James Baldwin: Life, Letters & Legacy


In his 1972 essay "No Name in the Street," James Baldwin recounts that he could never in good conscience just write, because he had never been just a writer. Indeed, Baldwin saw himself as a "public witness to the situation of black people," compelled to speak truth to power in whatever form he deemed necessary. Baldwin -- as Black, gay, man, American, author, activist, and so much more -- has served as an essential figure in theorizing alterities of the presumed rigidity of these very concepts. In this respect, this course will center Baldwin the thinker as much as Baldwin the author. We will examine his classic novels and essays as well as his work across many less-examined domains: theatre, sermon, dialogue, film, and short story. Moreover, while committing ourselves to close reading methods, we will situate Baldwin's works within the sociohistorical context and consider how he shaped and was shaped by events, beginning with the Civil Rights Era through our precarious contemporary moment in which he remains -- often tragically -- a timely voice.
Course Attributes: EN H; BU Hum; BU BA; AS HUM; FA HUM; AR HUM; AS SC

Section 01

James Baldwin: Life, Letters & Legacy
INSTRUCTOR: Manditch-Prottas
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