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Introduction: James Baldwin in Context

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 July 2019

D. Quentin Miller
Affiliation:
Suffolk University, Massachusetts
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Summary

James Baldwin is one of the most fascinating American literary figures of the mid-twentieth century. He is also one of the most important. Many lasting impressions derive as much from his public persona as from his published work. He could easily be described as mercurial, a gifted speaker given to rants and tirades who would lean into arguments with a mixture of ferocity and righteous indignation, delivered with passion and unparalleled eloquence. He was also deeply vulnerable, a wounded man prone to confession who exposed his wounds without flinching. The latter observation comes more from examining his texts – all of them, even the ones that baffled or displeased critics and readers – than from observing his public persona. The tension in Baldwin between the public spokesman and the private craftsman is just one of many tensions that help the contemporary reader appreciate his rich complexity.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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