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"A Torrent of rhetoric"

University of Florida Institutional Repository
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PAGE 1

A TORRENT OF RHETORIC: CONSTRUCTS OF BLACKNESS AND MASCULINITY IN CRITICAL RESPONSES TO JAMES BALDWINS ANOTHER COUNTRY By MARLON RACHQUEL MOORE A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2004

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This document is dedicated to my mother, Quintine Harrison Moore.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS page ABSTRACT .......................................................................................................................iv INTRODUCTION...............................................................................................................1 METHODOLOGY..............................................................................................................3 ARGUMENT.......................................................................................................................4 Baldwins Fame............................................................................................................8 Critical Responses......................................................................................................11 Essays..................................................................................................................11 Book Reviews......................................................................................................24 Conclusion..................................................................................................................30 WORKS CITED................................................................................................................32 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.............................................................................................35 iii

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Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts A TORRENT OF RHETORIC: CONSTRUCTS OF BLACKNESS AND MASCULINITY IN CRITICAL RESPONSES TO JAMES BALDWINS ANOTHER COUNTRY By Marlon Rachquel Moore December 2004 Chair: Roger Beebe Major Department: English Since his death in 1987, scholars have endeavored to revive interest in James Baldwins contributions to American literature and cultural theory with an additional attempt to redress the damage done to his literary reputation in the 1960s. This thesis contributes to that enterprise by reexamining the most notorious anti-Baldwin essays of that period and some lesser-known book reviews (American and French) of his great modernist novel Another Countrynarrowly focusing on what is often referred to as Baldwins era of decline. It explores social constructions of blackness and black writer as they reveal themselves in these texts. While acknowledging the homophobic anxiety that has already been exposed in other research, this report traces the racial ideologies embedded in the language of each writer and exposes the relationship of racial essentialism to the decline in Baldwins critical reception in America and France. iv

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INTRODUCTION In the 1960s at the height of his renown, James Baldwin had two controversial and best-selling works on the market, published within months of each other. One was his third novel and the other a pair of essays bound and sold as a book. The essays were highly acclaimed and honored by numerous social and literary awards. The novel was under fire in parts of America for its debauchery. Critics treated these texts, written by the same hand, both on the topic of racial conflict, as if the levels of talent shown in each were separated by several degrees. Years later, when asked to reflect upon this time in his life, Baldwin said, the reception of [the novel] was a scandal. I was bewildered It was banned in all kinds of weird places [and] taken out of the bookshelves Lord, I would not like to go through that again (Standley and Pratt 206). That was a damaging blow to his fiction career. Much of his work has been canonized in academia, but once his ride was over he would never be celebrated or defamed by mainstream America to that extent again. Subsequently, even though he was prolific in multiple genres throughout most of his lifetime, little attention has been paid to the novels published after the scandal of Another Country. Since his death in 1987, scholars have endeavored to revive interest in Baldwins contributions to American literature and theory with an additional effort to redress the damage done to his literary reputation in the 1960s. This research contributes to that enterprise by reexamining the most notorious anti-Baldwin essays and some of the lesser-known book reviews (American and French) from what is known as Baldwins era of 1

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2 decline. While acknowledging the homophobic anxiety that has already been exposed in other research, this report identifies the buried racial essentialism that is the overarching theme which compounds the negative responses to Another Country. My ultimate quest in this project is to scrutinize the commotion around the novel that led to its eventual mainstream dismissal. This period is often referred to but not thoroughly explained by Baldwin scholars.

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METHODOLOGY This project interrogates the partially ignored racial ideologies that emerge in many of the negative critical reviews in the 1960s and 70s. This particular era is significant because, on one hand it represents the crest of the non-violent civil rights struggle and the burgeoning of the Black Power era; and on the other hand because 1962-65 is generally accepted as the end of the love affair liberal Americans were having with Baldwins work. Because this is an assessment of damaging responses, the positive or neutral critics are unexamined here. The sources compiled here reflect both ends of the publishing spectrum, from the most anthologized essays to some of the more obscure book reviews. It includes articles from Time Magazine and reviews available only in Europe. Although each critique weighs differently in its ability to impact the masses, they are each an important contribution to the political atmosphere we are trying to recapture. Furthermore, I recognize the complications imposed by postmodernist interrogations of the terms Negro, Black and African-American to describe the descendants of imported Africans in America, but within the context of this reportfor the purpose of simplificationthese terms are used interchangeably. Similarly, queer and homosexual are both used herein to describe same-sex romantic love, sexual intercourse and any related tendencies. 3

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ARGUMENT In the history of twentieth-century American letters it would be hard to find another figure more simultaneously praised and damned, often by the same critic in the same essay, than James Baldwin. Lynn Orilla Scott, Witness to the Journey In May 1963, James Baldwin graced the cover of Time magazine under a banner which reads Birmingham and Beyond: The Negros Push For Equality. By placing him on the cover Time conveys that he is an important person, one who should be recognized and heeded. However by the time the article reaches its conclusion we find that Baldwins implied authority has seeped out of the story. While the article ostensibly chronicles the progress and impediments of the Civil Rights Movement, it also serves to critique the tactics of certain prominent figures. The first half focuses on the riots in Birmingham, Alabama earlier that month: water hoses, boycotts, bombingham, sit-ins, and paddy wagons. Public Safety Commissioner Bull Connor was villianized to some extent for his abuse of authority and the local press was chided for burying the story. We are told that Martin Luther King, Jr. (described as the Negroes spiritual but sometimes inept leader (23)), along with attorneys, met with local businessmen to negotiate, among other things, the desegregation of store facilities and the initiation of full occupational inclusion for people of color. Yet at the same time the writer tells us, Negro Leader King could be criticized for using children as shock troops and for inciting the protests even as a new, relatively moderate city administration was about to take over Birmingham (25). Next, the chain reaction to Kings hasty campaign is mapped: 4

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5 New lunch-counter sit-ins started in Atlanta, Nashville, and Raleigh. The NAACP called for peaceful sympathy demonstrations in 100 cities. Jackie Robinsonsaid he would go to Birmingham to join the Negro Protest. So did Floyd Patterson. Communism was having a field day. Perhaps most baleful of all, the Black Muslim movement within the U.S. Negro community took full recruiting advantage (25) That last sentence transitions the focus toward another gathering storm of Negroesthe separatists brewing in the North. Now Malcolm X, top Eastern torchbearer of the militant movement, could only sneer at Martin Luther Kings gospel of nonviolence (25, emphasis added). The reader is then assured that black nationalists and the likes of Bull Connor do not represent the majority of either race. There are many other positions, and there is a long gaping valley of confusion and diffusion. It is a great, uncharted space where leaders follow and followers lead, for there is no certainty of plan or purpose there. [But there is hope!] Negro author James Baldwin has illuminated this grey gulf with bolts of intellectual lightning (25). The writer spends several pages elucidating Baldwins philosophies through extensive quotes from The Fire Next Time. Leading up to this part of the article the writer has compared/contrasted the racial ideologies and tactics of differing leaders: King fights for inclusion and fairness through civil disobedience and economic disruption; Malcolm X advocates a fully exclusive Black State through inverted supremacist oratory. But when we get to the discussion of James Baldwin, there is a slight change in the writers rhetorical direction. Readers are assured that although he may be as visible as the other spokesmen, Baldwin is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a Negro leader. He tries no civil rights cases in the courts, preaches from no pulpit, devises no stratagems for sit-ins, Freedom Riders or street marchers (26).

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6 Upon further reading, we can infer that it is not Baldwins lack of leadership ability that is considered dubious, but his (lack of perceived) masculinity. King and Malcolms physiques were not even mentioned, yet Baldwins appearance and mannerisms are described at length. Presented as a nervous, slight, almost fragile figure (26) we might say that he is situated as the un-King. Baldwin has renounced his Pentecostal religion while King is a married Baptist minister and father, whose persona is, paradoxically, chastely virile. According to Time, Baldwin is full of vices. Notice the discursive linking (and the coupling of objectivity with the subjective) the writer makes of Baldwins mannerisms to his ability to reach people: He is effeminate in manner, drinks considerably, smokes cigarettes in chains, and he often loses his audience with overblown arguments (26, emphasis added). Nevertheless, the writer offers Baldwins social critique as a form of enlightenment, a flashing bolt of clarity. Clearly, Time believes readers should follow Baldwins thoughts or otherwise immerse themselves in his insights so that they, too, can find their way safely across the grey gulf. Yet the reader might leave this article wondering what Baldwins role is, since his guidance is considered tenuous. This type of ambivalent discourse typifies the reception of Baldwin in the 1960s, especially in the immediate aftermath (but surely extends beyond) of the publication of his third novel Another Country. Often his perceived queerness led to a contaminated view of his abilities. Fast forward to the present. In a burgeoning revival of academic interest in Baldwins contributions, scholars have begun to revisit this text. Many decry the homophobia emanating from the negative reviews of Another Country as the leading

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7 culprit in the denunciation the book received. 1 So says Lynn Orilla Scott: it remains very difficult to sort out aesthetic judgments from political [ones] when discussing Baldwins reception because they are so deeply interconnected (10). It is my observation that, while homophobia absolutely serves as impetus in the discursive lynching of Baldwin as novelist (barring Evidence of Things Not Seen his essays are unfalteringly praised), scholars have failed to recognize that the noose is tied with a double-knot. Just as the writer in Time reveals his ideas of what constitutes a Negro Leader by his dismissal of Baldwins effeminate body as leadership material, many critics of Another Country expose a weakness in their critical ideology: underlying essentialist notions of what constitutes a Negro and/or Negro Writer often inhibits their critical judgment. On the surface this concept may not convey its complexity or distinction from what scholars have already acknowledged to some extent. For example in her chapter Baldwins Reception and the Challenge of His Legacy, Scott recognizes that Baldwin spent time on two crosses: around the same time [he] was being condemned by white liberals for his black militancy, he was being condemned by black militants for his homosexuality (12). However, deeper digging reveals that it was never so simply black and white. Whether the reader identified as a black or white, left or right wing, militant or conservative, Baldwins authorial identity was constantly being defined in relation to the critics preconceived notions of race. What I wish to demonstrate here is that entwined with an overt aversion to homosexuality was the (sometimes) subtle objection to Baldwins performance of blackness in art. 1 The most recent roundup of homophobic reviews can be found in Critical Deviance: Homophobia and the Reception of James Baldwins Fiction by Emmanuel Nelson. Journal of American Culture 14, no. 3 (1991): 91-96.

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8 Baldwins Fame Though Baldwin may have been obscure outside of literary circles before 1963, he was far from a struggling artist when the Time article was written. His 1949 essay Everybodys Protest Novel is widely notorious for the art vs. protest debate it motivated among literati. Also, using his Christian fundamentalist family culture as the portal into his narrative space, he emerged as a novelist in 1952 with Go Tell It on the Mountain. In highly reductive terms, Mountain is a bildungsroman in which a young black boy struggles with his domineering minister father, and his fathers obvious preference for the older son. The protagonist also guiltily recognizes his homosexual attraction to another young boy who is also the beloved golden boy of the fathers church. Critics generally ignored the subtext and hailed it as a masterpiece of modernist form and style. His second novel, Giovannis Room (1956), was sensationalized for its homosexual drama, which critiques and deconstructs American myths of masculinity (and femininity to some extent). This novel stands out as Baldwins overt attempt to write himself out of the box designated for Negro writers. There are no black characters and the story is set in Paris. David, the central character, is an American who visits Paris to find himself. His fianc Hella travels to Spain to do the same. While apart from his girlfriend, David begins a love affair with the handsome bartender Giovanni. When forced to make a choice David leaves Giovanni, but in his mourning for Giovanni he eventually loses Hella as well. It was a best seller. Another Country was also a favorite among the populace. Commonly described as Baldwins most ambitious novel, it is a bit more complicated tale of love and passion. Set in New York City, the characters and their relationships are representative of black

