James Baldwin, one of the greatest writers of the twentieth 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 I Am Not Your Negro, The Price of the Ticket and The Murder of Emmett Till.
In the spirit of Baldwin, students will write personal responses to his novels, short stories, essays, and films. Students will research what it is about Baldwin that speaks to them, and will also create stories or essays inspired by his work. Requirements include 100 pages of reading per week; personal free writing journals; written responses to readings, films and speakers (2-3 pages), oral presentations, and revised stories or essays. Class limit: 16 (no audits). This course is cross-listed with Africana Studies and Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies.