Suggestions for Including Radical Relationships in Different Courses
The History of the Civil War
Radical Relationships would be a good fit for a class on the history of the Civil War or the nineteenth-century United States. The content allows instructors to include immigration, transnational encounters, and gender and sexuality without developing extra lecture material. While the book includes some material on Fritz Anneke’s military endeavors, it would most naturally replace readings on white women’s participation in abolitionism. In a chronologically organized class, it might be assigned right before the students tackle the war itself. The book has the added advantage of providing primary sources that allow for fruitful methodological discussions.
In a class on immigration history or “Germans and the world,” Radical Relationships would provide an opportunity to discuss radicals who were not typical of nineteenth-century emigrants. The letters intimately reveal the complexity of negotiating a new language, contemplating a new national identity, and forging cross-cultural relationships, which were common immigrant experiences, but most Germans who went to the United States were not feminist and abolitionist writers, did not return to Europe for a long sojourn, and did not form romantic friendships. Radical Relationships highlights how the remarkable refugees of the Revolutions of 1848 influenced the United States while diverting a generation of radical talent from the German lands.
Women’s, Gender, and/or Sexuality Studies
Radical Relationships provides a rich set of primary sources for students to engage with nineteenth-century romantic friendships in classes on women, gender, and or sexuality. Many instructors still assign Carroll Smith-Rosenberg’s 1975 article “The Female World of Love and Ritual,” but the letters in Radical Relationships allow student to develop their own interpretations based on intimate first-hand accounts. They connect to questions of where to find lesbians and lesbianism in the past and the methodological insights of queer studies approaches. Furthermore, they feature an underappreciated feminist, the challenge of making a living as a female writer, and the balance between paid work and maternal responsibilities.