Thoughts on _Metzerott, Shoemaker_ (preliminary)

I am halfway through a novel entitled Metzerott, Shoemaker (1891 1889), which I discovered in researching for a conference paper (see abstract) which I am writing for the American Literature Association meeting next week in San Francisco.  Metzerott is, so far, an unabashedly socialist novel that describes a commune formed in a fictional US city.  What I am finding very interesting about it so far, and what I may pursue in a separate research project after this paper is the way in which it is handling religion in relation to socialism.  The titular character, Metzerott, makes no bones about his atheism, but a number of other characters, including another self-professed atheist, see a one-to-one correspondence between socialist doctrine and primitive Christianity.  The novel seems to be headed toward some reconciliation between socialism and Christianity and the conversion of Metzerott.  This is fascinating to me because, while  Christian Socialism is not new to me and was widely followed in the late 19th century and exemplified by writers like Howells (see A Traveler from Altruria, for instance), I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel that deals with the potential conflict between atheist and theist strands of socialism. The idea that one needs to work in narrative form out how socialism is not a-theist and specifically how it is Christian seems to me presciently aware that socialism might become aligned in popular understandings of it with atheism and that, in the end, that alignment would do it in (and not necessarily its conflict with capitalism and interpretations of American individualism).  US history certainly has shown that people find communism (in all its forms?) “godless,” which for them viscerally argues against it, even when its tenets may be agreeable to them.

The novel was published anonymously, but is attributed to Katherine Pearson Woods, a follower of Edward Bellamy who later published articles in The Nationalist, a journal that advanced Bellamy’s ideas (as laid out in Looking Backward).  “Nationalist,” in this context, refers to the nationalization of industry.

When I finish, I’ll try to post a follow-up.

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