Seminar on James Baldwin: A Syllabus

August 22, 2021
August 22, 2021 John Drabinski

Seminar on James Baldwin: A Syllabus

Here is the syllabus for my fall 2021 course on James Baldwin, which focuses exclusively on his non-fiction work. The course description is as follows:

This is a seminar on James Baldwin’s non-fiction, tracing his development of thought from early musings on Harlem, poverty, and racism to the late reflections on violence, antiblackness, and the compulsion of the United States to define itself through the abjection of Black life. We will trace this development through a set of distinct yet interconnected themes in Baldwin’s work: urban life, the problem of whiteness, his critique of Richard Wright, the meaning of African American language and culture, exile and home, and the complex intertwining of pessimism and hope.

This is a twist on a previous syllabus for a course on Baldwin, which had focused more on the 1956 Paris Congress and its implications for his work. My aim in this syllabus is to engage some of the same questions – namely, exile and Black identity – inside Baldwin’s work rather than in the wider context of the black Atlantic mid-century moment.

See syllabus: HERE