Posts

Valentines Special! Giovanni's Room and 'Here be Dragons'

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Thursday 18th February  | 5:30-7pm GMT  | Zoom For our Valentine's week special on Thursday 18th February, we are reading two chapters of Baldwin's 1956 novella Giovanni's Room .  The novella, in non-linear style, narrates the powerful and tragic love story of David, an American in Paris, and Giovanni, an Italian bartender.  We will be reading the second and third chapters of the text.  Chapter 2 sees David recall himself and his friend Jacques as they visit a gay bar, where they meet Giovanni for the first time.  Chapter 3 narrates the continuation of this evening into the morning as the group arrive at a different bar.  While the evening ends with David inside Giovanni's room for the first time, the chapter ends with David, alone in a house in the south of France, contemplating Giovanni's current situation in prison.   With Giovanni's Room we are pairing Baldwin's essay 'Here be Dragons' .  This essay was originally titled 'Freaks and the Ame

The Devil Finds Work and the Banality of Evil

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Thursday 28th January | 5:30-7:00pm | Zoom In our first session of 2021, we turn to ‘Where the Grapes of Wrath are Stored’ (1975), the closing section of James Baldwin’s book of film criticism The Devil Finds Work . Baldwin discusses the process of writing his never-realised Malcolm X screenplay, as well as the fabrication of Billie Holiday’s life in Lady Sings the Blues (1972). In the final paragraphs, Baldwin moves away from biopics to interrogate the iconic horror film The Exorcist (1973).  Baldwin describes ‘the most terrifying thing’ about The Exorcist as being the ‘mindless and hysterical banality of the evil presented’. ‘Banality of evil’ inevitably invokes Hannah Arendt’s coining of the phrase in Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (1963). However, Baldwin and Arendt conceptualise evil as banal in alternative ways. To illuminate these differences, we will be pairing Baldwin with Judith Butler’s 2011 reading of Arendt in The Guardian .  Don’t feel that you

Guest Seminar with Dr Douglas Field

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Thursday 10th December  |  5:30-7:00pm  | Microsoft Teams  For our fourth session – and last of 2020 – we are welcoming Dr. Douglas Field! Dr. Field is a Senior Lecturer in 20 th Century American Literature at the University of Manchester. He is also a co-founding editor of the James Baldwin Review . He will be chairing the session and has chosen to discuss Baldwin’s essay ‘Stranger in the Village’ (1953) and Teju Cole’s 2014 rereading of Baldwin, titled ‘Black Body’ .   Baldwin’s essay describes his experiences in a remote village in Switzerland, a place he believes he may be the first black man ever to visit. Recounting the reception he receives from the inhabitants, he compares the village to the “West” and turns his attention back to the US. He argues that while he may be considered a stranger in the Swiss village, no American has the ‘luxury’ of being able to look on their black countrymen as strangers.   Cole’s response describes his own experience and reflections as he retrace

I Am Not Your Negro

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  Wednesday 18th November    |  5:30-7:00pm  | Microsoft Teams  In our third session, we will discuss Raoul Peck’s brilliant documentary I Am Not Your Negro (2016). The film is an adaptation of an unfinished James Baldwin manuscript, Remember This House. The documentary includes a number of Baldwin’s letters and notes from the 1970s. It is structured around the lives of three men:  Malcolm X,  Martin Luther King Jr.,  and Medgar Evers . All three were Civil Rights leaders who were assassinated. They were also close friends with Baldwin.   The film is currently available to watch, for free, on BBC iPlayer .      The meeting will be hosted on Microsoft Teams and is open to anyone with an email address affiliated with Office 365. To join us on Wednesday 18th November for the meeting, please email Joseph on  en17jog@leeds.ac.uk .   

The Fire Next Time and The Fire This Time

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  29th October    |  5:30-7:00pm  | Microsoft Teams  For this session, we will be continuing our reading of James Baldwin’s essay ‘Down at The Cross’, from his collection The Fire Next Time (1963). We will be picking up from page 47 and reading through to the end of the essay. In this section, Baldwin continues his discussion of religion, specifically Nation of Islam, and considers the future of race relations in the US. As complementary reading, we have chosen Jesmyn Ward’s introduction to The Fire This Time (2016), a book of essays and poetry that responds to Baldwin. In this short introduction, Ward describes her reaction to the killing of Trayvon Martin in 2012, as well as her relationship with Baldwin’s work. As this is slightly more reading than we would normally set, don’t worry if you struggle to read everything before the meeting! The meeting will be hosted on Microsoft Teams and is open to anyone with an email address affiliated with Office 365. T

The Fire Next Time and 'The Fire Last Time'

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  8th October  |  5:30-7:00pm  | Microsoft Teams  For our first meeting of the year, we are going to look at James Baldwin’s 1963 essay collection The Fire Next Time . We’ll aim to read the first short essay (‘My Dungeon Shook’), and the first half of the second essay (‘Down at The Cross’), which can be found on pages 3-47 in the attached reading. The first of these takes the form of a letter Baldwin wrote to his nephew for the centenary of the emancipation proclamation, and the second broadly considers the role of the church in Baldwin’s early life, examining how that contributed to his understanding of, and engagement with, the civil rights movement.  We will also discuss Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s article, ‘The Fire Last Time’ , which was published in 1992, shortly after the LA riots. In it, Gates re-examines the relevance of Baldwin’s work at that time, a question we will re-visit ourselves over the course of the year.  This year's meetings will be delivered online through Micr

Reading James Baldwin 2020-21

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 Quilting Points 2020-21: Reading James Baldwin Photograph by Carl Van Vechten/Beinecke Library © Van Vechten Trust We are pleased to announce the return of the interdisciplinary critical and cultural theory reading group Quilting Points for its ninth consecutive year.  Ran by postgraduate researchers in the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures at the University of Leeds, this year's directors are Joseph Genchi, Izzy Jenkinson, and Craig McDonald.   This year we will be reading and discussing the work of African-American critic, essayist, novelist, and activist James Baldwin. As we explore Baldwin's extensive oeuvre , we will encounter themes of racial politics, sexuality, identity, and literary and cinematic representation.  As well as reflecting on Baldwin's writing within the context of its own creation, we will be placing Baldwin alongside current events, especially the political and social movement Black Lives Matter. This year's meetings will take place online