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9 and white; male and female; married and unmarried; homosexual, bisexual, and heterosexual. First there is Rufus, a jazz drummer from Harlem who has become jaded and callous from his experiences with racist society. He is friends with Vivaldo, an Italian-American Brooklynite and struggling writer who spends much time in Harlems jazz scene; Cass and Richard Silenski: she is a WASP and he an English teacher and novelist; and Eric, an actor from Alabama who has made his home and career in Paris and who is in a relationship with a young French boy, Yves. He is also Rufus ex-lover. During his heyday in hip circles Rufus meets and moves in with Leona a southern white girl. His disenchantment with his world makes him highly destructive to Leona and ultimately to himself. The emotional and physical beatings he inflicts on her lead to her institutionalization. His shame and internal torment send him into hiding from his old crowd. He wanders the streets of the city dirty and hungry, selling his body to white men in exchange for food. Eventually he jumps to his death from the George Washington Bridge, as did Baldwins childhood friend on whom Rufus is based. It is around Rufus death that the others come together and their journey into love and self-reflection begins. When it was published in June 1962 it flew from the shelves. On the heels of this success came the November 1962, Letter From a Region in My Mind in The New Yorker, which catapulted him into celebrity among the highbrow liberals. For this fusion of autobiography, American history and global politics into a document as personal as the blood coursing through his veins, Baldwin received $6500and a reputation as the most valuable literary property in the country. Almost overnight, with the New Yorkers prestige undoubtedly furnishing some of the booster power, the

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10 piece rocketed into prominence; it was required reading among in-groups, and its authors name became a national byword (Eckman 169). In January 1963, that essay was reprinted as Down at the Cross along with My Dungeon Shook: Letter to my Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Emancipation. Together they were called The Fire Next Time and released into the awaiting hands of those who did not subscribe to the New Yorker. It spent forty-one weeks in the top five on the non-fiction bestseller lists and won the George Polk Memorial Award for outstanding magazine reporting. One member of Dell Publishing remembers, whites loved to hear him blast whites (Weatherby 236). And blast them he did. The popular demand for his views on racism and integration led to a lecture/debate circuit in the U.S. South and western states. In addition to lectures, he attended television appearances, radio addresses and press interviews. All of these tours focused on the struggle for civil rights by African Americans. Baldwin reasoned it all happened because Im a writer, [but] not because people read that much. The country is going through a crisis and Ive been thrown up as this kind of public figure because Im the top Negro writer in the countrywhatever that meansbut Im still trying to speak just for me, not for twenty million people (Standley and Burt 32). Yet he was asked to represent the African-American perspective at every turn. In 1965, for example, he was invited to England to reach his broader audience. Baldwin and William F. Buckley, Jr., the witty articulate, conservative editor of the right-wing National Review, confronted each other at Cambridge University before more than seven hundred British students crowded into a high-ceilinged debating chamber, with five hundred more in a bar, a library and other college rooms watching over closed-circuit

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11 TV. Baldwin and Buckley, roughly the same age and from extremes of American society, debated the notion, The American Dream is at the Expense of the American Negro (Weatherby 311). During his most famous and prosperous period he traipsed across the country and overseas to propagate the need for America to own up to its crimes against its black citizens. His name and face became almost as synonymous with the struggle for liberation as Kings. This would eventually change. Some writers have suggested that Baldwins refusal to closet his sexual orientation is the main reason he was not allowed to speak on the famous March on Washington with the rest of Kings inner circle. Critical Responses Whatever you describe to another person is also a revelation of who you are and who you think you are. You cannot describe anything without betraying your point of view, your aspirations, your fears, your hopes. Everything. James Baldwin Essays While Baldwins fiction career was publicly eclipsed by his fame as an essayist and spokesperson, academic types and literary critics were weighing in on Country. Baldwin has said directly enough that Negroes hate white people, notes Granville Hicks in one of the first reviews, [i]t is, however, one thing to say that hatred exists and another to make it palpable, as he so magnificently does(Saturday Review). In phrases that were more prophetic than he could have known, Hicks expresses how reactions to the themes of interracial sex and homosexual love might distort some peoples view of Baldwins artistic endeavor: He is not only a powerful writer; he has become a skilled craftsman. I hope that, in the controversy the book is bound to arouse, his great gifts as a novelist will not be overlooked (152). Of course greatness is in the eye of the beholder.

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12 What we will find is that Baldwins skills are often acclaimed in direct proportion to how well he satisfies the critics expectations. And since Baldwin is a black man who is also homosexual, disapproval of his work is consistently related to notions of race and masculinity. For example, Robert A. Bone exalts Go Tell It on the Mountain as Baldwins very best work and immediately shelves it next to other writers of color. It ranks with Jean Toomers Cane, Richard Wrights Native Son, and Ralph Ellisons Invisible Man as a major contribution to American fiction. One senses in [it] a confidence, control, and mastery of style that he has not attained again in the novel form (31). After a brief exposition of this great novel and (what he feels is) its not-so-great successor, Giovannis Room, he moves to the work of our focus, which he characterizes as a failure on the grand scale (41). The plot consists of little more than a series of occasions of talk and fornication, Bone explains, [and] since the latter is a limited vehicle for the expression of complex ideas, talk takes over, and the novel drowns in a torrent of rhetoric (41). After offering a brilliant (and somewhat cynical) exposition of the novels philosophical underpinnings, he launches into this searing elitist attack: What dramatic materials are employed to invest these themes with life? A Greenwich Village setting and a hipster idiom (Beer dad, then well split). A square thrown in for laughs. A good deal of boozing, and an occasional stick of tea. Some male cheesecake (He bent down to lift off the scarlet bikini). Five orgasms (two interracial and two homosexual) or approximately one per eighty pages Distracted by this nonsense, how can one attend to the serious business of the novel? (42) What immediately strikes us is his differentiation of normal orgasms from the other types he lists. By doing so, Mr. Bone raises an interesting question here. With all of this preoccupation with the number/types of orgasms, how can he convey the seriousness of the work? I submit that he cannot. Before we decide for sure we should observe that his

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13 main objections so far are the bohemian culture around which the conceptual framework is built and the unapologetic homosexuality. He explains that For most readersthe difficulty will lie in accepting Eric as a touchstone of reality. Let us consider the overall design. Rufus is portrayed as the victim of a white society that cannot face unpleasant truths. The redemptive role is then assigned to Eric. But few will concede a sense of reality at least in the sexual realm, to one who regards heterosexual love as a kind of superior calisthenics (Country 336). To most, homosexuality will seem rather an evasion than an affirmation of truth. Ostensibly, the novel summons us to reality. Actually it substitutes for the illusions of white supremacy those of homosexual love. (46) It must be acknowledged that this critique reeks of heteronormativity, but furthermore it may mislead the reader about the passage it quotes. In this particular episode, Eric is explaining to Vivaldo the differences he experiences sexually with male and female partners. His sexual activity is not limited to men, but his romantic love indeed is. The reason sex with Cass is compared to calisthenics is because, Eric says, Its a great challenge, a great test, a great game. But I dont really feel that terrorand that anguish and that joy Ive sometimes felt witha few men. Not enough of myself is invested. So he is not saying, as Bone accuses, that heterosexual love is inferior, but that for a gay man, heterosexual sex leaves him wanting. He is trying to convey his sense of reality. For Eric sex with a woman requires an increased focus on the physical because it lacks the emotional connection, therefore perhaps making it a more rigorous performance. Baldwin knew what Americans generally believed about same-sex relationships, mainly that they were not relationships at all but a series of empty shameful trysts. He replaces that perception with new conceptions of diverse masculine subjectivities. Every novelist is, to some extent, a rhetorician who finds some of the beliefs on which a full appreciation of his work depends come ready-made, fully accepted by the postulated reader as he comes to the book, and some must be implanted or reinforced (Booth 177).

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14 The beliefs Baldwin attempts to implant pertain to the souls of men beyond the sexual act. His work demonstrates his deep and profound understanding that heterosexual activity is not necessarily symptomatic of a heterosexual identification. Eric is answering questions that Baldwin anticipates from his readers and is speaking a version of truth that many people had not heard at that time. Nevertheless, the implausibility that a man can only fully commit to love with another man is not a reason Bone gives for deeming this novel unsuccessful: To understand the failure of Country we must trace the connection between his sexual rebellion, his religious conceptions and his style,(48). Here is where Bones ideas about masculinity reveal themselves and can be linked to his critical ideology of blackness. In keeping with his reading of this as a negro novel, he traces Baldwins use of religious imagery and jazz bar settings as representative of the consecrated and profane binaries available from the Negro world (49). The heart of his critique lies in his description of Baldwins artistic performance in this novel as deliberately shocking (blasphemous even) and therefore juvenile; and indicative of Baldwins status as an oppressed minority. Bone posits that Baldwins language sometimes hardens into Garveyism, which he defines as emotional and rhetorical excess, and often the extravagant fantasies, to which an embattled minority may resort in promoting its own defense (47). As for what makes this rhetorical approach juvenile, we are, inevitably it seems, looped back into a discussion about masculinity. According to Bone, Baldwins treatment of controversial themes exploits the fascination of the forbidden, like a cheap film aimed at the teen-age trade. Indeed, if the style proclaims the man, we are dealing with an adolescent: who else gets his kicks from the violation of taboo? (50). Baldwins art is

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15 somehow reflective of his manhood. According to Bone these types of homosexual (and cross-racial) indulgences commonly, but temporarily, distract the young man en route to a well-adjusted sexuality. A mature masculinity necessitates that he recognize this divergence as adolescent rebellion and that he re-direct his energy into women, preferably those within his race. In his final judgment, Bone finds no redeeming qualities in this narrative and he suggests that Baldwin too needs rehabilitation. This portrayal of masculinity is symptomatic of a severe crisis in Baldwins life and art [since] He has already devoted two novels to his sexual rebellion The future now depends on his ability to transcend the emotional reflexes of his adolescence (51). The attempt to create a new vision of society is nothing less than Baldwins failure to develop into full manhoodemotionally and artistically. Sometimes the evidence is not so obvious. In 1964 George E. Kent penned Baldwin and the Problem of Being, a thematic survey that draws from his essays and fiction. It is a thoroughly researched article that investigates the underlying existentialist philosophy in Baldwins work. He too is very pleased with Baldwins earlier works. He expounds upon how Mountain investigates, with warmth and perception, the Negros possibility of achieving identity through the discipline of Christianity, and he finds its style richly evocativeof Joyce and Faulkner, the rhythms of the old time Negro sermon and the King James Bible (21). But the joy ends there. In what has become a recurring melody in the majority of the evaluations presented here, Kent sings the praises of Baldwins debut novel, but is disturbed by what he considers to be Baldwins preoccupation with sex and love as

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16 instruments in the achievement of full being (22) in Giovannis Room and Country. Lamenting that Mountains successors fail to suspend his disbelief as a reader, he cloaks his inability to identify with the characters in compelling arguments about the staginess and theatricality of the text. The discussion of Country begins with a particularly derogatory force. To make it a serious novel of first rank, he declares, would demand severe cutting and some intensive re-writing (25). As one writer put it, the same need for editing is true for War and Peace, yet it is still considered serious literature. First Kent requests flawless balance in character development. One trouble with the scheme he contends, is that so few characters exemplify the complexity contended for them. Rufus, Ida, and Eric are the more adequately developed characters. The rest are not projected far enough beyond the level of nice, erring people (27). One can disagree with this assessment but not truly disprove it, for it is simply a mans opinion. Plus it is not the goal of this project to argue with the critics. However, Wayne C. Booth does warn against making this demand of authors. Even among characters of equal moral, intellectual, or aesthetic worth, all authors inevitably take sides. But who cares? The novelist who chooses to tell this story cannot at the same time tell that story. In centering our interest, sympathy, or affection on one character, he inevitably excludes from our interest, sympathy, or affection some other character. Art imitates life in this respect (78,79). Kent denies that the unconventional sex is an issue for him. Rather, the problem is that in neither of these novels does [Baldwin] seem to create fully his fictional worlds and characters (24). Furthermore [they] do not root themselves deeply enough to become momentous in fictional terms, nor do they stand with intensity for elemental

