James Baldwin criticism from 2001 through 2010 is marked by an increased appreciation for
Baldwin’s entire oeuvre including his writing after the mid 1960s. The question of his
artistic decline remains debated, but more scholars find a greater consistency and power
in Baldwin’s later work than previous scholars had found. A group of dedicated Baldwin
scholars emerged during this period and have continued to host regular international
conferences. The application of new and diverse critical lenses—including cultural
studies, political theory, religious studies, and black queer theory—contributed to more
complex readings of Baldwin’s texts. Historical and legal approaches re-assessed Baldwin’s
relationship to the Civil Rights and Black Power movements and new material emerged on
Baldwin’s decade in Turkey. Some historical perspective gave many critics a more nuanced
approach to the old “art” vs. “politics” debate as it surfaced in Baldwin’s initial
reception, many now finding Baldwin’s “angry” work to be more “relevant” than “out of
touch” as it was thought of during his lifetime. In the first decade of the new
millennium, three books of new primary source material, a new biography, four books of
literary criticism, three edited collections of critical essays, two special issues of
journals and numerous book chapters and articles were published, marking a significant
increase not only in the quantity, but the quality of Baldwin criticism.
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
Readers and critics alike, for the past sixty years, generally agree that Baldwin is a
major African-American writer. What they do not agree on is why. Because of his artistic
and intellectual complexity, Baldwin’s work resists easy categorization and Baldwin
scholarship, consequently, spans the critical horizon. This essay provides an overview of
the three major periods of Baldwin scholarship. 1963–73 is a period that begins with the
publication of The Fire Next Time and sees Baldwin grace the cover of Time magazine. This
period ends with Time declaring Baldwin too passé to publish an interview with him and
with critics questioning his relevance. The second period, 1974–87, finds critics
attempting to rehabilitate Baldwin’s reputation and work, especially as scholars begin to
codify the African-American literary canon in anthologies and American universities.
Finally, scholarship in the period after Baldwin’s death takes the opportunity to
challenge common assumptions and silences surrounding Baldwin’s work. Armed with the
methodologies of cultural studies and the critical insights of queer theory, critics set
the stage for the current Baldwin renaissance.
The acceleration of interest in Baldwin’s work and impact since 2010 shows no signs of
diminishing. This resurgence has much to do with Baldwin—the richness and passionate
intensity of his vision—and also something to do with the dedicated scholars who have
pursued a variety of publication platforms to generate further interest in his work. The
reach of Baldwin studies has grown outside the academy as well: Black Lives Matter
demonstrations routinely feature quotations from Baldwin; Twitter includes a “Son of
Baldwin” site; and Raoul Peck’s 2016 documentary, I Am Not Your Negro, has received
considerable critical and popular interest. The years 2010–13 were a key period in moving
past the tired old formula—that praised his early career and denigrated the works he wrote
after 1963—into the new formula—positing Baldwin as a misunderstood visionary, a
wide-reaching artist, and a social critic whose value we are only now beginning to
appreciate. I would highlight four additional prominent trends that emerged between 2010
and 2013: a consideration of Baldwin in the contexts of film, drama, and music;
understandings of Baldwin globally; Baldwin’s criticism of American institutions; and
analyses of Baldwin’s work in conversation with other authors.
James Baldwin might be imagined as reaching his greatest level of popularity within this current decade. With the growth of social media activist movements like Black Lives Matter, which captures and catalyzes off a Baldwinian rage, and the publishing of works directly evoking Baldwin, his voice appears more pronounced between the years of 2013 and 2015. Scholars in Baldwin studies, along with strangers who were turned into witnesses of his literary oeuvre, have contributed to this renewed interest in Baldwin, or at least have been able to sharpen the significance of the phenomenon. Publications and performances highlight Baldwin’s work and how it prefigured developments in critical race and queer theories, while also demonstrating Baldwin’s critique as both prophetic and “disturbingly” contemporary. Emerging largely from Baldwin’s timelessness in social and political discourse, and from the need to conjure a figure to demystify the absurd American landscape, these interventions in Baldwin studies follow distinct trends. This essay examines the 2013–15 trends from four vantages: an examination of a return, with revision, to popular work by Baldwin; identifying Baldwin’s work as a contributor to theoretical and critical methodology; Baldwin and intertextuality or intervocality; and a new frontier in Baldwin studies.
