, by underplaying the potential dangers to which young, homeless boys were subject.

Livingstone wrote several tramp autobiographies, including one about being out on the road with London. These works demonstrate an obsessive concern with the fate of young boys, frequently portraying their author in the role of saviour. His texts are replete with hints about the sexual threats that were commonly faced by homeless children, including abuse that Livingstone himself suffered. A. No.1’s book about his time with London, From Coast to Coast with Jack London (1917), is careful not to suggest weakness in his young companion, though it does portray him in a passive position. Critics and biographers have barely mentioned the Livingstone-London relationship yet, as this paper will show, Livingstone’s work highlights important themes that are an invisible presence in London’s account of tramp life.
Story Credit: Andrew Rowcroft

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