James Baldwin: A special issue of African American Review
Call for Papers Date:
The work of essayist, novelist, critic, James Arthur Baldwin (1924-1987), has enjoyed something of a critical renaissance over the last decade. A number of recent conferences, symposia, tributes, and publications have substantially expanded our understanding of Baldwin’s contributions, but much of this complex and enigmatic author’s career still remains unexplored. This special issue of African American Review, the first devoted to Baldwin, invites essays by emerging and established thinkers that extend the critical terrain of Baldwin scholarship. The editors are especially interested in essays that engage Baldwin’s under-researched works; pursue new themes in his oeuvre; and inaugurate fresh and multi-disciplinary approaches to more familiar texts.
Nearly twenty-five years after his death, much of Baldwin’s body of work is increasingly and newly relevant. Writers including Colm Toíbín and Randall Kenan have drawn on Baldwin’s life and work to consider the ascendancy of U. S. President Barack Obama and the legacy of the author’s prophetic writings. The recent publication of The Cross of Redemption, a volume of previously uncollected reviews, essays, and other writings, will potentially prompt new perspectives on this massive figure. Building on the conference, “James Baldwin’s Global Imagination” (February 2011, NYU), this special issue is concerned with the ethical significance of Baldwin’s analyses in the context of the present global convulsions of war, economic crises, resurgent attitudes about difference, and the attendant social disintegrations.
As such, we welcome essays that challenge, extend, or re-animate established critical narratives on the author. Essays might consider Baldwin’s complex relationship to Africa; his efficacy and concerns as prose stylist or reviewer; his inspiration to black queer studies, alongside his suspicion of the terms “gay” and “homosexual”; his pioneering and at times troubling explorations of race and gender, such as his conversation with Nikki Giovanni in A Dialogue, or his fictional depictions of white women. Essays might also explore the author’s relationship to music and film. Known best in the genre for his music criticism, Baldwin also sang on David Linx’s album, A Lover’s Question, in addition to recording a number of his own works. Documentaries on Baldwin are also of interest, including Dick Fontaine’s I Heard it through the Grapevine, a rarely-screened cinematic record of Baldwin’s return to cities of civil rights struggle in the American South; Horace Ové’s Baldwin’s Nigger, a film document about a lecture and discussion with a robust West Indian audience in late-sixties London; and Sedat Pakay’s moving short film of Baldwin in Turkey, James Baldwin: From Another Place.
Other lines of inquiry might include: How might we consider Baldwin as a transatlantic writer? What is the critical reception of Baldwin outside of the U.S.? In what ways does his work cut across disciplines? And how, for example, might we read his misunderstood essay on film, “The Devil Finds Work,” or his work on the film script based on The Autobiography of Malcolm X? Essays treating Baldwin’s stance on capitalism and imperialism and the relevance of his morally sophisticated conceptualization of race to our post-civil rights moment, are also encouraged.
Please email abstracts of no longer than 350 words, as well as a short bio or c.v., to firstname.lastname@example.org by 1 April 2011. The guest editors will invite contributors to submit completed essays of no longer than 8,500 words, excluding Notes and Works Cited, by 15 October 2011.
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