The Jungle: The Real Social Historical Background to an American Classic | Newberry

The Jungle: The Real Social Historical Background to an American Classic

Monday, November 4, 2013Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Dr. James Barrett, University of Illinois
Chicago Teachers as Scholars

One hundred years ago Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle captured the nation’s imagination with its gripping depiction of immigrant workers’ lives in Chicago’s slaughtering and meatpacking industry. This seminar probes the novel’s real-life historical context—work, culture, and everyday life—in Chicago’s Union Stock Yards and the “Back of the Yards” community that depended upon the industry for its livelihood. Using maps, photos, and other graphic materials as well as printed documents, we will look at the “Back of the Yards” and other representative immigrant working-class communities from the nineteenth century to the present. We will discuss early twentieth-century American socialism, the political basis for Sinclair’s novel, and see a range of primary sources drawn form the Newberry’s Charles H. Kerr Papers, a wonderful collection exemplifying radical politics in the city and nation in this era. We will finish with a workshop on how these and other themes might be integrated into teaching the novel and the historical problems it raises.

Cost and Registration Information 

Registration opens on September 12, 2013.

For registration information, please contact Charlotte Wolfe Ross at