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A Political Companion to James Baldwin

edited by Susan J. McWilliams with contributions by Susan J. McWilliams, Lawrie Balfour, P.J. Brendese, Susan J. McWilliams, Nicholas Buccola, George Shulman, Vincent Lloyd, Wilson Carey McWilliams, Joel Schlosser, Brian Norman, Ulf Schulenberg, Jack Turner, Lisa Beard, Eddie S. Glaude Jr., and Rachel Brahinsky

Availablecloth$80.00x 978-0-8131-6991-0
Political Companions to Great American Authors
396 pages  Pubdate: 11/15/2017  6 x 9  

In seminal works such as Go Tell It on the Mountain, Notes of a Native Son, and The Fire Next Time, acclaimed author and social critic James Baldwin (1924–1987) expresses his profound belief that writers have the power to transform society, to engage the public, and to inspire and channel conversation to achieve lasting change. While Baldwin is best known for his writings on racial consciousness and injustice, he is also one of the country’s most eloquent theorists of democratic life and the national psyche.

In A Political Companion to James Baldwin, a group of prominent scholars assess the prolific author’s relevance to present-day political challenges. Together, they address Baldwin as a democratic theorist, activist, and citizen, examining his writings on the civil rights movement, religion, homosexuality, and women’s rights. They investigate the ways in which his work speaks to and galvanizes a collective American polity, and explore his views on the political implications of individual experience in relation to race and gender.

This volume not only considers Baldwin’s works within their own historical context, but also applies the author’s insights to recent events such as the Obama presidency and the Black Lives Matter movement, emphasizing his faith in the connections between the past and present. These incisive essays will encourage a new reading of Baldwin that celebrates his significant contributions to political and democratic theory.

Susan J. McWilliams is associate professor of politics at Pomona College. She is the author of Traveling Back: Toward a Global Political Theory and coeditor of several books, including The Democratic Soul: A Wilson Carey McWilliams Reader.

The individual contributions are uniformly excellent, but what the work as a whole does so effectively is establish the power of Baldwin’s theoretical lens. The volume also tackles Baldwin as a visionary, how he has extraordinary relevance in the present moment. This reviewer finds this text so valuable that he has already assigned it to a student for his research paper on The Fire Next Time. -- Choice

This companion does a fine job of touching on Baldwin’s many political ventures: his fiction, essays, speeches, and general philosophy. -- Peter Augustine Lawler, author of American Heresies and Higher Education

The collection of excellent essays that Susan J. McWilliams has gathered here could not have come at a better time, for James Baldwin’s voice remains indispensable to democratic citizens still aspiring to shape a political culture that acknowledges and holds itself accountable to the history and legacies of white supremacy. Taken together, these essays remind us that we lose sight of Baldwin’s key ideas and insights only at our peril. -- Robert Gooding-Williams, Columbia University