James Baldwin

Eugene Lang College Lib Arts: Literary Studies

Liberal Arts

Undergraduate Course

Degree Students

James Baldwin

Spring 2022

Taught By: Rich Blint

Section: A

CRN: 10951

Credits: 4

Staged in the context of global economic insecurity, a planet gripped by the ravages of war and climate change, ever-increasing gaps in wealth, as well as rampant fundamentalism (East and West), this seminar will re-consider the contemporary utility of Baldwin’s expansive injunction to William Faulkner (and, in fact, to us all), “[t]hat any real change implies the breakup of the world as one has always known it, the loss of all that gave one an identity, the end of safety.” The course is proposed as an opportunity to take seriously Baldwin’s consistent and insistent proposal that categories of difference represent an early misnaming, a dangerous and cowardly misrecognition of the moral imagination required to confront not only our mortality, but also the brutal legacies of our collective histories. Taking Baldwin’s vision as our starting point, we will work to make legible the continued impacts of U.S. state racism in this moment of revanchist white nationalism. In this post-Civil Rights epoch saturated by disorienting fictions of progress circulating alongside the vulgar traffic in difference that characterizes much of late-capitalist popular consumption, critical appraisals of such processes are timely and necessary. This orienting intellectual posture illuminates the continued structural and identitarian restraints which remain the most dominant features of global life, and has particular implications for policymaking, interdisciplinary scholarship, as well as twenty-first century conceptions of the self that refuse the false, or, more precisely, rigid, character of borders and disciplines. Through a reading of his novels, essays, short stories, speeches, and interviews, we will consider the troubled career of the American project as Baldwin depicted and understood it, and explore the extent to which the failure to “achieve our country” is at the core of our ongoing racial nightmare. Some of the questions we’ll take up during our brief time together include: How do notions of androgyny, cross-racial desire, and revolutionary sexuality impact our understandings of gender norms and freedom? When and how does Baldwin betray his own investment in a discredited masculinity? How do we understand the connections between privacy and public declarations of racial sentiment? How and why do Americans continue to dawdle in what Baldwin declared as an “emotional kindergarten” or a “protracted adolescence? And how does black female sexuality figure in Baldwin’s body of work. At all times our analyses will remain attuned to the complex inflections of race, gender, class and, of course, sexuality.

This course fulfills the Single Author/Text requirement in Literary Studies.
After the first week of the semester, permission of the instructor will be required in order to register for this course.

College: Eugene Lang College Lib Arts (LC)

Department: Literary Studies (LLST)

Campus: New York City (GV)

Course Format: Seminar (R)

Modality: In-Person

Max Enrollment: 18

Add/Drop Deadline: February 6, 2022 (Sunday)

Online Withdrawal Deadline: April 17, 2022 (Sunday)

Seats Available: No

Status: Closed*

* Status information is updated every few minutes. The status of this course may have changed since the last update. Open seats may have restrictions that will prevent some students from registering. Updated: 5:36pm 6/29/2022 EDT

Meeting Info:

Days: Monday, Wednesday

Times: 2:00pm - 3:40pm

Building: Johnson/Kaplan 66 West 12th

Room: 618

Date Range: 1/24/2022 - 5/16/2022