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Biographical Dispatches on a Freedom Writer

This essay presents the idea of James Baldwin as a freedom writer, the organizing idea of my biography in progress. As a freedom writer, Baldwin was a revolutionary intellectual, an essayist and novelist committed unfailingly to the realization of racial justice, interracial political equality, and economic democracy. While the book is still in process, this short essay narrates autobiographically how I came to meet and know Baldwin’s work, explains in critical fashion my work in relation to existing biographies, and reflects interpretively my thoughts-in- progress on this fascinating and captivating figure of immense historical and social consequence.

James Baldwin Review
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James Baldwin and the Broken Silences of Black Queer Men

James Baldwin writes within and against the testimonial tradition emerging from the Black Church, challenging the institution’s refusal to acknowledge the voices and experiences of black queer men. Baldwin’s autobiographical novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, creates a space for Baldwin’s testimony to be expressed, and also lays the foundation for a tradition of black queer artists to follow. In the contemporary moment, poet Danez Smith inhabits Baldwin’s legacy, offering continuing critiques of the rigidity of conservative Christian ideologies, while publishing and performing poetry that gives voice to their own experiences, and those of the black queer community at large. These testimonies ultimately function as a means of rhetorical resistance, which not only articulates black queer lives and identities, but affirms them.  

James Baldwin Review
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James Baldwin and the Ethics of Trauma

This essay proposes that we turn to James Baldwin’s work to assess the cost of, and think alternatives to, the cultures of traumatization whose proliferation one witnesses in contemporary U.S. academia. Beginning with some recent examples, the essay briefly places these cultures into a genealogy of onto-ethics whose contemporary forms arose with the reconfiguration of diasporic histories in the idioms of psychoanalysis and deconstructive philosophy in 1990s trauma theory. Baldwin speaks to the contemporary moment as he considers the outcome of trauma’s perpetuation in an autobiographical scene from “Notes of a Native Son.” In this scene—which restages Bigger Thomas’s murderous compulsion in Native Son—he warns us against embracing one’s traumatization as a mode of negotiating the world. In foregoing what Sarah Schulman has recently called the “duty of repair,” such traumatized engagement prevents all search for the kind of “commonness” whose early articulation can be found in Aristotle’s query after “the common good” (to koinon agathon). With Baldwin, the present essay suggests the urgency of returning to the question of “the common good”: while mindful of past critiques, which have observed in this concept’s deployment a sleight-of-hand by which hegemonic positions universalize their interests, we should work to actualize the unfinished potential of Aristotle’s idea. Baldwin’s work on diasporic modernity provides an indispensable archive for this effort.

James Baldwin Review
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Memories of cinema-going in the ‘Golden Age’ of Hollywood

(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989). 10 Joseph Fitzgerald, ‘Reminiscence in Adult Development’, in David C. Rubin (ed.) Remembering Our Past: Studies in Autobiographical Memory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), p. 370. 11 Fitzgerald

in Memory and popular film
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Civil rites of passage

‘presentism’, whereby the pressures of the present distort our understanding of the past. 6 Character-led dramas (often based on autobiographical novels, and memoir – like Crisis at Central High , Heart of Dixie, and Passion for Justice: The Hazel Brannon Smith Story ) promote a single monologic point of view to create what has ubiquitously come to be known as a ‘useable past’, in which resolution and

in Memory and popular film
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isolation. In the two years before shooting he had faced widespread media criticism following the release of Natural Born Killers. Further shocked by the disappointing critical and public response to Nixon (1995), he also had ended up in divorce proceedings. As recompense, Stone returned to finish his semi-​autobiographical book, A Child’s Night Dream (1997). Completion of the manuscript brought back a complex mix of emotions and memories about his childhood, his relationship with his father and mother, his experiences in Vietnam, and later in the Merchant Marine Corps

in The cinema of Oliver Stone

(Nygren et al. 2005). But there was nothing new to tell, which is why the reporting came to revolve around rumours and gossip instead. And it was obvious that many more actors cultivated the rumour in addition to the bloggers. An intricate and agitated conversation went on among newspaper editorial offices, blogs, Flashback threads, and other social media. To Jane Davidson and Ingmar Ohlsson, the reporting meant that they were forced into a protracted merry-go-round of denials. In an autobiographical book, Ohlsson writes that he felt disgust at having to call individual

in Exposed
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properly underway. Gripped with the desire to make his mark as a writer, the trip to Asia provided the raw material for Stone’s first writing project: a semi-​autobiographical novel that lay dormant for many years before being published in the 1990s as A Child’s Night Dream. Figure 1  Lou and Oliver Stone, Hong Kong, February 1968 Wa r The themes of suicide and death reverberate through the pages of this early writing, and it is not hard to see how the American post-​Second World War psychoses of power, responsibility, guilt and redemption dictate much of Stone

in The cinema of Oliver Stone