Another Country: James Baldwin’s New York
178 Stanton Street
New York, NY 10002
“Beneath [the great buildings] Rufus walked, one of the fallen—for the weight of this city was murderous—one of those who had been crushed on the day, which was every day, these towers fell.”
New York is a city immortalized many times over in word, image, and sound; it wears many faces, each as alluring as the last. This course focuses on Another Country, James Baldwin’s most vivid portrait of his hometown. The book was notoriously difficult for Baldwin to finish, occupying his imagination from the late 1940s until 1961, even as he traveled from France to Switzerland and Turkey, producing acclaimed essays, plays and other novels along the way. The resulting work is drawn from Baldwin’s personal history and reflects the buzzing energy of New York, from Harlem to the Village and beyond, in the middle of the American 20th century. Another Country savages the comforting mythology of New York as a welcoming “melting pot” for a never-ending stream of migrants and misfits. Baldwin’s city appears more like a crucible, a fragile situation, in which America’s most intransigent contradictions are crushed together by the extreme heat and pressure of race, class, gender, and sexuality. In Another Country, New York contains the potential for alchemical transformation.
In this course, we will enter into the social, political, and creative environment in which Another Country‘s strangely prescient action unfolds. Alongside the novel, we will study Baldwin’s essays, as well as memoirs, plays, and political writings by his mid-century contemporaries, such as Alfred Kazin and Lorraine Hansberry. Additionally, we will explore a selection of relevant art, such as the films of John Cassavetes, the paintings of Jacob Lawrence and Beauford Delaney, and the recordings of Nina Simone.
Course ScheduleWednesday, 6:30-9:30pm
October 28 — November 18, 2015