The interest in aesthetics in philosophy, literary and cultural studies is growing rapidly. This book contains exemplary essays by key practitioners in these fields which demonstrate the importance of this area of enquiry. New aestheticism remains a troubled term and in current parlance it already comes loaded with the baggage of the 'philistine controversy' which first emerged in an exchange that originally that took place in the New Left Review during the mid-1990s. A serious aesthetic education is necessary for resisting the advance of 'philistinism'. Contemporary aesthetic production may be decentred and belonging to the past, but that is not a reason to underestimate what great works do that nothing else can. Despite well-established feminist work in literary criticism, film theory and art history, feminist aesthetics 'is a relatively young discipline, dating from the early 1990s'. The book focuses on the critical interrogation of the historical status of mimesis in the context of a gendered and racial politics of modernity. Throughout the history of literary and art criticism the focus has fallen on the creation or reception of works and texts. The book also identifies a fragmentary Romantic residue in contemporary aesthetics. The Alexandrian aesthetic underlies the experience of the 'allegorical'. 'Cultural poetics' makes clear the expansion of 'poetics' into a domain that is no longer strictly associated with 'poetry'. The book also presents an account of a Kantian aesthetic criticism, discussing Critique of Pure Reason, Critique of Aesthetic Judgement and Critique of Judgement.
what the future might be by forcing it to exist in a “plethora” of cultural images’.45
The rise of Irish Studies since the 1980s can be seen in the context of
this simultaneous exposure to, and critical examination of, the process
of globalisation. Literarycriticism has remained a central disciplinary
component of Irish Studies, and Irish criticism could not remain
immune to the theory wars that convulsed literature departments on
both sides of the Atlantic in the 1980s. These debates demonstrated
how literary and cultural production could be conceptualised
Where postcolonialism is neo-orientalist – the cases of Sarojini Naidu and Arundhati Roy
. Here I consider in broader terms
the neo-orientalist underpinnings of postcolonial literarycriticism from the
west, based in part on its location in the neoimperialist centre, and complicatedly manifested in the increasing prominence accorded Third World women
writers.25 Colonial modes of seeing and knowing were notoriously articulated
through gendered metaphors of possession, penetration, and so on. It is therefore important for postcolonial critics to ask whether the current privileging of
women writers as more fully, authentically or diﬀerently representing their
Engine of Modernity: The Omnibus and Urban Culture in Nineteenth-Century Paris examines the connection between public transportation and popular culture in nineteenth-century Paris through a focus on the omnibus - a horse-drawn vehicle for mass urban transport which enabled contact across lines of class and gender. A major advancement in urban locomotion, the omnibus generated innovations in social practices by compelling passengers of diverse backgrounds to interact within the vehicle’s close confines. Although the omnibus itself did not actually have an engine, its arrival on the streets of Paris and in the pages of popular literature acted as a motor for a fundamental cultural shift in how people thought about the city, its social life, and its artistic representations. At the intersection of literary criticism and cultural history, Engine of Modernity argues that for nineteenth-century French writers and artists, the omnibus was much more than a mode of transportation. It became a metaphor through which to explore evolving social dynamics of class and gender, meditate on the meaning of progress and change, and reflect on one’s own literary and artistic practices.
, Penguin, 1972, p. 24.
Leavis, The Great Tradition, p. 104.
Atlantic Monthly, May 1885, reprinted in Partial Portraits, 1888. Reprinted in
Henry James, LiteraryCriticism; Essays on Literature, American Writers,
English Writers, New York, The Library of America, 1984, p. 1010. All references to James’s essays on George Eliot will be taken from this edition.
George Eliot, The George Eliot Letters, ed. Gordon Haight, New Haven, Yale
University Press, 1954–78, Vol. 1, p. 270, 14 July 1848, to Sarah Hennell (ms.
George Eliot, ‘Margaret Fuller and Mary