Date

5-15-2020

Description

James Baldwin's life and intellectual trajectory has long fascinated historians and literary scholars alike, yet much of the existing academic work has neglected the deep influence his expatriate experience played in his coming-of-age as a young writer. This paper will examine how unexplored aspects of Baldwin's expatriate life in Paris helped him emerge as one of the greatest literary voices of the 20th Century. Baldwin's lived experience of expatriation as a source of liberation and alienation, coupled with his immersion in the existentialism characterizing post-war Paris, significantly shaped the author's intellectual development. These facets of expatriation led Baldwin to represent racial, sexual and national identities within a new thematic framework of innocence, freedom, and responsibility. The influence of Baldwin's expatriate experience yields significant implications for understanding the interconnected nature of public intellectual spheres and private emotional realms. Moreover, existentialist concepts and questions of historical identity prompted by expatriation allowed Baldwin to reexamine the relationship between blacks and whites in America. The essays and novel Baldwin produced in Paris demonstrate his new conception of the intertwined nature of national and racial identity. In shaping this understanding, expatriation underscored Baldwin's vivid literary portrait of America's potential to progress as a nation.

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May 15th, 12:00 AM

James Baldwin in Paris: Liberation, Alienation, and Existentialism

James Baldwin's life and intellectual trajectory has long fascinated historians and literary scholars alike, yet much of the existing academic work has neglected the deep influence his expatriate experience played in his coming-of-age as a young writer. This paper will examine how unexplored aspects of Baldwin's expatriate life in Paris helped him emerge as one of the greatest literary voices of the 20th Century. Baldwin's lived experience of expatriation as a source of liberation and alienation, coupled with his immersion in the existentialism characterizing post-war Paris, significantly shaped the author's intellectual development. These facets of expatriation led Baldwin to represent racial, sexual and national identities within a new thematic framework of innocence, freedom, and responsibility. The influence of Baldwin's expatriate experience yields significant implications for understanding the interconnected nature of public intellectual spheres and private emotional realms. Moreover, existentialist concepts and questions of historical identity prompted by expatriation allowed Baldwin to reexamine the relationship between blacks and whites in America. The essays and novel Baldwin produced in Paris demonstrate his new conception of the intertwined nature of national and racial identity. In shaping this understanding, expatriation underscored Baldwin's vivid literary portrait of America's potential to progress as a nation.