James Baldwin is one of the most incisive interpreters of the English language and of American life. In this course, we will examine Baldwin's corpus, paying careful attention to how his style changes over the course of his illustrious career. We will consider Baldwin's work against a changing historical backdrop, and, at each turn, how his work pries open America's literary, cultural, and political imagination. Among the key themes of the course are: the intersection of race and sexuality; the forms of intimacy and kinship; the politics of diaspora; and, the role of the artist as a public intellectual. Alongside primary texts, we will read shorter pieces by Baldwin’s contemporaries, including Ralph Ellison, Norman Mailer, Amiri Baraka, and Audre Lorde; and a range of critical essays in black queer studies, American studies, and transnational studies that are re-conceptualizing Baldwin's work, including works by Sharon Holland, Robert Reid-Pharr, Marlon Ross, and Magdalena Zaborowska.