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17 forces that we are forced to consider an inescapable part of our lives (26). In other words, these emotions and these types of situations do not leap from the page far enough (or at all) to represent universality for Kent. During his trek into their world he never fully surrenders his imagination to the story. It seems then that successful realism requires some familiarity and for Kent certain alien characters remain otherworldlyno matter where you place them on the planet. We draw this conclusion by scrutinizing his earlier statements. It is interesting that Mountain, the story of a pubescent church boy in Harlem, is provocative and reminiscent of certain American iconography. Yet the emotions of love and fear that arise in interracial romance and bisexuality cannot root themselves deeply enough to be considered inescapable elements of every human. In actuality, Kent tells us that neither novel can do so. He posits Mountain as a story of the Negros possibility as opposed to mans. This distinction is subtle but substantial. Richard Dyer reminds us that the assumption that white people are just people, which is not far off saying that whites are people whereas other coulours [sic] are something else, is endemic to white culture (2). Blacks and gays were still marginal characters in mainstream literature in this decade and where they did appear (outside of black texts), they usually did so as caricatures that reinforced the myths of starkly religious darkies. The family in Mountain would not be too far of a stretch for the imagination weaned on Faulkners longsuffering, mournful, black family in The Sound and the Fury: These others were not Compsons. They were black: they endured (215). Put simply, the subjectivities in Giovannis Room and Country may not, for this writer, be allowed to root themselves deeply enough to become

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18 three dimensional because they are racialized and othered at the outset. The type of black masculinity represented in Mountain is the most common and the most acceptable. The second layer of his rejection can be peeled away from his commentary on Baldwins writing style. His choice of descriptive phrases suggests something much more intriguing: The section concerned with Rufus death and the attendance of his funeral is excessive reportorial detail, sometimes theatrical, sometimes written at the level of the womens magazine. And the social criticism is inert, for the most part, a part of the chatty reflections of a particular character or long clinical discussions. (26, emphasis mine) The scene in question marks the beginning of white characters Vivaldo and Cass confrontation with the world they have been insulated against and the lies they have told themselves about freedom and opportunity. In a taxicab ride, Vivaldo recounts his adolescent sexual violence against black boys, boys he suspects may have grown up to carry hate in their eyes because of people like him. Cass recognizes the ambivalent, fearful face of a new bride as the same one she wore on her wedding day. The reader is then pulled back from the microcosmic scene the cab represents and shown a panoramic view of the Harlem streets. The narrator tells us It was not hard to imagine that horse carriages had once paraded proudly up this wide avenue and ladies and gentlemen, ribboned, beflowered, brocaded, plumed, had stepped down from their carriages to enter these houses which time and folly had so blasted and darkenedAt one time people had cared about these housesthat was the difference; they had been proud to walk on this avenue; it had once been home, whereas now it was prisonThen they turned off the Avenue, west, crawled up a long, gray street. They had to crawl, for the street was choked with unhurrying people and children kept darting out from between the cars which were parked, for the length of the street, on either side. There were people on the stoops, people shouting out of windows, and young men peered indifferently into the slow-moving cab, their faces set ironically and their eyes unreadable. (115) The point of this scene is that Cass and Vivaldo are beginning to see for the first time. Kents opinion that this style of writing is excessive is a valid critique, yet it seems that

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19 Baldwins famously petite physique is being critiqued along with his work. Kent is snubbing Baldwins queer body as an acceptable male authoritybecause queerness is perceived as ladylike. His ideas about Baldwins effeminate persona spill over into his views of the queer characters as only partially realized in the text. It explains his frame of reference when he compares this passage to a womens magazine and describes the dialogue as chatty. In our phallic culture, anything associated with traditionally feminine qualities is considered a negative trait in a man. This writer seems haunted by a lingering vision of Baldwins effete corpus and it with this anxiety that he describes the writing as theatrical. Overall, we gather that in Kents critical ideology, black writers and characters can only represent their race and mens writing style should not lower itself to the wordiness of its feminine counterpart. There is an additional piece of evidence that may help us to understand why in Kents summation these novels reflect a hiatus in [Baldwins] artistic development (26). Consider the summary of his essay, in which subtleties are embedded in ambiguous poetics about modernity: Baldwinconfronts the modern consciousness amidst fluxions more talked about than crystallized, and moving at considerable speed: elements of modern man connoting fragmenting certainties eroded at the base, the succor for which has been sought mainly in the vague horizons of the backward look. The workings of sex amidst those fluxions are certainlyone major element in the choppy sea of our minds, in which definable shapes seem to appear for the purpose of disappearing. To define them artistically would seem to demand extraordinary effort indeed, whether in traditional or experimental terms. He has not evolved the artistic form that will fully release and articulate his obviously complex awareness. (27) In what mode of writing or artistry can the complexity of modern consciousness be fully released? Kent may actually be referring to certainties of masculinity and the fluxions of love and lust between men and races. A definable shape of sexuality would require that David be less tormented in choosing a partner in Giovannis Room and the revolving

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20 partners in Country revolve less around the homosexual Eric. Even if he is suggesting that Baldwin create a new form of writing that would better suit these fluxions (and I do not believe he is), this assertion betrays his desire for a more definitive (read: categorical) and easily recognizable sexuality. When the late 1960s ushered in a new era of rebellion, many began to reject Baldwins generation as too passive, and some considered their objectives dangerous to African American culture(s). Eventually the Black Power Movement and its Afrocentric counterpart, The Black Arts Movement, became the prevalent rhetoric and aesthetic. The tide began to sway away from the integrationist approach. This new generation represented a blackness that was as separatist and menacing as Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam. Molefi Kete Asante explains it this way: Despite its successes, the age of [Martin Luther] King was an age of contradictions within the African American community. He saw himself standing between the apathetic and the nationalist. This was his principal contradiction. It became impossible for him to stand between the population and [sic]unless he stood for someone else (13, original italics). To the nationalist, integration was a euphemism for absorption, and as such, not an answer to Americas racial issues. For this generation Baldwins essays were representative of the waning old school rhetoric. If Baldwin had once served as a shadow delegate for black America in the congress of culture, his term had expired (Gates 11). Eldridge Cleavers Notes on a Native Son is the most notorious attack from the nationalist camp. His reflections model the way Baldwin was at first revered and then rejected by the newer wave in the struggle. More importantly, the rejection is based on a

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21 race-specific rubric that is inextricable from its desire to quell homoerotic representations. At first he lusted for anything that Baldwin had written. It would have been a gas for me to sit on a pillow beneath the womb of Baldwins typewriter and catch each newborn page as it entered this world of oursHe placed so much of my own experience, which I thought I had understood, into new perspectiveGradually, however, I began to feel uncomfortable about something in [him]. Then I read Another Country, and I knew why my love for Baldwins vision had become ambivalent. (66) According to this essay, Country was so unsettling for Cleaver that he felt compelled to reevaluate all of Baldwins work from this new, uncomfortable space. A rereading of Nobody Knows My Name cannot help but convince the most avid of Baldwins admirers of the hatred for blacks permeating his writings (67). Even though his argument for Baldwins apparent self-loathing is fraught with Cleavers own sexual anxieties, we can still manage to locate Cleavers three main attacks on Baldwins cultural authority. He first castigates Baldwin for his bourgeois values, which positions him as one whose success has come by way of separating himself from his African past: In this land of dichotomies and disunited opposites, those truly concerned with the resurrection of black Americans have had eternally to deal with black intellectuals who have become their own opposites, taking on all of the behavior patterns of their enemy, vices and virtues, in an effort to aspire to alien standards in all respects. [T]he intellectual sycophant does not pretend to be other than he actually is, but hates what he is and seeks to redefine himself in the image of his white idols. He becomes a white man in a black body. A self-willed, automated slave, he becomes the white mans most valuable tool in oppressing other blacks. (70) Alien standards may refer to the literary traditions by which Baldwin has been most influenced: European and Anglo-American. Baldwin rejects the protest novel (most clearly in his essays Everybodys Protest Novel and Many Thousands Gone) and often referred to Henry James as the master craftsman. He also credits Dostoyevsky and Dickens with shaping his ideas about character development (Standley and Pratt 246). An

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22 Afrocentric paradigm, as propagated by Cleaver, requires that one consider African-ness as the center of your consciousness, so to aspire to a European model is to become ones own opposite. Secondly, Cleaver interrogates Baldwins ability to realistically represent black culture vis--vis his narrative choices. He points out a decisive quirk in Baldwins vision which compelled Baldwin to slander Rufus Scott in Country (72). What is specifically at stake for Cleaver is black masculinity. Baldwin commits slander by miswriting or misrepresenting a black man as a pathetic wretch who indulged in the white mans pastime of committing suicide (73). Black masculinity is under siege in Baldwins hands according to this logic, maliciously cornered and pushed into an unnatural descent into complete hopelessness and bottomless despair. The crime perpetrated against Rufus was in portraying him as too afraid to live. Furthermore, when we study Cleavers choice of qualifiers we find his belief that Baldwins fictional black homosexuals create a cultural oxymoron, by which he necessarily negates any claim to an authentic black experience (Scott 13). Both Baldwin and his texts are bereft of black values. Rufus let a white bisexual fuck him in the ass, andtook a Southern Jezebel for his woman, all of which combine to create the epitome of a black eunuch who has completely submitted to the white man (73). Rufus is highly sexually active, so by eunuch Cleaver does not imply that Rufus member has been castrated but that he has relinquished his blackness (represented by domination) through desire for and sex with white bodies. This is a particularly curious assertion because in the novel, though the homosexual nature of Rufus relationship with Eric is obvious, there is no indication of the occurrence of the sexual act to which Cleaver

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23 alludes (Nelson 94). Cleaver assumes that Rufus plays a submissive role in sexual intercourse not only because it is homosexual intercourse but also because he can only imagine black and white interaction in hierarchical termswith whiteness always in control. His third argument is that Rufus cannot represent black men because his sexuality is nebulous. He has integrated sexually and emotionally with whiteness. It is a very similar argument to the preceding one, perhaps a subcomponent of it. According to the nationalist logic, racial integration cripples the black mans sense of self, which is why Baldwins quest for love between the races is representative of an identity crisis. Recalling Baldwins comments about the protest novel genre and Wrights Invisible Man in particular, Cleaver positions the writers and their main characters as binaries of blackness and masculinity. Notice his direct address to Baldwin: As Baldwin has said in Nobody Knows My Name, I think that I know something about the American masculinity which most men of my generation do not know because they have not been menaced by it in the way I have been. O.K., Sugar, isnt it true that Rufus Scott, the weak, craven-hearted ghostbears the same relation to Bigger Thomas the black rebel of the ghetto and a man, as you yourself bore to the fallen giant, Richard Wright, a rebel and a man? (72, emphasis mine) The dualism he establishes is in terms of style and message. Baldwins message is conveyed through conversations and interior monologues that articulate bitterness and offer love as a path to healing across the racial divide (reveals desire, weakness). Wrights novel portrays the dangerous effects of the divide. Bigger becomes a murderer as a result of his fear of the alien whiteness he encounters when he finds himself outside of the ghetto (displays strength). Baldwins version of masculinity diametrically opposes Wrights, not necessarily because it does not resist white supremacy, but because it, like the leaders of the nonviolent movement, spends time explaining the anger and bitterness

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24 to the white counterparts, which gives them a chance to redeem themselves. Cleaver further explicates. Rufus was a psychological freedom rider, turning the ultimate cheek while Bigger was a violent, though inept, rebellion against the stifling, murderous, totalitarian white world. There was no trace in [him] of a Martin Luther King-type self-effacing love for his oppressors (73). It is not enough to portray the pain and suffering that often becomes the violent rage of blackness. In this case Baldwin fails to adequately perform blackness because of his alliances with white culture in life and in his art. Book Reviews The first book review we will scrutinize comes from The Christian Science Monitor. The writer exhibits a traditionally southern attitude in that his idea of a useful black writer is one who makes his point without stirring up the good Negroes. What is the significance of this obscene and bitter book? Roderick Nordell asks his audience (11). One can imagine him waving the book in the air. In the first place it is written by a man whom many consider the most gifted American Negro Writer, honored by the National Conference of Christians and Jews and by Guggenheim, Ford and other foundations. A writer of such high visibility and acclaim alarms this critic with his sordid story of whites and Negroes, Bohemians, homosexuality and miscegenation (11). He explains that the attention paid to Baldwin represents an extreme mood of outrage against whatever demeans the black man in America. To the degree that this mood is growingand there are signs that it is, particularly among Negro intellectualsMr. Baldwins new novel becomes important as a harsh textbook to feelings seldom disclosedThe question is whether [he] is helping the situation or stirring it up (11). Nordell warns readers (after fanning their racist flames) that the decadence in Country seems psychologically plausible until Baldwin belabors it to a point of nausea and

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25 absurdity (11). As in the cases above, homophobia is rearing its thorny head here, and Nordell also makes clear that he longs for a particular version of black literature: And it makes [the reader] wish that Mr. Baldwin would turn his talent now to those healing gestures across the barriers of race that are surely, in all conscience, more frequent in actual life than the examples touchingly present in the brutal context of this book (11). Taking a similar approach, Robert Root cautions his presumably Christian audience that Baldwins new country is a wasteland and jungle that no God-fearing intellectual should appreciate. Take honor. Take loyalty. Take honesty and purity and diligence. Take love. Take all virtue and exclude it from the characters you create and write a novel about America, and you might have something like Another Country. Almost certainly you will have another country from that familiar to most readers of The Christian Century (1354). It must trouble these writers particularly that Baldwins impact will be felt far and wide because Root, too, makes a point of Baldwins repute as a leading Negro writer [who] has been backed by Guggenheim, Saxton and other literary grants (1354). 2 Root does take time to dissect the themes and style of the book before referring to the lack of proper Negro-ness he observes, although he does move quickly into that direction. No religion illumines the wasteland. The myth of the Negros religiosity is further undermined by this novel, for none of its characters has any faith (1354). As might be expected of a writer who is aware of his religious audience, Root demurs at the rampant sexuality but bristles particularly at the bisexual character at its center: Eric becomes normal long enough to commit adultery with the wife of a novelist friend and 2 I mention this only because the majority of the reviews gathered for this project simply launch into a discussion of the book without assuming that the audience needs to be reminded of the authors fame.

