James Baldwin: Native Son

Instructor: Asma Abbas
Word Up
2113 Amsterdam Avenue
(at the corner of 165th Street)
New York, NY 10032

James Baldwin was one of the foremost critics of the racial structures that defined his time, and indeed, continue to shape our own. Baldwin invites, even necessitates, a close analysis of the full scope of race, sexuality, political vision, and imagination in America. This course follows Baldwin’s many genres of expression — novel, story, essay, film, poetry, letter, interview, and more — as we grapple with the complex figure of the “native son” who lacks a country of his own.

Paying particular attention to Baldwin’s relation to a society unable to pay its dues, we will use his expansive oeuvre to consider contemporary questions of inequality, separation, and identity. We will ask: In what ways does the black man know–and have to confront–more truth about white people than they will ever know about him or themselves? What do his modes of writing tell us about the forms of politics he seeks to foster, and the ethical relations that they constitute? And what do Baldwin’s emphases on senses and sensibilities suggest about the modes of solidarity and liberation that are available to us in the face of neoliberalism, racism, and fascism?

The course will give explicit attention to the predecessors, contemporaries, and successors of Baldwin, and to the aesthetics and politics he proposes and performs. Readings will include selections from Notes of a Native Son, Nobody Knows My Name, No Name in the Street, The Fire Next Time, The Cross of Redemption, Evidence of Things Not Seen, Jimmy’s Blues, Giovanni’s Room, as well as selections from other writers including Audre Lorde, Nikki Giovanni, Gwendolyn Brooks, Rachel Ghansah Kiese Laymon, Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Course Schedule

Saturday, 2-5pm
February 04 — February 25, 2017
4 weeks


Registration Closed

Please email us to be placed on the waiting list.

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