James Baldwin, Jazz, and the Moral Minority

Since the 1950s, James Baldwin has prodded the political and ethical blind spots of the United States and has attended to those who find themselves at its social margins. Baldwin’s writing hones in on minoritarian experience and deftly inhabits the complex feelings that come with being judged, feelings like the self-hatred or pleasure that comes from living in defiance of social taboos. Focusing his1962 novel Another Country, this seminar will discuss how Baldwin draws attentions to marginalized relationships and the challenges they present to anti-black and homophobic sentiments that are often couched in notions of morality. Key to this, as we will investigate, is his investment in the world of jazz and the radically expressive potential he hears in its music.