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26 then sandwiches Vivaldo in fleetingly before going back to his lover, the French boy Yves, whose arrival in New York comprises the limp denouement (1354). He finds value in the Negro view of Negro-white relations but seems most saddened that [i]f the book is mostly about Life and Sex, it is finally about Race. Here it is especially disappointing. The Negroes consciousness of their color poisons all attempts at communications and love. Racism emerges as brutally absurd, a force as irrational as the beating [in the novel] given a little boy by Negro boys who had never before seen him. That Baldwin does not encompass the meaning of race-hate more effectively seems an artistic failure. (1355) Why would he find the racial component of the story especially disappointing? Is it an artistic standard to which he would hold any writer? This case may not be as unambiguous as the others but it is safe to conclude that Root looks to the black artist to convey the complexities of racial prejudice better than any another categorized creative thinker. As stated earlier, Baldwin was a transatlantic celebrity. He, like many of his American contemporaries, moved to Paris in self-exile the 1940s. Rosa Bobias The Critical Reception of James Baldwin in France 3 allows us to compare the European reaction with those of the American detractors. She reports that Baldwins public participation in the black struggle and his book-length essays The Fire Next Time and Nobody Knows My Name aroused French critics because his writing became more militant and angrier (read: blacker). [T]he perception of the contrast in tone from the novel to essay forms the focal point of criticism of many French critics throughout the sixties and seventies. This tone, closer to what had been [Richard] Wrights, caused for the first time the French critic to identify Baldwin as a Black writer (26). 3 Although there is no reason to doubt the integrity of these interpretations, the majority (95% according to Bobia) of the full versions of the French documents quoted in Bobias text are inaccessible in the U.S. so the translations examined here cannot be independently verified.

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27 Interestingly, Bobia discovered that while it was usual for Black Francophone writers and critics to respond differently than their white counterparts to African-American literature, not one article on Baldwin by a black person could be traced before the 1960s. She suggests that his work could not capture their attention until he began to meet their standards. [T]he disparity still existed between the Black and white critics because the Black Francophone critics demanded more emphasis on the socio-political concerns (23). When they did begin to respond, she reports, his work was met with mixed reviews. Because this project concerns itself with those writers who ultimately rejected the novel, we will not discuss their more positive commentary. Lucien Guissard postulates that it was not Country, but the radical language of the essays and the international media blitz that garnered Baldwin attention outside of literary circles. What we can establish, is that Truman Capote, Carson McCullers, Jerome David Salinger, William Stryon, John Updike, have an intellectual and limited public in the United States and in France. Moreover, the Black writer James Baldwin, whose essayshave caused a stir on both sides of the ocean, owes his notoriety to the anti-racist struggle. One ignores that certain of his novels could have been written by a white author. (26 emphasis mine) Guissard establishes for us that Mountain and Giovannis Room were considered regular American (or unblack?) novels and that the early essays were testimonials to the black experience. So when Country was translated into French (published as Un autre pays in 1963) critics there also allowed their notions of what should concern the black writer to determine the direction of their reviews. It seems that on both continents Black Literature is anticipated to only reflect Black Themes. Many would simply frame the work in African-American cultural motifs. Bobia points out that for some writers, African American music continued to be a reference

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28 point in their discussion of Baldwins work (39). Music enthusiast Alain Panel, for example, insists that in Country, Baldwin mobilized all the modern and eternal themes in the name of a liberty, which the bluesmen of Louisiana sought. The very essence of the novel is a sort of gigantic development of a jazz theme (38). Michel Gresset imbues Rufus with the immemorial tone of the lamentations of the singers of the blues (39) while Matthieu Galet emphasizes Negro spirituals but finally dismisses the novel as laborious and predictable (40). Apparently, unlike the shock value it held in the United States, interracial and homosexual conjugations were so commonplace as to become banal for some of the French audience. One has the slight impression of following an algebra solfeggio lesson, Galet laments, A black man and a white woman; a white woman and white man; a Black woman and a white man; a Black man and a Black woman, etc. (40). Other critics who found similarities to the novels written by black citizens of France and of the former French colonies express their impatience with the diasporic disposition: Two kinds of novels [that] repeatedly rehash the same thing irritate the reader. The Algerian with his diplomas who wants to get establish[ed] in France but does not go through with it, and the Black man from the United States with the same diplomas, who wants to get established in the white world and renounces. We have read and reread this story ad nauseum; we know the lively and the monotonous moments, the interludes, the steamy chapter, the epilogue. The setting variesthese four hundred pages are only a new plea for integration. (Bobia 40) As in America, some critics decided that the stylistic differences in Baldwins fiction and nonfiction could be explained in racial terms. According to Bobia, Pierre Dommergues is one who dismiss[es] the novel and dispense[s] with a full review(39). He minces no words in his essentialist views:

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29 While Baldwins essays reveal the racial preoccupations of the author, in the novels, there is a disengagement of these passions. The style of the novels is pale, like the novel itself is colorless. The contradiction with Baldwin is that he writes white novels (by their style, and subject) while the essays are Black [] profoundly committed and written in a flamboyant language. (39) Baldwins subjects in his novels, depending on which scholar you ask, are racial healing, self love, finding ones own truth about the intersections of love, race and sexuality, and mans (not to be confused with mankinds) search for the self. In his own words, his particular aim in writing Country was to show how a difference in skin color between two lovers could corrupt everything, even the most sincere and intimate feelings (Arts 4). Dommergues does not believe these are the passions of black people and his idea of black style can be likened to a verbal zoot suit. In a similar vein (though not in complete agreement), Auguste Viatte is troubled by the foul language and sexual transgression littered throughout Country. It is not that the novel is white, but that the black style is taken to an uncomfortable extreme. Even in a situation without any relationship with the Black question, he carps, the morbid scenes [and] the obscenities are in abundance (41). Viatte and Dommergues fall into that great majority for whom the sphere of blackness is imagined as a space of natural flagrancy and obscenity. Bobia illuminates that Baldwins linguistic impropriety would seem to be admissible only if used when writing of racial issues (41) and it is clear that the standards changeeven for the black writeroutside of that space. The notable difference from the American detractors is that neither masculinity nor sexuality becomes a major concern in the French context. Homophobia does not overwhelmingly thwart the attempt to analyze, essentialized notions of race do. This is evidenced in the fact that they mostly disagree on whether Baldwin meets their standards for African-American literature.

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30 Conclusion When studied under a microscope, Baldwins so-called era of decline can be better described as the era of critical deviation that Emmanuel Nelson suggests it was. Nelsons article highlights how critics who recoiled from the homosexuality in the novel could not limit their condemnation to the narrative. They would begin by making critical observations about the writing style and thematic content, but would digress into tirades against the integrity of a queer protagonist or the usefulness of rage. My project further reveals that in these discussions about Another Country, prevailing constructs of masculinity, sexuality and race were always subtly or overtly in playnot just homophobia. This knowledge creates an interstice in which we can reassess their judgments about Baldwins artistry and perhaps mitigate the impact their words have had on later scholars. Ultimately, no matter where a critic stood on the issue of black authenticity, whether blackness was believed compliant or aggressive, Baldwins performance of it in his life and his lifes work often inspired anxiety. No matter how thickly cemented the borders of prescribed masculinity were, Baldwin continually slipped through the cracks and challenged the reader to take up his consciousness and follow him. He continues to challenges us to reconsider what we think we know about people and ourselves. Although negative reviews may have crippled his relationship to mainstream audiences, Baldwin made it clear that he expected nothing less than a raucous reception to his writing. He realized that the work of consciousness-raising is inherently antagonizing for the intended audience. Baldwin put it this way: [A]ll societies have battled with that incorrigible disturber of the peacethe artist. [He] is distinguished from all other responsible actors in societythe politicians, legislators, educators, and scientistsby the fact that he is his own test

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31 tube, his own laboratory, working according to very rigorous rules, however unstated these may be, and cannot allow any consideration to supersede his responsibility to reveal all that he can possibly discover concerning the mystery of the human being. The artist cannot and must not take anything for granted but must drive to the heart of every answer and expose the question the answer hides. (Price of the Ticket 316) It is in the spirit of Baldwinian discovery and exposition that we continue our drive toward the question of James Baldwins legacy.

PAGE 36

WORKS CITED Asante, Molefi Kete. Afrocentricity. Trenton: Africa World Press, Inc., 1988. Baldwin, James. Another Country. New York: Random House Publishing, 1960. Baldwin, James. The Price of the Ticket. New York: St. Martins Press, 1985. Bobia, Rosa. The Critical Reception of James Baldwin in France. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 1997. Bone, Robert A. James Baldwin. The Negro Novel in America, rev. ed. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965. Rpt. in Kinnamon 28-51. Booth, Wayne. The Rhetoric of Fiction, 2nd ed. Chicago: The U of Chicago P., 1983. Campbell, James. Talking at the Gates: A Life of James Baldwin. New York: Penguin Books, 1991. Cleaver, Eldridge. Notes on a Native Son. Soul On Ice. New York: Dell Publishing Company, Inc., 1968. 97-111. Rpt. in Kinnamon 66-76. Dommergues, Pierre. Ecrivains americains daujourdhui. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1995. Qtd. in Bobia 39. Dyer, Richard. White. New York: Routledge, 1997. Eckman, Fern Marja. The Furious Passage of James Baldwin. New York: M. Evans & Company, Inc., 1966. Faulkner, William. The Sound and the Fury. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1994, 1929. A Norton Critical Edition, 2 nd Ed. Galet, Matthieu. Une sorte de gene. Arts 13 (19 January 1965): 5. Qtd in Bobia 40. Gates, Henry Louis Jr. Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Man. New York: Random House, 1997. Gresset, Michel. Nouvel observateur (31 December 1964): 13. Qtd in Bobia 39. Guissard, Lucien. Aux U.S.A. une nouvelle generation decrivains. La Croix (4 December 1964): 5. Qtd. in Bobia 26. 32

PAGE 37

33 Hicks, Granville. Outcasts in a Caldron of Hate. Saturday Review 45 (1962): 21. Rpt. in Standley and Burt 149-152. James Baldwin en France, la couleur ne colle pas a ma peau. Arts 30 (September 6-October 1964): 4. Qtd in Bobia 39. Kent, George E. Baldwin and the Problem of Being. CLA Journal 7.3 (1964): 202-14. Rpt. in Kinnamon 16-27. Kinnamon, Keneth, ed. James Baldwin: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1974. Nelson, Emmanuel. Critical Deviance: Homophobia and the Reception of James Baldwins Fiction. Journal of American Culture 14.3 (1991): 91-96. Nordell, Roderick. Old and New Novels on Racial Themes. Christian Science Monitor (19 July 1962): 11. ODaniel, Therman B., ed. James Baldwin: A Critical Evaluation. Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1977. Penel, Alain. Une saison en literature. La Tribune de Geneve (11 December 1964):13. Qtd. in Bobia 38. Races: FreedomNow. Time 81 (May 17, 1963): 23-27. Review of Another Country by James Baldwin. Libre Belgique (27 N ovember 1964): 7. Root, Robert. Its a Wasteland (Review of Another Country by James Baldwin). Christian Century 79.45 (7 November 1962): 1354-55. Scott, Lynn Orilla. James Baldwins Later Fiction: Witness to the Journey. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2002. Standley, Fred L., and Nancy V. Burt, Eds. Critical Essays on James Baldwin. Boston: G.K. Hall and Company, 1988. Standley, Fred L., and Louis H. Pratt, Eds. Conversations with James Baldwin. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1989. Sylvander, Carolyn Wedin. James Baldwin. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Company, 1980. Viatt, Auguste. Livres et lectures (September 1965): 9. Watkins, Mel, James Baldwin Writing and Talking. New York Times Book Review 23 (September 1979): 3.

