James Baldwin might be imagined as reaching his greatest level of popularity within this current decade. With the growth of social media activist movements like Black Lives Matter, which captures and catalyzes off a Baldwinian rage, and the publishing of works directly evoking Baldwin, his voice appears more pronounced between the years of 2013 and 2015. Scholars in Baldwin studies, along with strangers who were turned into witnesses of his literary oeuvre, have contributed to this renewed interest in Baldwin, or at least have been able to sharpen the significance of the phenomenon. Publications and performances highlight Baldwin’s work and how it prefigured developments in critical race and queer theories, while also demonstrating Baldwin’s critique as both prophetic and “disturbingly” contemporary. Emerging largely from Baldwin’s timelessness in social and political discourse, and from the need to conjure a figure to demystify the absurd American landscape, these interventions in Baldwin studies follow distinct trends. This essay examines the 2013–15 trends from four vantages: an examination of a return, with revision, to popular work by Baldwin; identifying Baldwin’s work as a contributor to theoretical and critical methodology; Baldwin and intertextuality or intervocality; and a new frontier in Baldwin studies.
Searching for Black Queer Domesticity at Chez Baldwin
Magdalena J. Zaborowska
This essay argues for the importance of James Baldwin’s last house, located in St. Paul-de-Vence in the south of France, to his late works written during the productive period of 1971–87: No Name in the Street (1972), If Beale Street Could Talk (1974), The Devil Finds Work (1976), Just Above My Head (1979), The Evidence of Things Not Seen (1985), and the unpublished play The Welcome Table (1987). That period ushered in a new Baldwin, more complex and mature as an author, who became disillusioned while growing older as a black queer American who had no choice but to live abroad to get his work done and to feel safe. Having established his most enduring household at “Chez Baldwin,” as the property was known locally, the writer engaged in literary genre experimentation and challenged normative binaries of race, gender, and sexuality with his conceptions of spatially contingent national identity. The late Baldwin created unprecedented models of black queer domesticity and humanism that, having been excluded from U.S. cultural narratives until recently, offer novel ways to reconceptualize what it means to be an American intellectual in the twenty-first-century world.
This chapter examines the rhyme scheme of a tantalising but little studied Middle English romance, Amis and Amiloun. The poem is composed in twelve-line stanzas, rhymed AAB AAB CCB DDB, with a metrical scheme of four, four and three stresses corresponding to the rhyme. This chapter argues that view, the AAB rhyme scheme of the Middle English poem operates on both a semantic and a semiotic axis. Semantically, it designates the names of the three main characters; semiotically, it represents the relationship among those characters: two men paired (AA) but one of them also linked with the woman. This chapter also examines genre and history, and their importance for the text.
The role of the intellectual voice in the construction of radical identities has been central to the post-colonial critique of Ireland. This chapter considers Roland Barthes' Michelet to initiate a discussion of the strategies of writing about Ireland in relation to the critical 'self' which becomes implicated in that 'Ireland'. Barthes' Michelet exemplifies the fact that 'crossing marginality' is the constitutive paradox of the radical intellectual voice. Irish critical voices find themselves in varieties of Michelet's structural predicament. The chapter examines the role which the 'warmer memory' of 'the people' crucially undertakes in the processes of a criticism which takes to itself or asserts identity politics. It discusses the 'organic' necessities of the intellectual as they are reacted against and reconstructed in James Joyce's Stephen Dedalus.
R. S. Thomas's mythic poems reflect primarily a deistic understanding, that is, they set forth a distant and, for the most part, impersonal creator-God. While Bishop Robinson argues for the 'ground of being' as a move towards a personal God of relationship, Thomas emphasises the phrase as indicating that God is not a 'being' at all. Thomas's poem entitled 'Via Negativa', from the collection H'm, is a good example of this, depicting the sensation of painful absence as itself indicative of divine presence. Thomas's depictions of the via negativa are primarily concerned with the experience of absence rather than with the technique of asceticism. This chapter discusses the root of the paradox out of which the via negativa emerges, and explains the poems 'Shadows', 'Adjustments' and 'The Absence', all from Frequencies, in order to examine it more closely.
