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All Those StrangersThe Art and Lives of James Baldwin$
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Douglas Field

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199384150

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199384150.001.0001

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Baldwin’s Life on the Left: From New York Intellectual to Disturber of the Peace

Baldwin’s Life on the Left: From New York Intellectual to Disturber of the Peace

Chapter:
(p.12) {Chapter 1} Baldwin’s Life on the Left: From New York Intellectual to Disturber of the Peace
Source:
All Those Strangers
Author(s):

Douglas Field

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199384150.003.0002

Chapter 1 examines Baldwin’s early book reviews in magazines associated with the New York Intellectuals (Nation, Commentary, and New Leader) in order to argue that his early work and dalliance with the Young People’s Socialist League not only illuminate his early career, giving us a better sense of how he developed as a writer, but also his political views add to an understanding of leftist literary culture of the mid-1940s. The chapter then focuses on the reception of Baldwin’s second novel Giovanni’s Room in order to examine how this short novel feeds into and explores key Cold War anxieties about race and homosexuality. As a novel written by an African American featuring no black characters, Giovanni’s Room inflamed white concerns that black culture might assimilate into white American culture, and its treatment of homosexuality fed into concerns that “deviant” sexuality was a threat to American national security.

Keywords:   New York Intellectuals, Young People’s Socialist League, Leftist literary culture, Cold War, homosexuality, race, Giovanni’s Room

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