PAGE 38

34 Weatherby, W.J. James Baldwin Artist on Fire. New York: Dell Publishing, 1989.

PAGE 39

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Marlon Moore obtained her Bachelor of Arts in English from The University of North Florida in 2001. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in African American Literature at the University of Florida. 35


Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0008862/00001

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Title: "A Torrent of rhetoric" : constructs of blackness and masculinity in critical responses to James Baldwin's 'Another Country'
Physical Description: Mixed Material
Language: English
Creator: Moore, Marlon Rachquel ( Dissertant )
Beebe, Roger ( Thesis advisor )
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2004
Copyright Date: 2004

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: English thesis, M.A
Dissertations, Academic -- UF -- English
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )

Notes

Abstract: Since his death in 1987, scholars have endeavored to revive interest in James Baldwin's contributions to American literature and cultural theory with an additional attempt to redress the damage done to his literary reputation in the 1960s. This thesis contributes to that enterprise by reexamining the most notorious anti-Baldwin essays of that period and some lesser-known book reviews (American and French) of his great modernist novel 'Another Country' narrowly focusing on what is often referred to as Baldwin's era of decline. It explores social constructions of blackness and black writer as they reveal themselves in these texts. While acknowledging the homophobic anxiety that has already been exposed in other research, this report traces the racial ideologies embedded in the language of each writer and exposes the relationship of racial essentialism to the decline in Baldwin's critical reception in America and France.
Subject: another, Baldwin, country, James
General Note: Title from title page of source document.
General Note: Document formatted into pages; contains 39 pages.
General Note: Includes vita.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 2004.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
General Note: Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.

Record Information

Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: aleph - 003165729
System ID: UFE0008862:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0008862/00001

Material Information

Title: "A Torrent of rhetoric" : constructs of blackness and masculinity in critical responses to James Baldwin's 'Another Country'
Physical Description: Mixed Material
Language: English
Creator: Moore, Marlon Rachquel ( Dissertant )
Beebe, Roger ( Thesis advisor )
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2004
Copyright Date: 2004

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: English thesis, M.A
Dissertations, Academic -- UF -- English
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )

Notes

Abstract: Since his death in 1987, scholars have endeavored to revive interest in James Baldwin's contributions to American literature and cultural theory with an additional attempt to redress the damage done to his literary reputation in the 1960s. This thesis contributes to that enterprise by reexamining the most notorious anti-Baldwin essays of that period and some lesser-known book reviews (American and French) of his great modernist novel 'Another Country' narrowly focusing on what is often referred to as Baldwin's era of decline. It explores social constructions of blackness and black writer as they reveal themselves in these texts. While acknowledging the homophobic anxiety that has already been exposed in other research, this report traces the racial ideologies embedded in the language of each writer and exposes the relationship of racial essentialism to the decline in Baldwin's critical reception in America and France.
Subject: another, Baldwin, country, James
General Note: Title from title page of source document.
General Note: Document formatted into pages; contains 39 pages.
General Note: Includes vita.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 2004.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
General Note: Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.

Record Information

Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: aleph - 003165729
System ID: UFE0008862:00001


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"A TORRENT OF RHETORIC": CONSTRUCTS OF BLACKNESS AND
MASCULINITY IN CRITICAL RESPONSES
TO JAMES BALDWIN'S ANOTHER COUNTRY















By

MARLON RACHQUEL MOORE


A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF ARTS

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


2004

































This document is dedicated to my mother, Quintine Harrison Moore.

















TABLE OF CONTENTS

page

ABSTRACT ................................ iv

INTRODUCTION .......................................................... ...............1

METHODOLOGY ...................................... ....... ...............

ARGUMENT .................. ................................................ .4

Baldwin's Fame.................... ........................... .........8
C..tical Responses ......................................................... ........ .... ...............1
Essays ......................................................... ............. ...............11
B ook R review s ............... .................................................................. ................ 24
Conclusion......................................................... .........................30

W ORKS CITED ....................................... ... .... .........32

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .................................................. ............... 35


.............. ........32

B IO G R A PH IC A L SK E T C H ...................................................................... ..................35















Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts

"A TORRENT OF RHETORIC": CONSTRUCTS OF BLACKNESS AND
MASCULINITY IN CRITICAL RESPONSES TO
JAMES BALDWIN'S ANOTHER COUNTRY

By

Marlon Rachquel Moore

December 2004

Chair: Roger Beebe
Major Department: English

Since his death in 1987, scholars have endeavored to revive interest in James

Baldwin's contributions to American literature and cultural theory with an additional

attempt to redress the damage done to his literary reputation in the 1960s.

This thesis contributes to that enterprise by reexamining the most notorious anti-

Baldwin essays of that period and some lesser-known book reviews (American and

French) of his great modernist novel Another Country-narrowly focusing on what is

often referred to as Baldwin's "era of decline." It explores social constructions of

'blackness' and 'black writer' as they reveal themselves in these texts. While

acknowledging the homophobic anxiety that has already been exposed in other research,

this report traces the racial ideologies embedded in the language of each writer and

exposes the relationship of racial essentialism to the decline in Baldwin's critical

reception in America and France.
















INTRODUCTION

In the 1960s at the height of his renown, James Baldwin had two controversial and

best-selling works on the market, published within months of each other. One was his

third novel and the other a pair of essays bound and sold as a book. The essays were

highly acclaimed and honored by numerous social and literary awards. The novel was

under fire in parts of America for its debauchery. Critics treated these texts, written by

the same hand, both on the topic of racial conflict, as if the levels of talent shown in each

were separated by several degrees. Years later, when asked to reflect upon this time in his

life, Baldwin said, "the reception of [the novel] was a scandal. I was bewildered... It was

banned in all kinds of weird places [and] taken out of the bookshelves... Lord, I would

not like to go through that again" (Standley and Pratt 206). 'That' was a damaging blow

to his fiction career. Much of his work has been canonized in academia, but once his ride

was over he would never be celebrated or defamed by mainstream America to that extent

again. Subsequently, even though he was prolific in multiple genres throughout most of

his lifetime, little attention has been paid to the novels published after the 'scandal' of

Another Country.

Since his death in 1987, scholars have endeavored to revive interest in Baldwin's

contributions to American literature and theory with an additional effort to redress the

damage done to his literary reputation in the 1960s. This research contributes to that

enterprise by reexamining the most notorious anti-Baldwin essays and some of the lesser-

known book reviews (American and French) from what is known as Baldwin's "era of






2


decline." While acknowledging the homophobic anxiety that has already been exposed in

other research, this report identifies the buried racial essentialism that is the overarching

theme which compounds the negative responses to Another Country. My ultimate quest

in this project is to scrutinize the commotion around the novel that led to its eventual

mainstream dismissal. This period is often referred to but not thoroughly explained by

Baldwin scholars.















METHODOLOGY

This project interrogates the partially ignored racial ideologies that emerge in many

of the negative critical reviews in the 1960s and 70s. This particular era is significant

because, on one hand it represents the crest of the non-violent civil rights struggle and the

burgeoning of the Black Power era; and on the other hand because 1962-65 is generally

accepted as the end of the love affair liberal Americans were having with Baldwin's

work. Because this is an assessment of damaging responses, the positive or neutral critics

are unexamined here.

The sources compiled here reflect both ends of the publishing spectrum, from the

most anthologized essays to some of the more obscure book reviews. It includes articles

from Time Magazine and reviews available only in Europe. Although each critique

weighs differently in its ability to impact the masses, they are each an important

contribution to the political atmosphere we are trying to recapture.

Furthermore, I recognize the complications imposed by postmodernist

interrogations of the terms "Negro," "Black" and "African-American" to describe the

descendants of imported Africans in America, but within the context of this report-for

the purpose of simplification-these terms are used interchangeably. Similarly, "queer"

and "homosexual" are both used herein to describe same-sex romantic love, sexual

intercourse and any related tendencies.















ARGUMENT

In the history of mi einieli-century American letters it would be hard to find another
figure more simultaneously praised and damned, often by the same critic in the
same essay, than James Baldwin. Lynn Orilla Scott, Witness to the Journey

In May 1963, James Baldwin graced the cover of Time magazine under a banner

which reads "Birmingham and Beyond: The Negro's Push For Equality." By placing him

on the cover Time conveys that he is an important person, one who should be recognized

and heeded. However by the time the article reaches its conclusion we find that

Baldwin's implied authority has seeped out of the story.

While the article ostensibly chronicles the progress and impediments of the Civil

Rights Movement, it also serves to critique the tactics of certain prominent figures. The

first half focuses on the riots in Birmingham, Alabama earlier that month: water hoses,

boycotts, 'bombingham,' sit-ins, and paddy wagons. Public Safety Commissioner 'Bull'

Connor was villianized to some extent for his abuse of authority and the local press was

chided for burying the story. We are told that Martin Luther King, Jr. (described as "the

Negroes' spiritual but sometimes inept leader" (23)), along with attorneys, met with local

businessmen to negotiate, among other things, the desegregation of store facilities and the

initiation of full occupational inclusion for people of color. "Yet at the same time" the

writer tells us, "Negro Leader King could be criticized for using children as shock troops

and for inciting the protests even as a new, relatively moderate city administration was

about to take over Birmingham" (25). Next, the "chain reaction" to King's hasty

campaign is mapped:









New lunch-counter sit-ins started in Atlanta, Nashville, and Raleigh. The NAACP
called for peaceful sympathy demonstrations in 100 cities. Jackie Robinson... said
he would go to Birmingham to join the Negro Protest. So did Floyd Patterson.
Communism was having a field day. ...Perhaps most baleful of all, the Black
Muslim movement within the U.S. Negro community took full recruiting
advantage... (25)

That last sentence transitions the focus toward another gathering storm of Negroes-the

separatists brewing in the North. "Now Malcolm X, top Eastern torchbearer of the

militant movement, could only sneer at Martin Luther King's gospel of nonviolence" (25,

emphasis added). The reader is then assured that black nationalists and the likes of Bull

Connor do not represent the majority of either race. "There are many other positions, and

there is a long gaping valley of confusion and diffusion. It is a great, uncharted space

where leaders follow and followers lead, for there is no certainty of plan or purpose there.

[But there is hope!] Negro author James Baldwin has illuminated this grey gulf with bolts

of intellectual lightning" (25). The writer spends several pages elucidating Baldwin's

philosophies through extensive quotes from The Fire Next Time.

Leading up to this part of the article the writer has compared/contrasted the racial

ideologies and tactics of differing leaders: King fights for inclusion and fairness through

civil disobedience and economic disruption; Malcolm X advocates a fully exclusive

Black State through inverted supremacist oratory. But when we get to the discussion of

James Baldwin, there is a slight change in the writer's rhetorical direction. Readers are

assured that although he may be as visible as the other spokesmen, Baldwin "is not, by

any stretch of the imagination, a Negro leader. He tries no civil rights cases in the courts,

preaches from no pulpit, devises no stratagems for sit-ins, Freedom Riders or street

marchers" (26).









Upon further reading, we can infer that it is not Baldwin's lack of leadership ability

that is considered dubious, but his (lack of perceived) masculinity. King and Malcolm's

physiques were not even mentioned, yet Baldwin's appearance and mannerisms are

described at length. Presented as "a nervous, slight, almost fragile figure" (26) we might

say that he is situated as the un-King. Baldwin has renounced his Pentecostal religion

while King is a married Baptist minister and father, whose persona is, paradoxically,

chastely virile. According to Time, Baldwin is full of vices. Notice the discursive linking

(and the coupling of objectivity with the subjective) the writer makes of Baldwin's

mannerisms to his ability to reach people: "He is effeminate in manner, drinks

considerably, smokes cigarettes in chains, and he often loses his audience with overblown

arguments" (26, emphasis added).

