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 and the Broken Silences of Black Queer
McKinley E Melton
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.
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.
Writing about Personal Experiences of Humanitarianism
( 2011 ), ‘Humanitarian Sex: Biopolitics, Ethics, and Aid Worker Memoir’ , Australian Literary Studies , 26 : 2 , 43 – 56 .
( 2006 ), Emergency Sex (And Other Desperate Measures): True Stories from a War Zone ( London : Ebury Press ).
( 2016 ), The Experiential Core of the Humanitarian Vocation: An Analysis of the Autobiographical Narratives of Contemporary Humanitarians ( PhD thesis , University of Kent ).
( 2010 ), War Games
Despite the imperative for change in a world of persistent inequality, racism,
oppression and violence, difficulties arise once we try to bring about a
transformation. As scholars, students and activists, we may want to change the
world, but we are not separate, looking in, but rather part of the world
ourselves. The book demonstrates that we are not in control: with all our
academic rigour, we cannot know with certainty why the world is the way it is,
or what impact our actions will have. It asks what we are to do, if this is the
case, and engages with our desire to seek change. Chapters scrutinise the role
of intellectuals, experts and activists in famine aid, the Iraq war,
humanitarianism and intervention, traumatic memory, enforced disappearance, and
the Grenfell Tower fire, and examine the fantasy of security, contemporary
notions of time, space and materiality, and ideas of the human and sentience.
Plays and films by Michael Frayn, Chris Marker and Patricio Guzmán are
considered, and autobiographical narrative accounts probe the author’s life and
background. The book argues that although we might need to traverse the fantasy
of certainty and security, we do not need to give up on hope.
This book on Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman contains eighteen new scholarly chapters on the director’s work, mainly in the cinema. Most of the contributors—some Swedish, others American or British—have written extensively on Bergman before, some for decades. Bergman is one of the most written-about artists in film history and his fame still lingers all over the world, as was seen in the celebrations of his centenary in 2018. The book was specifically conceived at that time with the aim of presenting fresh angles on his work, although several chapters also focus on traditional aspects of Bergman’s art, such as philosophy and psychology. Ingmar Bergman: An Enduring Legacy thus addresses a number of essential topics which have not featured in Bergman studies before, such as the director’s relations with Hollywood and transnational film production. It also deals at length with Bergman’s highly sophisticated use of film music and with his prominence as a writer of autobiographical literature, as well as with the intermedial relations to his films that this perspective inevitably entails. Finally, the book addresses Bergman’s complex relations to Swedish politics. Many different approaches and methods are employed in the book in order to show that Bergman remains a relevant and important artist. The analyses generally focus on some of his most memorable films, like Smiles of a Summer Night, The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, Persona, and Fanny and Alexander; but some rarer material, including Hour of the Wolf, The Lie, and Autumn Sonata, is discussed as well.
The 1990s witnessed an explosion in women's writing in France, with a particularly exciting new generation of writer's coming to the fore, such as Christine Angot, Marie Darrieussecq and Regine Detambel. This book introduces an analysis of new women's writing in contemporary France, including both new writers of the 1990s and their more established counter-parts. The 1990s was an exciting period for women's writing in France. The novels of Louise Lambrichs are brilliant but troubling psychological dramas focusing on the traumas that inhabit the family romance: incest, sterility, the death those we love and the terrible legacy of mourning. The body of writing produced by Marie Redonnet between 1985 and 2000 is an unusually coherent one. The book explores the possibility of writing 'de la mélancolie' through focusing on the work of Chantal Chawaf, whose writing may be described as 'melancholic autofiction', melancholic autobiographical fiction. It places Confidence pour confidence within Constant's oeuvre as a whole, and argues for a more positive reading of the novel, a reading that throws light on the trajectory of mother-daughter relations in her fiction. Christiane Baroche was acclaimed in France first as a short-story writer. Unable to experience the freedom of their brothers and fathers, beur female protagonists are shown to experience it vicariously through the reading, and the writing of, narratives. Clotilde Escalle's private worlds of sex and violence, whose transgressions are part of real lives, shock precisely because they are brought into the public sphere, expressed in and through writing.
Actresses, female performers, autobiography and the scripting of professional practice
Maggie B. Gale
Fifteen years her senior, Ada Reeve (1874–1966), who had also
spent a substantial proportion of her career working as a Gaiety Girl
and in musical comedy, titled her late autobiography Take It for a Fact
(Reeve, 1954), with a similar pointed reference to her sense of agency and
The social and theatrical realm
authority in the writing of her own professional life story. Reeve, with
a characteristic lack of charm, orders us to read her reminiscences as a
‘record’ of fact, even though they were written in a moment of almost
penetrating, revealing, and at times, pathetic autobiography in the history of
Western literature, namely Les Confessions. Having antagonised his former
friends among the Encycloplédistes, the Genevan authorities, the Catholic
Church, and just about everyone else, Rousseau did himself few favours
by writing his Confessions – and his other autobiographical writings,
Dialouges: Rousseau juge de Jean-Jacques (1776), Les rêveries du promeneur
solitaire (1778), and his letters to the French censor Malesherbes in 1762.
As Byron noted about Rousseau, in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage
the Aberdaron period contribute
increasingly toward a sustained project in autobiography. My suggestion here is not that Thomas begins a project in poetic autobiography
after moving to Aberdaron, but more that, for Thomas, poetry, by its
very definition, is autobiography. The poems written after the move to
Aberdaron illustrate a significant acceleration and intensification of that
In this first chapter my technique will be to explore the idea of poetry
as autobiography using Thomas’s poem ‘This To Do’, but also introducing the work of a