A Session at the 2019 American Studies Association Conference
Magdalena J. Zaborowska, Nicholas F. Radel, Nigel Hatton, and Ernest L. Gibson III
“Rebranding James Baldwin and His Queer Others” was a session held
at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association in November 2019 in
Honolulu, Hawaii. The papers gathered here show how Baldwin’s writings
and life story participate in dialogues with other authors and artists who probe
issues of identity and identification, as well as with other types of texts and
non-American stories, boldly addressing theoretical and political perspectives
different from his own. Nick Radel’s temporal challenge to reading novels
on homoerotic male desire asks of us a leap of faith, one that makes it possible
to read race as not necessarily a synonym for “Black,” but as a
powerful historical and sexual trope that resists “over-easy”
binaries of Western masculinity. Ernest L. Gibson’s engagement with
Beauford Delaney’s brilliant art and the ways in which it enabled the
teenage Baldwin’s “dark rapture” of self-discovery as a
writer reminds us that “something [has been missing] in our discussions
of male relationships.” Finally, Nigel Hatton suggests “a
relationship among Baldwin, Denmark, and Giovanni’s Room
that adds another thread to the important scholarship on his groundbreaking work
of fiction that has impacted African-American literature, Cold War studies,
transnational American studies, feminist thought, and queer theory.” All
three essays enlarge our assessment of Baldwin’s contribution to
understanding the ways gender and sexuality always inflect racialized Western
masculinities. Thus, they help us work to better gauge the extent of
Baldwin’s influence right here and right now.
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