Nevertheless, the writer offers Baldwin's social critique as a form of

enlightenment, a flashing bolt of clarity. Clearly, Time believes readers shouldfollow

Baldwin's thoughts or otherwise immerse themselves in his insights so that they, too, can

find their way safely across the 'grey gulf.' Yet the reader might leave this article

wondering what Baldwin's role is, since his guidance is considered tenuous. This type of

ambivalent discourse typifies the reception of Baldwin in the 1960s, especially in the

immediate aftermath (but surely extends beyond) of the publication of his third novel

Another Country. Often his perceived queerness led to a contaminated view of his

abilities.

Fast forward to the present. In a burgeoning revival of academic interest in

Baldwin's contributions, scholars have begun to revisit this text. Many decry the

homophobia emanating from the negative reviews of Another Country as the leading









culprit in the denunciation the book received.1 So says Lynn Orilla Scott: "it remains very

difficult to sort out aesthetic judgments from political [ones] when discussing Baldwin's

reception because they are so deeply interconnected" (10). It is my observation that,

while homophobia absolutely serves as impetus in the discursive lynching of Baldwin as

novelist (barring Evidence of Things Not Seen his essays are unfalteringly praised),

scholars have failed to recognize that the noose is tied with a double-knot. Just as the

writer in Time reveals his ideas of what constitutes a Negro Leader by his dismissal of

Baldwin's effeminate body as leadership material, many critics of Another Country

expose a weakness in their critical ideology: underlying essentialist notions of what

constitutes a Negro and/or Negro Writer often inhibits their critical judgment.

On the surface this concept may not convey its complexity or distinction from what

scholars have already acknowledged to some extent. For example in her chapter

"Baldwin's Reception and the Challenge of His Legacy," Scott recognizes that Baldwin

spent time on two crosses: "around the same time [he] was being condemned by white

liberals for his black militancy, he was being condemned by black militants for his

homosexuality" (12). However, deeper digging reveals that it was never so simply black

and white. Whether the reader identified as a black or white, left or right wing, militant or

conservative, Baldwin's authorial identity was constantly being defined in relation to the

critics' preconceived notions of race. What I wish to demonstrate here is that entwined

with an overt aversion to homosexuality was the (sometimes) subtle objection to

Baldwin's performance of blackness in art.



1 The most recent roundup of homophobic reviews can be found in "Critical Deviance: Homophobia and
the Reception of James Baldwin's Fiction" by Emmanuel Nelson. Journal ofAmerican Culture 14, no. 3
(1991): 91-96.









Baldwin's Fame

Though Baldwin may have been obscure outside of literary circles before 1963, he

was far from a struggling artist when the Time article was written. His 1949 essay

"Everybody's Protest Novel" is widely notorious for the "art vs. protest" debate it

motivated among literati. Also, using his Christian fundamentalist family culture as the

portal into his narrative space, he emerged as a novelist in 1952 with Go Tell It on the

Mountain. In highly reductive terms, Mountain is a bildungsroman in which a young

black boy struggles with his domineering minister father, and his father's obvious

preference for the older son. The protagonist also guiltily recognizes his homosexual

attraction to another young boy who is also the beloved golden boy of the father's church.

Critics generally ignored the subtext and hailed it as a masterpiece of modernist form and

style.

His second novel, Giovanni's Room (1956), was sensationalized for its homosexual

drama, which critiques and deconstructs American myths of masculinity (and femininity

to some extent). This novel stands out as Baldwin's overt attempt to write himself out of

the box designated for Negro writers. There are no black characters and the story is set in

Paris. David, the central character, is an American who visits Paris to 'find himself.' His

fiance Hella travels to Spain to do the same. While apart from his girlfriend, David

begins a love affair with the handsome bartender Giovanni. When forced to make a

choice David leaves Giovanni, but in his mourning for Giovanni he eventually loses

Hella as well. It was a best seller.

Another Country was also a favorite among the populace. Commonly described as

Baldwin's "most ambitious novel," it is a bit more complicated tale of love and passion.

Set in New York City, the characters and their relationships are representative of black









and white; male and female; married and unmarried; homosexual, bisexual, and

heterosexual. First there is Rufus, a jazz drummer from Harlem who has become jaded

and callous from his experiences with racist society. He is friends with Vivaldo, an

Italian-American Brooklynite and struggling writer who spends much time in Harlem's

jazz scene; Cass and Richard Silenski: she is a WASP and he an English teacher and

novelist; and Eric, an actor from Alabama who has made his home and career in Paris

and who is in a relationship with a young French boy, Yves. He is also Rufus' ex-lover.

During his heyday in hip circles Rufus meets and moves in with Leona a southern white

girl. His disenchantment with his world makes him highly destructive to Leona and

ultimately to himself. The emotional and physical beatings he inflicts on her lead to her

institutionalization. His shame and internal torment send him into hiding from his old

crowd. He wanders the streets of the city dirty and hungry, selling his body to white men

in exchange for food. Eventually he jumps to his death from the George Washington

Bridge, as did Baldwin's childhood friend on whom Rufus is based. It is around Rufus'

death that the others come together and their journey into love and self-reflection begins.

When it was published in June 1962 it flew from the shelves.

On the heels of this success came the November 1962, "Letter From a Region in

My Mind" in The New Yorker, which catapulted him into celebrity among the highbrow

liberals. "For this fusion of autobiography, American history and global politics into a

document as personal as the blood coursing through his veins, Baldwin received $6500-

and a reputation as the most valuable literary property in the country. Almost overnight,

with the New Yorker 's prestige undoubtedly furnishing some of the booster power, the









piece rocketed into prominence; it was required reading among in-groups, and its

author's name became a national byword" (Eckman 169).

In January 1963, that essay was reprinted as "Down at the Cross" along with "My

Dungeon Shook: Letter to my Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of the

Emancipation." Together they were called The Fire Next Time and released into the

awaiting hands of those who did not subscribe to the New Yorker. It spent forty-one

weeks in the top five on the non-fiction bestseller lists and won the George Polk

Memorial Award for outstanding magazine reporting. One member of Dell Publishing

remembers, "whites loved to hear him blast whites" (Weatherby 236). And blast them he

did. The popular demand for his views on racism and integration led to a lecture/debate

circuit in the U.S. South and western states. In addition to lectures, he attended television

appearances, radio addresses and press interviews. All of these tours focused on the

struggle for civil rights by African Americans. Baldwin reasoned it" all happened

because I'm a writer, [but] not because people read that much. The country is going

through a crisis and I've been thrown up as this kind of public figure because I'm the top

'Negro writer' in the country-whatever that means...but I'm still trying to speak just for

me, not for twenty million people" (Standley and Burt 32).

Yet he was asked to represent the African-American perspective at every turn. In

1965, for example, he was invited to England to reach his broader audience. "Baldwin

and William F. Buckley, Jr., the witty articulate, conservative editor of the right-wing

National Review, confronted each other at Cambridge University before more than seven

hundred British students crowded into a high-ceilinged debating chamber, with five

hundred more in a bar, a library and other college rooms watching over closed-circuit









TV. Baldwin and Buckley, roughly the same age and from extremes of American society,

debated the notion, "The American Dream is at the Expense of the American Negro"

(Weatherby 311).

During his most famous and prosperous period he traipsed across the country and

overseas to propagate the need for America to own up to its crimes against its black

citizens. His name and face became almost as synonymous with the struggle for

liberation as King's. This would eventually change. Some writers have suggested that

Baldwin's refusal to closet his sexual orientation is the main reason he was not allowed to

speak on the famous March on Washington with the rest of King's inner circle.

Critical Responses

Whatever you describe to another person is also a revelation of who you are and
who you think you are. You cannot describe auylhiiig n iiltht betraying your point
of view, your aspirations, yourfears, your hopes. Everything. -James Baldwin

Essays

While Baldwin's fiction career was publicly eclipsed by his fame as an essayist and

spokesperson, academic types and literary critics were weighing in on Country. "Baldwin

has said directly enough that Negroes hate white people," notes Granville Hicks in one of

the first reviews, "[i]t is, however, one thing to say that hatred exists and another to make

it palpable, as he so magnificently does... "(Saturday Review). In phrases that were more

prophetic than he could have known, Hicks expresses how reactions to the themes of

interracial sex and homosexual love might distort some people's view of Baldwin's

artistic endeavor: "He is not only a powerful writer; he has become a skilled craftsman. I

hope that, in the controversy the book is bound to arouse, his great gifts as a novelist will

not be overlooked" (152). Of course "greatness" is in the eye of the beholder.










What we will find is that Baldwin's skills are often acclaimed in direct proportion

to how well he satisfies the critic's expectations. And since Baldwin is a black man who

is also homosexual, disapproval of his work is consistently related to notions of race and

masculinity. For example, Robert A. Bone exalts Go Tell It on the Mountain as

Baldwin's very best work and immediately shelves it next to other writers of color. "It

ranks with Jean Toomer's Cane, Richard Wright's Native Son, and Ralph Ellison's

Invisible Man as a major contribution to American fiction. One senses in [it] a

confidence, control, and mastery of style that he has not attained again in the novel form"

(31).

After a brief exposition of this great novel and (what he feels is) its not-so-great

successor, Giovanni's Room, he moves to the work of our focus, which he characterizes

as "a failure on the grand scale" (41). "The plot consists of little more than a series of

occasions of talk and fornication," Bone explains, "[and] since the latter is a limited

vehicle for the expression of complex ideas, talk takes over, and the novel drowns in a

torrent of rhetoric" (41). After offering a brilliant (and somewhat cynical) exposition of

the novel's philosophical underpinnings, he launches into this searing elitist attack:

What dramatic materials are employed to invest these themes with life? A
Greenwich Village setting and a hipster idiom ("Beer dad, then we'll split"). A
square thrown in for laughs. A good deal of boozing, and an occasional stick of tea.
Some male cheesecake ("He bent down to lift off the scarlet bikini"). Five orgasms
(two interracial and two homosexual) or approximately one per eighty pages...
Distracted by this nonsense, how can one attend to the serious business of the
novel? (42)

What immediately strikes us is his differentiation of normal orgasms from the 'other'

types he lists. By doing so, Mr. Bone raises an interesting question here. With all of this

preoccupation with the number/types of orgasms, how can he convey the seriousness of

the work? I submit that he cannot. Before we decide for sure we should observe that his










main objections so far are the bohemian culture around which the conceptual framework

is built and the unapologetic homosexuality. He explains that

For most readers...the difficulty will lie in accepting Eric as a touchstone of reality.
Let us consider the overall design. Rufus is portrayed as the victim of a white
society that cannot face unpleasant truths. The redemptive role is then assigned to
Eric. But few will concede a sense of reality at least in the sexual realm, to one who
regards heterosexual love as "a kind of superior calisthenics" (Country 336). To
most, homosexuality will seem rather an evasion than an affirmation of truth.
Ostensibly, the novel summons us to reality. Actually it substitutes for the illusions
of white supremacy those of homosexual love. (46)

It must be acknowledged that this critique reeks of heteronormativity, but furthermore it

may mislead the reader about the passage it quotes. In this particular episode, Eric is

explaining to Vivaldo the differences he experiences sexually with male and female

partners. His sexual activity is not limited to men, but his romantic love indeed is. The

reason sex with Cass is compared to calisthenics is because, Eric says, "It's a great

challenge, a great test, a great game. But I don't really feel that -terror-and that anguish

and that joy I've sometimes felt with-a few men. Not enough of myself is invested." So

he is not saying, as Bone accuses, that heterosexual love is inferior, but that for a gay

man, heterosexual sex leaves him wanting. He is trying to convey his sense of reality. For

Eric sex with a woman requires an increased focus on the physical because it lacks the

emotional connection, therefore perhaps making it a more rigorous performance.

Baldwin knew what Americans generally believed about same-sex relationships,

mainly that they were not relationships at all but a series of empty shameful trysts. He

replaces that perception with new conceptions of diverse masculine subjectivities. Every

novelist is, to some extent, a rhetorician who "finds some of the beliefs on which a full

appreciation of his work depends come ready-made, fully accepted by the postulated

reader as he comes to the book, and some must be implanted or reinforced" (Booth 177).










The beliefs Baldwin attempts to 'implant' pertain to the souls of men beyond the sexual

act. His work demonstrates his deep and profound understanding that heterosexual

activity is not necessarily symptomatic of a heterosexual identification. Eric is answering

questions that Baldwin anticipates from his readers and is speaking a version of truth that

many people had not heard at that time.

