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Learning from James Baldwin (1924-1987)

ENGL 581.640
R 5:15-8:15

James Baldwin (1924-1987), one of the most influential writers of the 20th century, speaks directly to the current issues of racism and homophobia in our country today. In this course, we will read Baldwin’s prescient stories, essays and books (The Fire Next TimeGo Tell It on the Mountain, Giovanni’s Room and more), watch films (I Am Not Your Negro and If Beale Street Could Talk), and discuss how Baldwin illuminates historic and often horrific events, including lynching, with a personal and powerful immediacy.

We will explore and discuss the ether of Baldwin’s life and the stories behind the stories he's created, as well as the intellectual liberation and humanity he's inspired in other artists and writers, including Toni Morrison, Charles Johnson, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Thulani Davis, Caryl Phillips, Jasmyn Ward, and Eddie Glaude.

In the spirit of Baldwin, students will write personal responses to readings, speakers, and films. They will research what it is about Baldwin that speaks to them and create stories or essays inspired by his work. Requirements include daily 10-minute free writes; weekly personal responses to readings, discussions and presentations of research, and workshop participation.