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Overview

In seminal works such as Go Tell It on the Mountain, Notes of a Native Son, and The Fire Next Time, acclaimed author and social critic James Baldwin (1924—1987) expresses his profound belief that writers have the power to transform society, to engage the public, and to inspire and channel conversation to achieve lasting change. While Baldwin is best known for his writings on racial consciousness and injustice, he is also one of the country's most eloquent theorists of democratic life and the national psyche.

In A Political Companion to James Baldwin, a group of prominent scholars assess the prolific author's relevance to present-day political challenges. Together, they address Baldwin as a democratic theorist, activist, and citizen, examining his writings on the civil rights movement, religion, homosexuality, and women's rights. They investigate the ways in which his work speaks to and galvanizes a collective American polity, and explore his views on the political implications of individual experience in relation to race and gender.

This volume not only considers Baldwin's works within their own historical context, but also applies the author's insights to recent events such as the Obama presidency and the Black Lives Matter movement, emphasizing his faith in the connections between the past and present. These incisive essays will encourage a new reading of Baldwin that celebrates his significant contributions to political and democratic theory.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780813169910
Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
Publication date: 11/15/2017
Series: Political Companions to Great American Authors Series
Pages: 396
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Susan J. McWilliams is associate professor of politics at Pomona College. She is the author of Traveling Back: Toward a Global Political Theory and coeditor of several books, including The Democratic Soul: A Wilson Carey McWilliams Reader.

Table of Contents

Series Foreword Patrick J. Deneen vii

Introduction Susan J. McWilliams 1

Part I Collective Consciousness and Community

1 "A Most Disagreeable Mirror": Race Consciousness as Double Consciousness Lawrie Balfour 19

2 The Race of a More Perfect Union: James Baldwin, Segregated Memory, and the Presidential Race P. J. Brendese 48

3 James Baldwin and the Politics of Disconnection Susan J. McWilliams 94

4 What William F. Buckley Jr. Did Not Understand about James Baldwin: On Baldwins Politics of Freedom Nicholas Buccola 116

Part II Prophecy, Religion, and Truth

5 Baldwin, Prophecy, and Politics George Shulman 151

6 The Negative Political Theology of James Baldwin Vincent Lloyd 171

7 Go Tell It on the Mountain: James Baldwin and the Politics of Faith Wilson Carey McWilliams 195

Part III The Individual Life, the Interior Life, the Unexamined Life

8 Socrates in a Different Key: James Baldwin and Race in America Joel Alden Schlosser 219

9 Crossing Identitarian Lines: Women's Liberation and James Baldwin's Early Essays Brian Norman 247

10 "Where the People Can Sing, the Poet Can Live": James Baldwin, Pragmatism, and Cosmopolitan Humanism Ulf Schulenberg 270

11 Baldwin's Individualism and Critique of Property Jack Turner 301

Part IV Violence and Vision

12 James Baldwin on Violence and Disavowal Lisa Beard 337

13 James Baldwin and Black Lives Matter Eddie S. Glaude Jr. 361

14 "Tell Him I'm Gone": On the Margins in High-Tech City Rachel Brahinsky 373

Acknowledgments 399

Selected Bibliography 401

List of Contributors 405

Index 409

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"This companion does a fine job of touching on Baldwin's many political ventures: his fiction, essays, speeches, and general philosophy." — Peter Augustine Lawler, author of American Heresies and Higher Education


"The collection of excellent essays that Susan J. McWilliams has gathered here could not have come at a better time, for James Baldwin's voice remains indispensable to democratic citizens still aspiring to shape a political culture that acknowledges and holds itself accountable to the history and legacies of white supremacy. Taken together, these essays remind us that we lose sight of Baldwin's key ideas and insights only at our peril." — Robert Gooding-Williams, Columbia University

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