Nevertheless, the implausibility that a man can only fully commit to love with

another man is not a reason Bone gives for deeming this novel unsuccessful: "To

understand the failure of... Country we must trace the connection between his sexual

rebellion, his religious conceptions and his style,"(48). Here is where Bone's ideas about

masculinity reveal themselves and can be linked to his critical ideology of blackness. In

keeping with his reading of this as a 'negro novel,' he traces Baldwin's use of religious

imagery and jazz bar settings as representative of the "consecrated and profane" binaries

available "from the Negro world" (49). The heart of his critique lies in his description of

Baldwin's artistic performance in this novel as "deliberately shocking" ("blasphemous"

even) and therefore juvenile; and indicative of Baldwin's status as an oppressed minority.

Bone posits that Baldwin's language sometimes "hardens into Garveyism," which he

defines as "emotional and rhetorical excess, and often the extravagant fantasies, to which

an embattled minority may resort in promoting its own defense" (47).

As for what makes this rhetorical approach juvenile, we are, inevitably it seems,

looped back into a discussion about masculinity. According to Bone, Baldwin's treatment

of controversial themes exploits the fascination of the forbidden, like a cheap film

aimed at the teen-age trade. Indeed, if the style proclaims the man, we are cide'ilig n il/h an

adolescent: who else gets his kicks from the violation of taboo?" (50). Baldwin's art is









somehow reflective of his manhood. According to Bone these types of homosexual (and

cross-racial) indulgences commonly, but temporarily, distract the young man en route to

a well-adjusted sexuality. A mature masculinity necessitates that he recognize this

divergence as adolescent rebellion and that he re-direct his energy into women,

preferably those within his race.

In his final judgment, Bone finds no redeeming qualities in this narrative and he

suggests that Baldwin too needs rehabilitation. This portrayal of masculinity is

"symptomatic of a severe crisis in Baldwin 's life and art... [since] He has already

devoted two novels to his sexual rebellion... The future now depends on his ability to

transcend the emotional reflexes of his adolescence" (51). The attempt to create a new

vision of society is nothing less than Baldwin's failure to develop into full manhood-

emotionally and artistically.

Sometimes the evidence is not so obvious. In 1964 George E. Kent penned

"Baldwin and the Problem of Being," a thematic survey that draws from his essays and

fiction. It is a thoroughly researched article that investigates the underlying existentialist

philosophy in Baldwin's work. He too is very pleased with Baldwin's earlier works. He

expounds upon how Mountain "investigates, with warmth and perception, the Negro's

possibility of achieving identity through the discipline of Christianity," and he finds its

style "richly evocative...of Joyce and Faulkner, the rhythms of the old time Negro

sermon and the King James Bible (21).

But the joy ends there. In what has become a recurring melody in the majority of

the evaluations presented here, Kent sings the praises of Baldwin's debut novel, but is

disturbed by what he considers to be Baldwin's "preoccupation with sex and love as









instruments in the achievement of full being" (22) in Giovanni's Room and Country.

Lamenting that Mountain's successors fail to suspend his disbelief as a reader, he cloaks

his inability to identify with the characters in compelling arguments about the "staginess"

and "theatricality" of the text. The discussion of Country begins with a particularly

derogatory force. "To make it a serious novel of first rank," he declares, "would demand

severe cutting and some intensive re-writing" (25). As one writer put it, the same need for

editing is true for War andPeace, yet it is still considered serious literature.

First Kent requests flawless balance in character development. "One trouble with

the scheme" he contends, "is that so few characters exemplify the complexity contended

for them. Rufus, Ida, and Eric are the more adequately developed characters. The rest are

not projected far enough beyond the level of nice, erring people" (27). One can disagree

with this assessment but not truly disprove it, for it is simply a man's opinion. Plus it is

not the goal of this project to argue with the critics. However, Wayne C. Booth does warn

against making this demand of authors. "Even among characters of equal moral,

intellectual, or aesthetic worth, all authors inevitably take sides. ... But who cares? The

novelist who chooses to tell this story cannot at the same time tell that story. In centering

our interest, sympathy, or affection on one character, he inevitably excludes from our

interest, sympathy, or affection some other character. Art imitates life in this respect..."

(78,79).

Kent denies that the "unconventional" sex is an issue for him. Rather, the problem

is that "in neither of these novels does [Baldwin] seem to create fully his fictional worlds

and characters" (24). Furthermore "[they] do not root themselves deeply enough to

become momentous in fictional terms, nor do they stand i/!h intensity for elemental









forces that we are forced to consider an inescapable part of our lib'\" (26). In other

words, these emotions and these types of situations do not leap from the page far enough

(or at all) to represent universality for Kent. During his trek into their world he never

fully surrenders his imagination to the story. It seems then that successful realism

requires some familiarity and for Kent certain alien characters remain otherworldly-no

matter where you place them on the planet.

We draw this conclusion by scrutinizing his earlier statements. It is interesting that

Mountain, the story of a pubescent church boy in Harlem, is 'provocative' and

reminiscent of certain American iconography. Yet the emotions of love and fear that arise

in interracial romance and bisexuality cannot root themselves deeply enough to be

considered inescapable elements of every human. In actuality, Kent tells us that neither

novel can do so. He posits Mountain as a story of 'the Negro 's possibility' as opposed to

man's. This distinction is subtle but substantial. Richard Dyer reminds us that the

"assumption that white people are just people, which is not far off saying that whites are

people whereas other coulours [sic] are something else, is endemic to white culture (2).

Blacks and gays were still marginal characters in mainstream literature in this decade and

where they did appear (outside of 'black' texts), they usually did so as caricatures that

reinforced the myths of starkly religious darkies. The family in Mountain would not be

too far of a stretch for the imagination weaned on Faulkner's longsuffering, mournful,

black family in The Sound and the Fury: "These others were not Compsons. They were

black: they endured" (215). Put simply, the subjectivities in Giovanni's Room and

Country may not, for this writer, be allowed to root themselves deeply enough to become










three dimensional because they are racialized and bothered at the outset. The type of black

masculinity represented in Mountain is the most common and the most acceptable.

The second layer of his rejection can be peeled away from his commentary on

Baldwin's writing style. His choice of descriptive phrases suggests something much more

intriguing:

The section concerned with Rufus' death and the attendance of his funeral is
excessive reportorial detail, sometimes theatrical, sometimes written at the level of
the women 's magazine. And the social criticism is inert, for the most part, a part of
the chatty reflections of a particular character or long clinical discussions. (26,
emphasis mine)

The scene in question marks the beginning of white characters Vivaldo and Cass'

confrontation with the world they have been insulated against and the lies they have told

themselves about freedom and opportunity. In a taxicab ride, Vivaldo recounts his

adolescent sexual violence against black boys, boys he suspects may have grown up to

carry hate in their eyes because of people like him. Cass recognizes the ambivalent,

fearful face of a new bride as the same one she wore on her wedding day. The reader is

then pulled back from the microcosmic scene the cab represents and shown a panoramic

view of the Harlem streets. The narrator tells us

It was not hard to imagine that horse carriages had once paraded proudly up this
wide avenue and ladies and gentlemen, ribboned, beflowered, brocaded, plumed,
had stepped down from their carriages to enter these houses which time and folly
had so blasted and darkened... At one time people had cared about these houses-
that was the difference; they had been proud to walk on this avenue; it had once
been home, whereas now it was prison... Then they turned off the Avenue, west,
crawled up a long, gray street. They had to crawl, for the street was choked with
unhurrying people and children kept darting out from between the cars which were
parked, for the length of the street, on either side. There were people on the stoops,
people shouting out of windows, and young men peered indifferently into the slow-
moving cab, their faces set ironically and their eyes unreadable. (115)

The point of this scene is that Cass and Vivaldo are beginning to see for the first time.

Kent's opinion that this style of writing is excessive is a valid critique, yet it seems that









Baldwin's famously petite physique is being critiqued along with his work. Kent is

snubbing Baldwin's queer body as an acceptable male authority-because queerness is

perceived as ladylike. His ideas about Baldwin's effeminate persona spill over into his

views of the queer characters as only partially realized in the text. It explains his frame of

reference when he compares this passage to a women's magazine and describes the

dialogue as 'chatty.' In our phallic culture, anything associated with traditionally

feminine qualities is considered a negative trait in a man. This writer seems haunted by a

lingering vision of Baldwin's effete corpus and it with this anxiety that he describes the

writing as "theatrical." Overall, we gather that in Kent's critical ideology, black writers

and characters can only represent their race and men's writing style should not lower

itself to the wordiness of its feminine counterpart.

There is an additional piece of evidence that may help us to understand why in

Kent's summation these novels "reflect a hiatus in [Baldwin's] artistic development"

(26). Consider the summary of his essay, in which subtleties are embedded in ambiguous

poetics about modernity:

Baldwin... confronts the modern consciousness amidst fluxions more talked about
than crystallized, and moving at considerable speed: elements of modern man
connoting fragmenting certainties eroded at the base, the succor for which has been
sought mainly in the vague horizons of the backward look. The workings of sex
amidst those fluxions are certainly...one major element in the choppy sea of our
minds, in which definable shapes seem to appear for the purpose of disappearing.
To define them artistically would seem to demand extraordinary effort indeed,
whether in traditional or experimental terms. ...He has not evolved the artistic form
that will fully release and articulate his obviously complex awareness. (27)

In what mode of writing or artistry can the complexity of modern consciousness be fully

released? Kent may actually be referring to 'certainties' of masculinity and the fluxionss'

of love and lust between men and races. A 'definable shape' of sexuality would require

that David be less tormented in choosing a partner in Giovanni's Room and the revolving









partners in Country revolve less around the homosexual Eric. Even if he is suggesting

that Baldwin create a new form of writing that would better suit these fluxions (and I do

not believe he is), this assertion betrays his desire for a more definitive (read: categorical)

and easily recognizable sexuality.

When the late 1960s ushered in a new era of rebellion, many began to reject

Baldwin's generation as too passive, and some considered their objectives dangerous to

African American culturess. Eventually the Black Power Movement and its Afrocentric

counterpart, The Black Arts Movement, became the prevalent rhetoric and aesthetic. The

tide began to sway away from the integrationist approach. This new generation

represented a blackness that was as separatist and menacing as Malcolm X and the Nation

of Islam. Molefi Kete Asante explains it this way: "Despite its successes, the age of

[Martin Luther] King was an age of contradictions within the African American

community. He saw himself standing between the apathetic and the nationalist. This was

his principal contradiction. It became impossible for him to stand between the population

and [sic]...unless he stood for someone else" (13, original italics). To the nationalist,

integration was a euphemism for absorption, and as such, not an answer to America's

racial issues. For this generation Baldwin's essays were representative of the waning old

school rhetoric. "If Baldwin had once served as a shadow delegate for black America in

the congress of culture, his term had expired" (Gates 11).

Eldridge Cleaver's "Notes on a Native Son" is the most notorious attack from the

nationalist camp. His reflections model the way Baldwin was at first revered and then

rejected by the newer wave in the struggle. More importantly, the rejection is based on a










race-specific rubric that is inextricable from its desire to quell homoerotic

representations. At first he

lusted for anything that Baldwin had written. It would have been a gas for me to sit
on a pillow beneath the womb of Baldwin's typewriter and catch each newborn
page as it entered this world of ours...He placed so much of my own experience,
which I thought I had understood, into new perspective... Gradually, however, I
began to feel uncomfortable about something in [him]. Then I read Another
Country, and I knew why my love for Baldwin's vision had become ambivalent.
(66)

According to this essay, Country was so unsettling for Cleaver that he felt compelled to

reevaluate all of Baldwin's work from this new, 'uncomfortable' space. "A rereading of

Nobody Knows My Name cannot help but convince the most avid of Baldwin's admirers

of the hatred for blacks permeating his writings" (67). Even though his argument for

Baldwin's apparent self-loathing is fraught with Cleaver's own sexual anxieties, we can

still manage to locate Cleaver's three main attacks on Baldwin's cultural authority.

