ENGL 2011 (Honors I — Literary Study through Reading and Research): James Baldwin
In this course we will study the life and work of James Baldwin, one of the most important American writers of the twentieth century. Baldwin was a novelist and playwright, literary and cultural critic, and one of the greatest essayists of all time. Best known for his work produced during the height of the Civil Rights era, Baldwin’s voice remains relevant today. Many of the topics that drew Baldwin’s keen attention remain critical topics of our public discussions: race and racism, economic and social equality, gender and sexual orientation, the social role of the artist, the political role of literary art, as well as alienation, love, and faith. We will read selected major works by Baldwin and delve into his incredible insights into American race relations in the 1950s and 1960s, but we will also discuss the relevance of his thinking and writing for our own time. The course allows us to take advantage of some timely opportunities taking place at UConn during the spring semester. A recently-restored version of the Baldwin documentary The Price of the Ticket will be shown on campus, and students in this course will have the unique opportunity to discuss the film with the filmmakers. Our study of Baldwin will also frame contributions to a university-wide discussion on race that will be facilitated through the 2015-2016 UCONN Reads program. Students will read a portion of Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow and be encouraged to attend events related to UCONN Reads. Students should expect very regular assignments and opportunities for discussion. Students will conduct guided research exercises and projects related to the study of Baldwin’s work and his impact on American literature and culture. The final grade will be based on regular assignments, a midterm exam, a research essay, and class participation (including online discussion through a course HuskyCT site).