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James Baldwin & the Issues of Our Times: A Writing Seminar

ENGL 481.640
crosslisted as: AFRC 481
instructor(s):
Thursdays 5:30-8:10 pm

James Baldwin, one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, spoke to the issues of his times as well as to our own. This class will examine the intellectual legacy that Baldwin left to present day writers such as Toni Morrison, Charles Johnson, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Thulani Davis, Caryl Phillips and others. We will spend time reading and discussing Baldwin’s novels, short stories, plays and essays. In doing so, we will be considering the complex assumptions and negotiations that we make in our day-to-day lives around our identities and experiences built upon gender, sexual preference, the social-constructs called “race,” and more. James Baldwin’s life and work will be the touchstone that grounds our discussions.     We will read Go Tell It on the Mountain, Another Country, The Fire Next Time, and Giovanni’s Room and see films (“The Price of the Ticket” and “The Murder of Emmett Till”). We’ll also read commentary on his work.   Students will research subjects of their own choosing about Baldwin’s life and art. For example, they may focus on the shaping influences of Pentecostalism; segregation; racism; homophobia; exile in Paris; the Civil Rights Movement; Black Power, Baldwin’s faith, or his return to America. Students will make oral research presentations. Requirements include: 100-150 pages of reading per week, writing responses to readings (2-3 pgs), personal writing journals, oral presentations of research projects, and final essays (12-15 pgs). Class limit: 15 (No audits)