This review article charts the general direction of scholarship in James Baldwin
studies between the years 2015 and 2016, reflecting on important scholarly
events and publications of the period and identifying notable trends in
criticism. While these years witnessed a continuing interest in the relationship
of Baldwin’s work to other authors and art forms as well as his
transnational literary imagination, noted in previous scholarly reviews, three
newly emergent trends are notable: an increased attention to Baldwin in journals
primarily devoted to the study of literatures in English, a new wave of
multidisciplinary studies of Baldwin, and a burgeoning archival turn in Baldwin
Ordinary Intimacies in Emerson, Du Bois, and Baldwin
This essay reads James Baldwin in conversation with two unexpected interlocutors
from the American nineteenth and twentieth centuries: Ralph Waldo Emerson and W.
E. B. Du Bois. What draws these historically distant and intellectually
different thinkers together, their differences making their convergences all the
more resonant and provocative, is a shared mode of attention they bring to the
social crises of their eras. It is a mode of attention foregrounding how the
often unobserved particulars and emotional registers of human life vitally shape
civic existence; more specifically, a mode of attention provoking us to see how
“a larger, juster, and fuller future,” in Du Bois’s words,
is a matter of the ordinary intimacies and estrangements in which we exist,
human connections in all their expressions and suppressions. Emerson names them
“facts [. . .] harder to read.” They are “the
finer manifestations,” in Du Bois’s terms, “of social life,
which history can but mention and which statistics can not count”;
“All these things,” Baldwin says, “[. . .]
which no chart can tell us.” In effect, from the 1830s to the 1980s these
thinkers bear witness to what politics, legislation, and even all our knowledges
can address only partially, and to the potentially transformative compensations
we might realize in the way we conduct our daily lives. The immediate relevance
and urgency this essay finds in their work exists not in proposed political
actions, programs for reform, or systematic theories of social justice but in
the way their words revitalize the ethical question “How shall I
live?” Accumulative and suggestive rather than systematically comparative
or polemical, this essay attempts to engage with Emerson, Du Bois, and Baldwin
intimately, to proceed in the spirit of their commitment to questioning received
disciplines, languages, and ways of inhabiting the world.
Pastoral is one of the few literary modes whose genesis can be clearly traced. While poems reworking pristine rustic experience might have existed earlier, the pastoral mode as now recognized originated with the Greek poet Theocritus in the third century BCE. More correctly put, Theocritus provided a model that others followed to create the mode.
This is a companion to Pastoral poetry of the English Renaissance: An anthology (2016), the largest ever collection of its kind. The monograph-length Introduction traces the course of pastoral from antiquity to the present day. The historical account is woven into a thematic map of the richly varied pastoral mode, and it is linked to the social context, not only by local allegory and allusion but by its deeper origins and affinities. English Renaissance pastoral is set within the context of this total perspective. Besides the formal eclogue, the study covers many genres: lyric, epode, georgic, country-house poem, ballad, romantic epic, drama and prose romance. Major practitioners like Theocritus, Virgil, Sidney, Spenser, Drayton and Milton are discussed individually. The Introduction also charts the many means by which pastoral texts circulated during the Renaissance, with implications for the history and reception of all Early Modern poetry. The poems in the Anthology have been edited from the original manuscripts and early printed texts, and the Textual Notes comprehensively document the sources and variant readings. There are also notes on the poets and analytical indices of themes, genres, and various categories of proper names. Seldom, if ever, has a cross-section of English Renaissance poetry been textually annotated in such detail.
Lesbian citizenship and filmmaking in Sweden in the 1970s
This chapter examines two rare lesbian film productions in Sweden in the 1970s, The Woman in Your Life is You (Lesbian Front, 1977) and Eva and Maria (Marie Falksten, Annalena Öhrström and Mary Eisikovits, 1983). The two films are unique cases illuminating the official shift from regarding homosexuality as a mental disorder to regarding homosexuals as a vulnerable group exposed to prejudice and discrimination in Sweden in the early 1980s. Both were funded by the state agency Socialstyrelsen [The National Board of Health and Welfare], the same agency in charge of the official classification of homosexuality as a mental disorder in Sweden until 1979. Drawing from archival research and interviews, the chapter sheds light on the rhetorical twists and euphemisms through which lesbian filmmaking was inserted into the National Board of Health and Welfare’s budget and administered as an issue of birth control education. The notion of vulnerability, the chapter argues, played an instrumental and multifaceted role in the production of lesbian citizenship and audio-visual self-presentation at this moment in time.
Don’t Ever Wipe Tears Without Gloves as a reparative fantasy
This chapter analyses Don’t Ever Wipe Tears Without Gloves (Torka aldrig tårar utan handskar), a trilogy of novels by Jonas Gardell (2012–13) and a three-part TV drama (2012) on the HIV/AIDS crisis in Stockholm in the 1980s, as an intense occasion of affective historiography. While enabling the gay community to revisit the trauma of HIV/AIDS, to mourn the victims and to communicate the injuries to the mainstream audience, the transmedial epic also engaged in a politics of nation. While issuing a fierce accusation of homophobia against past Swedish society, through processes of resignification and transference, the epic and its extensive media coverage reframed the HIV/AIDS-stricken bodies as objects of compassion, restoring the self-image of Sweden as a caring nation, a welfare state and folkhem, a people’s home. In a reparative and fantasmatic gesture, it concludes in a Christian dream of redemption for both queer subjects – celebration in life, turning of shame into life – and the nation, provided that ‘we all wipe each other’s tears without gloves’. Analysing the epic and its media framings, the chapter examines the terms by which gay history may be incorporated into a national narrative, and how vulnerability may become a resource for the nation-building.
This chapter focuses on the politics of hurt and bad feeling within feminism: how hurt, injuries and experiences of violence bring people to feminism, how racism, sexism, injury and injustice generate agency and political transformation, but also how the hurt expressed by those who have been traumatised by sexism or racism is often heard as imposition. Discussing the figure of the too-easily-hurt student, the charges against Women’s Studies as anti-intellectual talk about hurt feelings, and feminism itself as politically impoverished (and damaging to the left) because of its concern with individual consciousness and suffering, as well as the figure of the melancholic migrant, the author highlights a tendency to underestimate the difficulty of giving and sustaining attention to forms of suffering. As a result, the desire to move beyond suffering in reconciliation and ‘get over it’ means that those who persist in being hurt become seen as killjoys and causes of general unhappiness. Instead, the author suggests, bad feelings should be seen as creative responses to histories that are unfinished