Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

M.A. in English

Department

English

First Advisor

Jaime Harker

Second Advisor

Annette Trefzer

Third Advisor

Karen Raber

Abstract

Despite his exclusion from the Black Arts Movement, James Baldwin includes in his later novels many elements of Black Nationalism, including a focus on black communities, black music, Pan-Africanism, and elements of separatism. In his inclusion of queer sexuality, Baldwin pushes against the typical bounds of Black Arts writings, expanding the limits of the genre. Contrary to the philosophy of Black Nationalism, which depends upon solid definitions of blackness, heterosexuality, and masculinity, is Baldwin's tearing down of identity categories through queering sexuality, gender, and race. This thesis examines James Baldwin's late novels, which remain undervalued and under-read, in terms of how Baldwin negotiates the two contradictory lines of argument: Black Nationalism and the queering of identity categories. His handling of these opposing arguments allows Baldwin to recognize social constructions of race, gender, and sexuality and their power and to challenge their constraints. Considering Baldwin's Another Country and Just Above My Head, I argue for the reappraisal of these late novels for their artistic value and for their inclusion in the Black Arts canon.

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