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James Baldwin (1924-87) & the Issues of His Time

ENGL 481.640
T 5:30-8:10

James Baldwin, one of the great writers of the 20th century, portrayed passionate truths about poverty, racism, religion, and the struggles for identity, social justice, and transformation in America.  “[He] is one of those rare figures in literature and history, a man who was truly engaged in all the issues of his time,” says author Thulani Davis. “He was prescient, fierce, elegant in word and deed….” By examining Baldwin’s work in the context of factors that stimulated its creation, we will see how his searing depictions of being Black and Gay in the 1950s are so culturally, spiritually and politically relevant today. In this class, we will read books (Go Tell It on the Mountain, Notes of a Native Son, The Fire Next Time and Giovanni’s Room), stories (“Sonny’s Blues”), plays (“Blues for Mr. Charlie”) films (“The Murder of Medgar Evers”).  We will explore Baldwin’s life and art—focusing on Pentecostalism; segregation; racism in the 20th and 21st Centuries; homophobia, Exiles in Paris; the Civil Rights Movement, Black Power, white privilege, and the persistence of “racial contracts.” Students will make oral presentations and write comprehensive final essays on their chosen research topics. Requirements include: 100-150 pages of reading per week, bi-weekly writing responses to readings (3-5 pgs), personal writing journals, individual and group presentations of research projects, and final essays (15 pgs). Class limit: 15
(No audits)


fulfills requirements