James Baldwin: Tapping Beneath the Surface of Race & Sexuality
Jessica Elise Young
Grant Aubrey Farred
Thesis DT 3.5 2009 Y686
viii, 94 l.: ill.; 29 cm.
This thesis aims to recover James Baldwin as a black queer vernacular intellectual. In my introduction, I look at what Grant Farred calls "vernacular intellectuals" as important cultural figures that challenge the notion of the separation of the popular from the academic. I extend Farred's discussion on the vernacular intellectual by attempting to situate Baldwin in a dominant heterosexual black American culture, and explore how same-sex desire can complicate the space of the vernacular. Thesis Structure: Because of Baldwin's location in different intellectual places, this thesis' necessary interdisciplinarity draws upon literary, anthropological, historical, and cultural sources. Stylistically, my writing "performs" each chapter within their larger discourses-the novel, the essay, and case law. Chapter I critiques the novel, Another Country, as art and is written fluidly with audible texts from black popular music in an attempt to force the reader to think sonically as well as textually. Chapter 2 explores The Fire Next Time-two of Baldwin's essays-and is more focused on rhetorical analyses. I purposely and meticulously dismantle Loving v. Virginia (388 US I) to symbolize the tedious nature of engaging politics in the legal realm and argue against an exclusively legal approach to social movements in Chapter 3. Collectively, these chapters speak to the vernacular and James Baldwin's intervention as a queer black intellectual. Finding a traditional conclusion unimaginable, I end with a coda in order to emphasize this project's commitment to rethinking lessons learned from James Baldwin-specifically his politics of impossibility-and how contemporary figures continue his work of tapping beneath the surface.