The Cambridge mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell was able to articulate with extraordinary clarity a fully humanistic opposition to the Great War. At times during the war's course, Russell was truly a man alone, despite his seemingly secure position in 1914 amidst the Cambridge University establishment. To Russell, armed conflict was ‘so irrational as to be literally unthinkable’. Although later in the war he might rethink and reshape his particular pacifism and his views on the pacifism of those around him, Russell's basic opposition to the war from the outbreak of hostilities was fundamental and stemmed directly from deep personal conviction. Russell was always distrustful of politics, especially during war. Once he realised that there was little chance of bringing an early end to the war, he commenced his work on the psychology behind not only the war in progress, but also war in general. For Russell, the ‘ideal’ of patriotism was only partial and inadequate, and hence not valid.
The concept of 'margins' denotes geographical, economic, demographic, cultural and political positioning in relation to a perceived centre. This book aims to question the term 'marginal' itself, to hear the voices talking 'across' borders and not only to or through an English centre. The first part of the book examines debates on the political and poetic choice of language, drawing attention to significant differences between the Irish and Scottish strategies. It includes a discussion of the complicated dynamic of woman and nation by Aileen Christianson, which explores the work of twentieth-century Scottish and Irish women writers. The book also explores masculinities in both English and Scottish writing from Berthold Schoene, which deploys sexual difference as a means of testing postcolonial theorizing. A different perspective on the notion of marginality is offered by addressing 'Englishness' in relation to 'migrant' writing in prose concerned with India and England after Independence. The second part of the book focuses on a wide range of new poetry to question simplified margin/centre relations. It discusses a historicising perspective on the work of cultural studies and its responses to the relationship between ethnicity and second-generation Irish musicians from Sean Campbell. The comparison of contemporary Irish and Scottish fiction which identifies similarities and differences in recent developments is also considered. In each instance the writers take on the task of examining and assessing points of connection and diversity across a particular body of work, while moving away from contrasts which focus on an English 'norm'.
Culture' would now be the name that we give to the inhabiting of the potentiality; and intrinsic to the culture would be a fundamental aesthetic education. For Montesquieu, education depends on the aesthetic experience. In his famous 'Theses on the philosophy of history', Walter Benjamin proposed what has become a major insight for contemporary criticism, when he indicates the doublesided nature of 'cultural treasures' that embody what we call 'civilisation'. The text 'always-already-read' by elders/teachers such as F. Jameson is the text paralysed; and it is also the reader/student blinded, the cultural event or history arrested. Play is seen as a waste of time by politicians who regard children simply as fodder for political statistics or the achievement of targets. Isobel Armstrong considers childhood play, in which 'things lose their determining force', or, where things become pure potentiality.
Aesthetic theory for T. W. Adorno marks out a domain of experience relatively immune from the impact of the banalisation of evil, indicated by Hannah Arendt to be distinctive of the latter part of the twentieth century. The differences between Adorno and Martin Heidegger, then, concerning politics and language, aesthetic analysis and its philosophical significance are clear cut. Lacoue-Labarthe argues in Heidegger, Art and Politics: The Fiction of the Political that Heidegger's political affirmation fictionalises politics, under the aegis of Hoelderlin. Walter Benjamin's version of antinomy which is to be evoked, for both Adorno and Heidegger work in philosophy for its own sake but also with an eye to a political transformation. Heidegger's notions of authenticity and historicality provide a challenge to the apparently dehistoricised notions of politics and aesthetics, which are in fact burdened with an unthought-through reception of the Greek notions of order and community.
Walter Benjamin's alignment of the allegorical aesthetic with the ascetic mortification of the body in the Origin of German Tragic Drama rehearses the Alexandrian origins of allegory. The parallels that Giuseppe Ungaretti draws between Alexandria and the landscape of modern warfare are most evident in the earlier versions of L'Allegria. The self-destructive movements of Christian allegory that Benjamin identified in the baroque prefigure the attempt to dissolve aisthesis into ascesis that informs modern aesthetics. Baumgarten introduced rational ascesis into modern aesthetics through the notion of the education of sensibility, a tendency advanced by Schiller in his Aesthetic Education. If Ungaretti's Alexandrian poems consummately explore the complex movements of exile, homelessness and return that are central to the Alexandrian aesthetic, those of his fellow Alexandrian C. P. Cavafy focus on the aspect of pleasure and its embalmment in art.