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Black Queer Feminism and the Sexual Politics of Another Country
Matty Hemming

This essay explores Black queer feminist readings of the sexual politics of James Baldwin’s Another Country. Recent work at the intersection of queer of color critique and Black feminism allows us to newly appreciate Baldwin’s prescient theorization of the workings of racialized and gendered power within the erotic. Previous interpretations of Another Country have focused on what is perceived as a liberal idealization of white gay male intimacy. I argue that this approach requires a selective reading of the novel that occludes its more complex portrayal of a web of racially fraught, power-stricken, and often violent sexual relationships. When we de-prioritize white gay male eroticism and pursue analyses of a broader range of erotic scenes, a different vision of Baldwin’s sexual imaginary emerges. I argue that far from idealizing, Another Country presents sex within a racist, homophobic, and sexist world to be a messy terrain of pleasure, pain, and political urgency. An unsettling vision, to be sure, but one that, if we as readers are to seek more equitable erotic imaginaries, must be reckoned with.

James Baldwin Review
The Texture—Gendered, Sexual, Violent—of James Baldwin’s Southern Silences
Ed Pavlić

Spurred on by Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Nickel Boys (2019), which is set in Tallahassee, FL, during the 1950s and 1960s, this essay presents a close-up look at James Baldwin’s visit to Tallahassee in May 1960. Moving between Baldwin’s writings about the South, especially “They Can’t Turn Back,” published by Mademoiselle magazine in August 1960, and subsequent writing about the movement in Tallahassee, and checking off against Whitehead’s fictional treatment, we find a lattice of silences obscuring the names and contributions of Black women. Most importantly, we find that the historic case of the rape of Betty Jean Owens in May 1959, and the subsequent trial that summer, appears neither in Baldwin’s nor Whitehead’s writing about Tallahassee at the time. This essay establishes the missing names of Black women in the places marked and unmarked by Baldwin in his work at the time, and puts the case of Betty Jean Owens on the historical map where it belongs. In so doing, we figure issues of race, gender, sex, and violence for the ways they twist together, ways suppressed in historical (and even some contemporary) writing, ways crucial to our deepening consideration of Baldwin’s work and the history which he drew upon and to which he contributed so profoundly.

James Baldwin Review
Robert Jackson

This article provides an introduction to this special section of James Baldwin Review 7 devoted to Baldwin and film. Jackson considers Baldwin’s distinct approach to film criticism by pairing him with James Agee, another writer who wrote fiction as well as nonfiction in several genres, and who produced a large body of film criticism, especially during the 1940s. While Agee, a white southerner born almost a generation before Baldwin, might seem an unlikely figure to place alongside Baldwin, the two shared a great deal in terms of temperament and vision, and their film writings reveal a great deal of consensus in their diagnoses of American pathologies. Another important context for Baldwin’s complex relationship to film is television, which became a dominant media form during the 1950s and exerted a great influence upon both the mainstream reception of the civil rights movement and Baldwin’s reception as a public intellectual from the early 1960s to the end of his life. Finally, the introduction briefly discusses the articles that constitute this special section.

James Baldwin Review
A Conversation with Bill V. Mullen, the author of James Baldwin: Living in Fire
William J. Maxwell and Bill V. Mullen

William J. Maxwell, editor of James Baldwin: The FBI File (2017), interviews Bill V. Mullen on his 2019 biography, James Baldwin: Living in Fire, along the way touching on both Baldwin’s early internationalism and his relevance to the current wave of racial discord and interracial possibility in the United States.

James Baldwin Review
Terrance Dean

Reading works on Baldwin from 2017 to 2019, the author tracks the significance of Baldwin within the Black Lives Matter movement and our growing need for police reform in conjunction with a revaluation of the lives of racial and ethnic minorities within the oppressive systemic biases of American social and political life.

James Baldwin Review
Open Access (free)
Justin A. Joyce

Recalling the insurrectionary violence that descended upon the US Capitol on 6 January 2021, reflecting on the baser instincts left unchecked in America by an absence of common communication and a paradigmatic shift in our media apparatuses, Justin A. Joyce introduces the seventh volume of James Baldwin Review.

James Baldwin Review
Open Access (free)
Begin Again, A Review Essay
Herb Boyd

This review essay examines Eddie Glaude, Jr.’s new book Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own against several other recent works on Baldwin such as Bill Mullen’s James Baldwin: Living in Fire and Nicholas Buccola’s The Fire Is Upon Us.

James Baldwin Review
Martin Ferguson Smith

Tristram Hillier made a distinctive and distinguished contribution to twentieth-century British art, moving from abstraction and surrealism to representational painting with elements of quasi-surrealism. His first visit to Portugal, in 1947, was of great importance. It arose out of a crisis in his private life: his Irish Protestant wife, Leda, had objected strongly to his recent return to the Roman Catholic Church and even threatened divorce proceedings. From a professional point of view, the visit was highly successful. The essay clarifies the context, dating, and itinerary of the visit, with full use made of the Hillier files in the Tate Gallery Archive and letters in the possession of the artist’s family. It gives special attention to scenes in the city of Viseu, presenting and discussing his paintings of Cathedral Square and the Church of the Misericordia and his very fine drawing, made en plein air, on which the Cathedral Square painting is based. The drawing, in private ownership since 1948, has not been published before. It and the painting executed months later in the artist’s studio in Somerset make a fascinating study in comparison and contrast.

in In and out of Bloomsbury
Dinaw Mengestu’s The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears (2007) and Teju Cole’s Open City (2011)

This chapter broadens the book’s focus by examining recent American fictions of African migration by Dinaw Mengestu and Teju Cole, and extends the study’s intellectual scope by connecting male friendship to cognate discourses of cosmopolitanism and globalisation. The chapter begins by taking up the themes of race relations, gentrification, and local community explored in Chapter 3, analysing Mengestu’s spare 2007 narrative The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears. The chapter demonstrates how Mengestu’s fiction eschews the conventions of the so-called literary migrant novel, revising the genre’s tropes of cultural loss and historical trauma, while recasting familiar motifs of social mobility and cross-cultural exchange. Turning to Teju Cole’s Open City (2011), the chapter draws on the work of Hannah Arendt to chart Cole’s vexed portrayal of cosmopolitanism, in which attempts at association and solidarity, whether forged locally or globally, seem always to falter when faced with the problem of cultural difference. For both Mengestu and Cole, the friendships at the centre of their narratives become a key site for exploring the problems of identity and belonging confronting their immigrant narrators, and thus offer a crucial reworking of the politics of male friendship explored in earlier chapters.

in The politics of male friendship in contemporary American fiction
Abstract only
Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue (2012) and Jonathan Lethem’s The Fortress of Solitude (2003)

This chapter begins by continuing with a close reading of Auster’s Smoke, exploring the film’s portrayal of local community and interracial male friendship. It then turns to two sprawling neighbourhood novels, Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue (2012) and Jonathan Lethem’s The Fortress of Solitude (2003). With a theoretical framework informed by queer theory, continental philosophy, and Marxist historicism, the chapter analyses how Chabon’s and Lethem’s narratives of interracial male friendship are freighted with the legacies of 1960s and 1970s political radicalism, and argues that both novels explore the availability of utopian thinking in a ‘post-utopian’ and ‘postracial’ contemporary moment.

in The politics of male friendship in contemporary American fiction