AAS 458 - Issues in Black World Studies
Winter 2020, Section 004 - In and Out of the Burning National House: James Baldwin in His Time and Ours
Instruction Mode: Section 004 is  In Person (see other Sections below)
Subject: Afroamerican & African Studies (AAS)
Department: LSA Afroamerican and African Studies
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Waitlist Capacity:
May be repeated for a maximum of 6 credit(s).
Primary Instructor:


This weekly seminar, open to upper-level undergraduate and graduate students, begins with questioning the placement, if not entrapment, of James Arthur Baldwin (1924-87) in various systems of representation on both sides, as well as across of what W.E.B. Du Bois famously termed the “color line.” Traditionally considered one of the “big three” black male authors, alongside Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison, and all too often represented as cleaved into seemingly incompatible parts –a “gay” vs. “black” writer, a better “novelist” vs. “essayist,” “a son of Harlem” vs. “international intellectual,” Baldwin has been misplaced and mislabeled throughout his rich career. Well aware of these paradoxes of representation, not to mention the complex politics of race, gender, class, sexuality, religion, and location around him (and those mapped onto his body), Baldwin turned his predicament into world-class literary craft.

While reading most of this writer’s works closely, we will unpack some of the telling misplacements and reductive labels applied to him in popular approaches and scholarship. We will also tease out the scaffolding and outcomes of his theoretical conceptualizations of intersectional American identity, and discuss its possible applications to our own troubled moment. Other themes that will emerge in our seminar discussions and student presentations will include: exile, domesticity, black queerness, racialized/religious sexuality, international travel, gender identity, the Civil Rights Movement, and more recent cultural productions (from films, through the NMAAHC/Smithsonian and #BlackLivesMatter, to t-shirts and other branded merchandise) that share a renewed interest in Baldwin’s ideas, life, and works.

Course Requirements:

Two 5-page essays, weekly written reactions to course material, a midterm examination, a final assignment (either a revision of a substantial movie scene or a discussion of your suggestions about an adaption of a Black American-authored text), and active class participation.


AAS 458 - Issues in Black World Studies
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
 In Person
MW 2:30PM - 4:00PM
002 (SEM)
 In Person
W 4:00PM - 7:00PM
004 (SEM)
 In Person
Tu 1:00PM - 4:00PM
012 (SEM)
 In Person
W 2:30PM - 5:30PM

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