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James Baldwin’s Pragmatist Aesthetics

This essay establishes a philosophical connection between James Baldwin and the philosopher William James by investigating how the pragmatist protocol against “vicious intellectualism” offers Baldwin a key resource for thinking through how anti-black racism might be dismantled. While Richard Wright had earlier denounced pragmatism for privileging experience over knowledge, and thereby offering the black subject no means for redressing America’s constitutive hierarchies, uncovering the current of Jamesian thought that runs through Baldwin’s essays brings into view his attempt to move beyond epistemology as the primary framework for inaugurating a future unburdened by the problem of the color line. Although Baldwin indicts contemporaneous arrangements of knowledge for producing the most dehumanizing forms of racism, he does not simply attempt to rewrite the enervating meanings to which black subjects are given. Articulating a pragmatist sensibility at various stages of his career, Baldwin repeatedly suggests that the imagining and creation of a better world is predicated upon rethinking the normative value accorded to knowledge in the practice of politics. The provocative challenge that Baldwin issues for his reader is to cease the well-established privileging of knowledge, and to instead stage the struggle for freedom within an aesthetic, rather than epistemological, paradigm.

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
An Interview with James Baldwin (1969)

This is the first English language publication of an interview with James Baldwin (1924–87) conducted by Nazar Büyüm in 1969, Istanbul, Turkey. Deemed too long for conventional publication at the time, the interview re-emerged last year and reveals Baldwin’s attitudes about his literary antecedents and influences such as Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, and Countee Cullen; his views concerning the “roles” and “duties” of a writer; his assessment of his critics; his analysis of the power and message of the Nation of Islam; his lament about the corpses that are much of the history and fact of American life; an honest examination of the relationship of poor whites to American blacks; an interrogation of the “sickness” that characterizes Americans’ commitment to the fiction and mythology of “race,” as well as the perils and seductive nature of American power.

James Baldwin Review

6 Eating people and the alimentary logic of Richard Cœur de Lion Nicola McDonald I Test de Turt. Foille de pastee bon sarrays, & iplaunted πrin conynges & volatils, dates ywaschen & isouced in hony, chese neowe icoruen πryn; clouwes, quibebes, sucre abouen. Soππen on legge of fassyng of festigade gret plentee, πe colour of πe farsure red, ©olou & grene. ∏at hed schal beon blake adressed oπe manere of hier of wymmon on an blake dische, & a monnes visage abouen. Diuersa Cibaria (c. 1300).1 [Turk’s Head. Take a well-rolled sheet of pastry; fill it with rabbit, fowl

in Pulp fictions of medieval England
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in 1952 (with a prologue written by Lamming). 17 In London, Lamming mixed with the poets Dylan Thomas, Louis McNeice, and George Barker, and with fellow West Indians, through whom he entered into a European network of exiled, black intellectuals. His friend C. L. R. James was in contact with Richard Wright in Paris. Wright wrote the introduction to the first (American) edition of In

in West Indian intellectuals in Britain
British women in international politics

new methods that might draw nations together, and thus the Committee was inactive until it was resurrected by US suffragists in 1887. May Wright Sewall (1844–1920) had, as secretary of the NWSA in 1884, witnessed the first attempt to set up an international movement, and it was she who proposed a second attempt in anticipation of the fortieth anniversary of the conference for women’s rights at Seneca Falls, New York in 1848.7 During the debate on her resolution, it became clear that the NWSA was firmly split into two groups: older activists who wanted to limit the

in ‘The truest form of patriotism’
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The cartographic consciousness of Irish gothic fiction

the first, concentrating on the use of English settings in a selection of generally overlooked Irish gothic fictions. Julia M. Wright has recently claimed that part of what makes Irish gothic literary production distinctive from English gothic is ‘its use of English settings’; ‘to locate gothic narratives in England’, Wright argues, ‘is unusual in English gothic fiction before the sensation fiction of the 1860s’. 14 While Wright fails adequately to consider the resolutely local settings of earlier English examples of gothic, basing her conclusion on a handful of

in The gothic novel in Ireland, c. 1760–1829

‘regarded by Labour leaders as of [the] utmost importance to Anglo-American relations and the future of Western strategic planning and cooperation’. 12 In particular, Wilson had long looked forward to meeting Johnson in the capacity of Prime Minister. Early in 1964, for example, he told the academic and White House adviser Richard Neustadt that if Labour won the election: we

in A ‘special relationship’?

February On 11 February, Housing Minister Richard Crossman contended that Britain had put itself ‘in the hands of American politicians’, because of Wilson’s determination to ‘recreate the Anglo-American axis, the special relationship between Britain and America’. 1 Although Wilson sought close ties with the White House, it is clear that if President Johnson wanted any such close relationship it would be

in A ‘special relationship’?

pioneer, William Friese-Greene. Elstree was making The Elstree Story – a compilation of films made at the studio over the previous twenty-five years, as well as an adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge starring Richard Todd. Powell and Pressburger were shooting Tales of Hoffman and Carol Reed was also rumoured to have something in the pipeline. In the event, many of

in British cinema of the 1950s