James Baldwin Review editors Douglas Field and Justin A. Joyce interview author and Baldwin biographer James Campbell on the occasion of the reissue of his book Talking at the Gates (Polygon and University of California Press, 2021).
Black Queer Feminism and the Sexual Politics of Another Country
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.
The Texture—Gendered, Sexual, Violent—of James
Baldwin’s Southern Silences
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
While the legacy of August Strindberg has been very much in the forefront of Ingmar Bergman studies, the influence of Henrik Ibsen on Bergman’s work has yet to be fully acknowledged. This chapter demonstrates Ibsen’s influence on Bergman’s TV dramas in the early 1970s, exemplifying with an in-depth analysis of his production of The Lie (Reservatet, 1970) for Swedish television. It is one of Bergman’s least-studied works and also one of his most overtly feminist ones, contradicting the ideological appropriation of Bergman by some of his critics as a bourgeois director. The Lie merges elements of his own artistry with those of August Strindberg’s play The Father (Fadren, 1887), Ibsen’s A Doll’s House (Et dukkehjem, 1879), and The Wild Duck (Vildanden, 1884) and contemporary melodrama in order to reach a mass audience with his portrayal of a middle-aged bourgeois couple in marital crisis. By reversing the gender roles, he gives the drama a gender twist that, in the spirit of Ibsen, truly deconstructs the idealization of women while ironically undercutting patriarchal ideology. In accomplishing that, it points forward to the dramatic strategies of his later TV productions, especially Scenes from a Marriage (Scener ur ett äktenskap, 1973). The Lie was a huge success at the time of its release, first in Sweden and then in the European Broadcasting Union’s 1970 Eurovision exchange of TV plays. At the dawn of second-wave feminism, it reached an audience of approximately 50 million on TV, thus becoming one of Bergman’s politically most influential works.
This chapter discusses Bergman’s potential worth in the commercial film market on the basis of the director’s own correspondence with potential co-producers and international distributors of his films. The author first studies Bergman’s ample correspondence with Carl Anders Dymling, the powerful head of the Swedish production company Svensk Filmindustri between 1942 and 1961; most of Bergman’s early films were produced by Svensk Filmindustri. This correspondence concerns Bergman’s potential turn to the more profitable colour-film format in the early 1960s, a turn resisted by Bergman on artistic grounds; Bergman’s first colour film would eventually be the relatively unknown comedy, All these Women, in 1964. Second, the author examines Bergman’s correspondence with New York agent Bernhard L. Wilens regarding a possible film adaptation of French author Albert Camus’s short novel The Fall (La Chute, 1956). Third, the chapter explores Bergman’s correspondence with his American distributors, Janus Films, who famously specialized in the art-house market. Here, Janus is represented by Cyrus Harvey. Bergman never made a colour film during Dymling’s reign at Svensk Filmindustri, nor did he ever direct a film based on Camus’s novel. He did have a lengthy relationship with Janus Films, however. The chapter demonstrates how Bergman’s conception of himself as an artist conflicted with Hollywood, especially with regard to filmmaking practices. As an auteur in the European tradition, Bergman would always strive for artistic control of the entire production and distribution processes.