Publication Date

April 2018

Advisor(s)

Sean McCann

Major

African American Studies, English

Language

English (United States)

Abstract

This thesis explores the historical and cultural interaction between James Baldwin's writing?most notably his fiction?and our contemporary moment, filtered through my personal experiences. James Baldwin?s words are alive today, confirmed by the current renewed interest in his writing and legacy; my thesis aims to examine the ways in which his ideas resonate with current history, and to what extent. What can be best described as a bibliomemoir, a form of memoir in which writers explore the experience of reading the work of a specific author, my thesis discusses Baldwin's life and upbringing, as well as the themes and topics he found important in his historical moment, in conjunction with my own life and the themes and topics I am interested in today. As Baldwin?s career was affected by and defined by the tumultuous sociopolitical moment he lived in, and his identity as a black gay man, each chapter of my thesis takes into account issues of race in America. It is both a literary analysis of his works and a critical analysis of his representations of race through his writing. The first chapter addresses the importance of Christianity to African American communities in the 20th century, Baldwin's own experiences and thoughts about spirituality, and my own upbringing in the church in the 21st century. The second chapter examines Baldwin's representation of black women in his fiction, particularly three young 20-something year old women in New York, and analyzes what their full characterization or lack thereof means to me today. The third chapter discusses white and black relations today and the idea of allyship and unity in an American society still affected by race.

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