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A Session at the 2019 American Studies Association Conference
Magdalena J. Zaborowska, Nicholas F. Radel, Nigel Hatton, and Ernest L. Gibson III

“Rebranding James Baldwin and His Queer Others” was a session held at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association in November 2019 in Honolulu, Hawaii. The papers gathered here show how Baldwin’s writings and life story participate in dialogues with other authors and artists who probe issues of identity and identification, as well as with other types of texts and non-American stories, boldly addressing theoretical and political perspectives different from his own. Nick Radel’s temporal challenge to reading novels on homoerotic male desire asks of us a leap of faith, one that makes it possible to read race as not necessarily a synonym for “Black,” but as a powerful historical and sexual trope that resists “over-easy” binaries of Western masculinity. Ernest L. Gibson’s engagement with Beauford Delaney’s brilliant art and the ways in which it enabled the teenage Baldwin’s “dark rapture” of self-discovery as a writer reminds us that “something [has been missing] in our discussions of male relationships.” Finally, Nigel Hatton suggests “a relationship among Baldwin, Denmark, and Giovanni’s Room that adds another thread to the important scholarship on his groundbreaking work of fiction that has impacted African-American literature, Cold War studies, transnational American studies, feminist thought, and queer theory.” All three essays enlarge our assessment of Baldwin’s contribution to understanding the ways gender and sexuality always inflect racialized Western masculinities. Thus, they help us work to better gauge the extent of Baldwin’s influence right here and right now.

James Baldwin Review
Charles Bernstein

associated with this proto Cold War moment in US history. Olson’s rhetorical power is a blast against conformity, against the postwar methodology of ‘prosperity’ through repression. ‘What pudor pejorocracy affronts’: our decency, if we still have it, in the human dethronement of that moment, 1949 (or 2014), is offended by the worsening rule of government (CP, 92). And Olson breaks beyond ‘the Western box’ with his opening, signal, invocation of Heraklitus: all is change, stasis is Thanatos (a death wish). And so the poem enacts this very Heraklitian change

in Contemporary Olson
The Theatre of the Absurd
Neil Cornwell

‘grotesque incongruity’ of human affairs (ibid., 180). Kharms and Vvedensky were repressed at the beginning of the 1940s, and, as Listengarten stresses (180), a postwar Theatre of the Absurd could have no existence in Soviet Russia; however, she counts their plays ‘among the earliest examples of absurdism in the history of the theater’. (Cold-War) Poland and Czechoslovakia Towards the later end of the epoch of classic Theatre of the Absurd (if we may employ such an expression), we encounter contributions from . Eastern Europe in the shape of the earlier plays of Sl

in The absurd in literature
Mariko Hori Tanaka

creating ideological enemies. Ordinary people’s fear and anxiety about nuclear wars became nightmarish. In the tension between politically divided worlds that was termed the Cold War, people were affected by the conditions and even traumatically afflicted. The notion of human annihilation and the end of the world took on an air of feasibility in the 1950s, when Beckett, with the success of Waiting for Godot, began to write frenziedly. It is unthinkable that so sensitive a writer as Beckett would not feel the influence of such a collective cultural nightmare. He could not

in Samuel Beckett and trauma
Melancholy cosmopolitanism
Susan Watkins

rewrites the experience of loss as potentially creative, productive and transformative. In her vision of what I am calling a ‘melancholy cosmopolitanism’, 4 Lessing challenges the closed-off, paranoid legacy of the Cold War in the 1950s. In Memoirs and Briefing she further develops the distinction between the claustrophobic, nostalgic relation to loss that is characteristic of mourning and the creative work of melancholia. In the context of the late 1960s and early 1970s, however, it is only in the metafictional world of the novels, rather than the characters’ lived

in Doris Lessing
Annalisa Oboe and Elisa Bordin

Angeles and Las Vegas in The Virgin of Flames and The Secret History of Las Vegas respectively. These settings are extremely ‘located’, as in GraceLand , a novel informed by the typical features of Lagosian literature; or as in The Secret History of Las Vegas , in which Abani reconstructs the modern history of the city, from the creation of the Strip to the nuclear tests during the Cold War. Yet Abani’s storylines always contain fully open perspectives, which project the reflections of a planet into the locality of his

in Chris Abani
Marilynne Robinson’s essays and the crisis of mainline Protestantism
Alex Engebretson

church as a moral alternative to evangelicalism. In his study of contemporary literature within the context of the ‘conservative Christian resurgence’, Christopher Douglas summarises the social, cultural, and political significance of the Religious Right since the 1970s: Conservative Christians reshaped the political and moral landscape of the nation […] by making universal claims within the culture wars, from questions of gender roles and sexuality, the Cold War and the War on

in Marilynne Robinson
Robinson as professor and defender of ‘America’s best idea’
Steve Gronert Ellerhoff and Kathryn E. Engebretson

youth to be efficient workers. Workers. That language is so common among us now that an extraterrestrial might think we had actually lost the Cold War. ( When I was a Child I Read Books 24) Here we also find what Robinson identifies as the driving ideology held by those who actively work to devalue liberal arts education: economics. Robinson raises the notion that Americans have forsaken their identity as Citizen for that of Taxpayer ( What Are We Doing Here

in Marilynne Robinson
The Secret History of Las Vegas
Annalisa Oboe and Elisa Bordin

the state does not safeguard its citizens’ health and sacrifices them in order to achieve its scientific and military goals during the Cold War, we are in the presence of what Achille Mbembe calls ‘necropolitics’, that is, the administration of power to regulate death. 9 In necropolitics one of the rights of the sovereign state is ‘to expose to death’. 10 This is a performance of power which creates ‘living dead’ subjects, as all the inhabitants of Las Vegas’s surrounding areas are. The Army boy who gets Selah

in Chris Abani

Samuel Beckett and trauma is a collection of essays that opens new approaches to Beckett’s literary and theoretical work through the lens of trauma studies. Beginning with biographical and intertextual readings of instances of trauma in Beckett’s works, the essays take up performance studies, philosophical and cultural understanding of post-traumatic subjectivity, and provide new perspectives that will expand and alter current trauma studies.

Chapter 1 deals with a whole range of traumatic symptoms in Beckett’s personal experiences which find their ways into a number of his works. Chapter 2 investigates traumatic symptoms experienced by actors on stage. Chapter 3 examines the problem of unspeakability by focusing on the face which illuminates the interface between Beckett’s work and trauma theory. Chapter 4 explores the relationship between trauma and skin – a psychic skin that reveals the ‘force and truth’ of trauma, a force that disrupts the apparatus of representation. Chapter 5 considers trauma caused by a bodily defect such as tinnitus. Chapter 6 focuses on the historically specific psychological structure in which a wounded subject is compelled to stick to ordinary life in the aftermath of some traumatic calamity. Chapter 7 provides a new way of looking at birth trauma by using the term as ‘creaturely life’ that is seen in the recent biopolitical discourses. Chapter 8 speculates on how Beckett’s post-war plays, responding to the nuclear age’s global trauma, resonate with ethical and philosophical thoughts of today’s post-Cold War era.