James Baldwin and the "Closeted-ness" of American
This article reads the work of James Baldwin in dialogue with that of Eve Kosofsky
Sedgwick. Taking its cue from Baldwin’s claim that Americans “live […] with something in
[their] closet” that they “pretend […] is not there,” it explores his depiction of a
United States characterized by the “closeted-ness” of its racial discourse. In doing so,
the article draws on Sedgwick’s work concerning how the containment of discourses
pertaining to sexuality hinges on the closeting of non-heteronormative sexual practices.
Reconceptualizing Sedgwick’s ideas in the context of a black, queer writer like Baldwin,
however, problematizes her own insistence on the “historical gay specificity” of the
epistemology she traces. To this end, this article does not simply posit a racial
counterpart to the homosexual closet. Rather, reflecting Baldwin’s insistence that “the
sexual question and the racial question have always been entwined,” I highlight here the
interpretive possibilities opened up by intersectional analyses that view race, sexuality,
and national identity as coextensive, reciprocal epistemologies.
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Talk (1974), The Devil Finds Work (1976), Just Above My Head (1979), The Evidence of Things Not Seen (1985), and the unpublished play The Welcome Table (1987).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.
Making Home explores the orphan child as a trope in contemporary US fiction, arguing that in times of perceived national crisis concerns about American identity, family, and literary history are articulated around this literary figure. The book focuses on orphan figures in a broad, multi-ethnic range of contemporary fiction by Barbara Kingsolver, Linda Hogan, Leslie Marmon Silko, Marilynne Robinson, Michael Cunningham, Jonathan Safran Foer, John Irving, Kaye Gibbons, Octavia Butler, Jewelle Gomez, and Toni Morrison. It also investigates genres as carriers of cultural memory, looking particularly at the captivity narrative, historical fiction, speculative fiction, the sentimental novel, and the bildungsroman. From a decisively literary perspective, Making Home engages socio-political concerns such as mixed-race families, child welfare, multiculturalism, and racial and national identity, as well as shifting definitions of familial, national, and literary home. By analyzing how contemporary novels both incorporate and resist gendered and raced literary conventions, how they elaborate on symbolic and factual meanings of orphanhood, and how they explore kinship beyond the nuclear and/or adoptive family, this book offers something distinctly new in American literary studies. It is a crucial study for students and scholars interested in the links between literature and identity, questions of inclusion and exclusion in national ideology, and definitions of family and childhood.
The study of food in literature complicates established critical positions. Both a libidinal pleasure and the ultimate commodity, food in fiction can represent sex as well as money, and brings the body and the marketplace together in ways that are sometimes obvious and sometimes unsettling. This book explores these relations in the context of late eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century women's fiction, where concerns about bodily, economic and intellectual productivity and consumption power decades of novels, conduct books and popular medicine. The introduction suggests ways in which attention to food in these texts might complicate recent developments in literary theory and criticism, while the body of the book is devoted to close readings of novels and children's stories by Frances Burney, Mary Wollstonecraft, Maria Edgeworth and Susan Ferrier. Burney and Wollstonecraft explore the ways in which eating and not eating (mis)represent women's sexuality, and consider how women's intellectual and economic productivity might disrupt easy equations between appetites at the table and in bed. Edgeworth and Ferrier, Anglo-Irish and Scottish writers respectively, are more interested in cooking and eating as ways of enacting and manipulating national identity and class.
women entering the country from 1948 has roots in a much earlier period. In the works explored in this chapter, Phillips traces the origins of this attitude, and the related anxieties surrounding nationalidentity. In his novel Cambridge (1991), a white plantation-owner’s daughter finds her English identity thrown into confusion in the creolising space of the unnamed Caribbean island, and a male slave reflects on his life as a ‘virtual Englishman’. In Crossing the River (1993), the black diaspora created by slavery is examined over a two hundred and fifty
Food, family and national identity in Susan Ferrier’s fiction
inadequacy or absence of biological parents is taken for granted. Ruth Perry writes in Novel Relations that ‘[t]he “aunt”, being simultaneously both mother and other, solves both the problem of separation and that of identification for the female protagonist’. 3 The aunt as mother figure offers precisely the kind of belonging-at-a-remove, the mixture of consanguinuity and elective affinity, that Ferrier promotes as the future for nationalidentity. Wollstonecraft and, in a very different way, Edgeworth see themselves ‘mothering the nation’ in writing didactic fiction
Intercultural exchanges and the redefinition of identity in Hugo Hamilton’s Disguise and Hand in the Fire
Carmen Zamorano Llena
Ireland the only country in Europe to experience a decline in population growth
in the second half of the nineteenth century (Kuhling and Keohane, 2007: 53).
Significantly, Mary Robinson’s speech did not delve into the representation of the
Great Irish Famine and its consequences as being caused by the British indifference to its neighbouring island, an argument characteristic of the postcolonial
discourse on which the twentieth-century construct of Irish nationalidentity
was highly dependent.2 On the contrary, Robinson took the commemoration
as an opportunity to show
De-scribing Imperial identity from alien to migrant
and Imperialism (1993) that the imposition of nationalidentity is implicit
in the domestic novel in its boundaries, exclusions, and silences – the
Imperial interstices of English society that Said’s contrapuntal reading
can reveal by turning the narrative inside out, temporarily centralising its
margins. Such emphases on borders, heterogeneity, and reading against
the grain require analyses of nationalidentity which move away from
binaries of domestic and foreign, native and immigrant, belonging and
alienation, and instead consider the people, cultures and
diverse famine narratives that transgress the traditionally accepted
congruence between national boundaries and cultural identities as
well as boundaries between past and present Ireland. In doing so,
these novels offer new interpretations of the Famine as the founding
moment of modern, dispossessed Ireland, and pose attendant questions about Ireland’s (inter)nationalidentity.
O’Faolain and O’Connor complicate dominant ideological
renditions of Ireland’s Famine narrative by challenging oversimplified historical ‘facts.’ Both novels construct a spectral
nationalism emerged in the revolutionary fervour of the late eighteenth
century, this chapter establishes the nature of English radical nationalism and how the championing of English nationalidentity has resonances with the republicanism of the seventeenth century, the heroes
and martyrs of which were a regular presence in the radical press.
The nineteenth century witnessed the expansion and global success
of the British Empire. Despite the loss of the American colonies in 1783,
Great Britain’s victory in the Napoleonic Wars demonstrated to the