He first castigates Baldwin for his bourgeois values, which positions him as one

whose success has come by way of separating himself from his African past:

In this land of dichotomies and disunited opposites, those truly concerned with the
resurrection of black Americans have had eternally to deal with black intellectuals
who have become their own opposites, taking on all of the behavior patterns of
their enemy, vices and virtues, in an effort to aspire to alien standards in all
respects. ... [T]he intellectual sycophant does not pretend to be other than he
actually is, but hates what he is and seeks to redefine himself in the image of his
white idols. He becomes a white man in a black body. A self-willed, automated
slave, he becomes the white man's most valuable tool in oppressing other blacks.
(70)

'Alien standards' may refer to the literary traditions by which Baldwin has been most

influenced: European and Anglo-American. Baldwin rejects the protest novel (most

clearly in his essays "Everybody's Protest Novel and "Many Thousands Gone") and often

referred to Henry James as the master craftsman. He also credits Dostoyevsky and

Dickens with shaping his ideas about character development (Standley and Pratt 246). An










Afrocentric paradigm, as propagated by Cleaver, requires that one consider African-ness

as the center of your consciousness, so to aspire to a European model is to become one's

'own opposite.'

Secondly, Cleaver interrogates Baldwin's ability to realistically represent black

culture vis-a-vis his narrative choices. He points out "a decisive quirk in Baldwin's

vision... which compelled Baldwin to slander Rufus Scott in Country..." (72). What is

specifically at stake for Cleaver is black masculinity. Baldwin commits slander by

miswriting or misrepresenting a black man as "a pathetic wretch who indulged in the

white man pastimee of committing suicide" (73). Black masculinity is under siege in

Baldwin's hands according to this logic, maliciously cornered and pushed into an

unnatural descent into complete hopelessness and bottomless despair. The crime

perpetrated against Rufus was in portraying him as too afraid to live.

Furthermore, when we study Cleaver's choice of qualifiers we find his belief that

Baldwin's fictional black homosexuals create a cultural oxymoron, by which he

"necessarily negates any claim... to an authentic 'black' experience" (Scott 13). Both

Baldwin and his texts are bereft of black values. Rufus "let a white bisexual fuck him in

the ass, and...took a Southern Jezebel for his woman," all of which combine to create the

"epitome of a black eunuch who has completely submitted to the white man" (73). Rufus

is highly sexually active, so by 'eunuch' Cleaver does not imply that Rufus' member has

been castrated but that he has relinquished his blackness (represented by domination)

through desire for and sex with white bodies. This is "a particularly curious assertion

because in the novel, though the homosexual nature of Rufus' relationship with Eric is

obvious, there is no indication of the occurrence of the sexual act to which Cleaver










alludes" (Nelson 94). Cleaver assumes that Rufus plays a submissive role in sexual

intercourse not only because it is homosexual intercourse but also because he can only

imagine black and white interaction in hierarchical terms-with whiteness always in

control.

His third argument is that Rufus cannot represent black men because his sexuality

is nebulous. He has integrated sexually and emotionally with whiteness. It is a very

similar argument to the preceding one, perhaps a subcomponent of it. According to the

nationalist logic, racial integration cripples the black man's sense of self, which is why

Baldwin's quest for love between the races is representative of an identity crisis.

Recalling Baldwin's comments about the protest novel genre and Wright's Invisible Man

in particular, Cleaver positions the writers and their main characters as binaries of

blackness and masculinity. Notice his direct address to Baldwin:

As Baldwin has said in Nobody Knows My Name, "I think that I know something
about the American masculinity which most men of my generation do not know
because they have not been menaced by it in the way I have been." O.K., Sugar,
isn't it true that Rufus Scott, the weak, craven-hearted ghost...bears the same
relation to Bigger Thomas ...the black rebel of the ghetto and a man, as you
yourself bore to the fallen giant, Richard Wright, a rebel and a man?
(72, emphasis mine)

The dualism he establishes is in terms of style and message. Baldwin's message is

conveyed through conversations and interior monologues that articulate bitterness and

offer love as a path to healing across the racial divide (reveals desire, weakness).

Wright's novel portrays the dangerous effects of the divide. Bigger becomes a murderer

as a result of his fear of the alien whiteness he encounters when he finds himself outside

of the ghetto (displays strength). Baldwin's version of masculinity diametrically opposes

Wright's, not necessarily because it does not resist white supremacy, but because it, like

the leaders of the nonviolent movement, spends time explaining the anger and bitterness









to the white counterparts, which gives them a chance to redeem themselves. Cleaver

further explicates. "Rufus was a psychological freedom rider, turning the ultimate cheek"'

while Bigger was "a violent, though inept, rebellion against the stifling, murderous,

totalitarian white world. There was no trace in [him] of a Martin Luther King-type self-

effacing love for his oppressors" (73). It is not enough to portray the pain and suffering

that often becomes the violent rage of blackness. In this case Baldwin fails to adequately

perform blackness because of his alliances with white culture in life and in his art.

Book Reviews

The first book review we will scrutinize comes from The Christian Science

Monitor. The writer exhibits a traditionally southern attitude in that his idea of a useful

black writer is one who makes his point without "stirring up" the good Negroes. "What is

the significance of this obscene and bitter book...?" Roderick Nordell asks his audience

(11). One can imagine him waving the book in the air. "In the first place it is written by a

man whom many consider the most gifted American Negro Writer, honored by the

National Conference of Christians and Jews and by Guggenheim, Ford and other

foundations." A writer of such high visibility and acclaim alarms this critic with "his

sordid story of whites and Negroes, Bohemians, homosexuality and miscegenation" (11).

He explains that the attention paid to Baldwin "represents an extreme mood of outrage

against whatever demeans the black man in America. To the degree that this mood is

growing-and there are signs that it is, particularly among Negro intellectuals-Mr.

Baldwin's new novel becomes important as a harsh textbook to feelings seldom

disclosed... The question is whether [he] is helping the situation or stirring it up..." (11).

Nordell warns readers (after fanning their racist flames) that the decadence in Country

seems "psychologically plausible" until Baldwin belaborss it to a point of nausea and









absurdity" (11). As in the cases above, homophobia is rearing its thorny head here, and

Nordell also makes clear that he longs for a particular version of black literature: "And it

makes [the reader] wish that Mr. Baldwin would turn his talent now to those healing

gestures across the barriers of race that are surely, in all conscience, more frequent in

actual life than the examples touchingly present in the brutal context of this book" (11).

Taking a similar approach, Robert Root cautions his presumably Christian audience

that Baldwin's new country is a "wasteland" and "jungle" that no God-fearing intellectual

should appreciate. "Take honor. Take loyalty. Take honesty and purity and diligence.

Take love. Take all virtue and exclude it from the characters you create and write a novel

about America, and you might have something like Another Country. Almost certainly

you will have 'another country' from that familiar to most readers of The Christian

Century" (1354). It must trouble these writers particularly that Baldwin's impact will be

felt far and wide because Root, too, makes a point of Baldwin's "repute as a leading

Negro writer [who] has been backed by Guggenheim, Saxton and other literary grants"

(1354).2

Root does take time to dissect the themes and style of the book before referring to

the lack of proper Negro-ness he observes, although he does move quickly into that

direction. "No religion illumines the wasteland. The myth of the Negro's religiosity is

further undermined by this novel, for none of its characters has any faith..." (1354). As

might be expected of a writer who is aware of his religious audience, Root demurs at the

rampant sexuality but bristles particularly at the bisexual character at its center: "Eric

becomes 'normal' long enough to commit adultery with the wife of a novelist friend and

2 I mention this only because the majority of the reviews gathered for this project simply launch into a
discussion of the book without assuming that the audience needs to be reminded of the author's fame.









then sandwiches Vivaldo in fleetingly before going back to his lover, the French boy

Yves, whose arrival in New York comprises the limp denouement" (1354). He finds

value in the "Negro view of Negro-white relations" but seems most saddened that

[i]f the book is mostly about Life and Sex, it is finally about Race. Here it is
especially disappointing. The Negroes' consciousness of their color poisons all
attempts at communications and love. Racism emerges as brutally absurd, a force
as irrational as the beating [in the novel] given a little boy by Negro boys who had
never before seen him. That Baldwin does not encompass the meaning of race-hate
more effectively seems an artistic failure. (1355)

Why would he find the racial component of the story especially disappointing? Is it an

artistic standard to which he would hold any writer? This case may not be as

unambiguous as the others but it is safe to conclude that Root looks to the black artist to

convey the complexities of racial prejudice better than any another categorized creative

thinker.

As stated earlier, Baldwin was a transatlantic celebrity. He, like many of his

American contemporaries, moved to Paris in self-exile the 1940s. Rosa Bobia's The

Critical Reception of James Baldwin in France3 allows us to compare the European

reaction with those of the American detractors. She reports that Baldwin's public

participation in the black struggle and his book-length essays The Fire Next Time and

Nobody Knows My Name aroused French critics because his writing became more

militant and angrier (read: blacker). "[T]he perception of the contrast in tone from the

novel to essay forms the focal point of criticism of many French critics throughout the

sixties and seventies. This tone, closer to what had been [Richard] Wright's, caused for

the first time the French critic to identify Baldwin as a 'Black writer"' (26).


3 Although there is no reason to doubt the integrity of these interpretations, the majority (95% according to
Bobia) of the full versions of the French documents quoted in Bobia's text are inaccessible in the U.S. so
the translations examined here cannot be independently verified.









Interestingly, Bobia discovered that while it was usual for Black Francophone

writers and critics to respond differently than their white counterparts to African-

American literature, not one article on Baldwin by a black person could be traced before

the 1960s. She suggests that his work could not capture their attention until he began to

meet their standards. "[T]he disparity still existed between the Black and white critics

because the Black Francophone critics demanded more emphasis on the socio-political

concerns" (23). When they did begin to respond, she reports, his work was met with

mixed reviews. Because this project concerns itself with those writers who ultimately

rejected the novel, we will not discuss their more positive commentary.

Lucien Guissard postulates that it was not Country, but the radical language of the

essays and the international media blitz that garnered Baldwin attention outside of literary

circles.

What we can establish, is that Truman Capote, Carson McCullers, Jerome David
Salinger, William Stryon, John Updike, have an intellectual and limited public in
the United States and in France. Moreover, the Black writer James Baldwin, whose
essays...have caused a stir on both sides of the ocean, owes his notoriety to the
anti-racist struggle. One ignores that certain of his novels could have been written
by a white author. (26 emphasis mine)

Guissard establishes for us that Mountain and Giovanni's Room were considered regular

American (or unblack?) novels and that the early essays were testimonials to the black

experience. So when Country was translated into French (published as Un autre pays in

1963) critics there also allowed their notions of what should concern the black writer to

determine the direction of their reviews. It seems that on both continents Black Literature

is anticipated to only reflect Black Themes.

Many would simply frame the work in African-American cultural motifs. Bobia

points out that for some writers, "African American music continued to be a reference










point in their discussion of Baldwin's work" (39). Music enthusiast Alain Panel, for

example, insists that in Country, Baldwin mobilized all the modem and eternal themes

in the name of a liberty, which the bluesmen of Louisiana sought. The very essence of the

novel is a sort of gigantic development of a jazz theme" (38). Michel Gresset imbues

Rufus with "the immemorial tone of the lamentations of the singers of the blues" (39)

while Matthieu Galet emphasizes Negro spirituals but finally dismisses the novel as

"laborious" and "predictable" (40).

Apparently, unlike the shock value it held in the United States, interracial and

homosexual conjugations were so commonplace as to become banal for some of the

French audience. "One has the slight impression of following an algebra solfeggio

lesson," Galet laments, "A black man and a white woman; a white woman and white

man; a Black woman and a white man; a Black man and a Black woman, etc." (40).

Other critics who found similarities to the novels written by black citizens of

France and of the former French colonies express their impatience with the diasporic

disposition:

Two kinds of novels [that] repeatedly rehash the same thing irritate the reader. The
Algerian with his diplomas who wants to get established] in France but does not
go through with it, and the Black man from the United States with the same
diplomas, who wants to get established in the white world and renounces. We have
read and reread this story adnauseum; we know the lively and the monotonous
moments, the interludes, the steamy chapter, the epilogue. The setting
varies...these four hundred pages are only a new plea for integration. (Bobia 40)

As in America, some critics decided that the stylistic differences in Baldwin's

fiction and nonfiction could be explained in racial terms. According to Bobia, "Pierre

Dommergues is one who dismissese] the novel and dispense[s] with a full review"(39).

He minces no words in his essentialist views:









While Baldwin's essays reveal the racial preoccupations of the author, in the
novels, there is a disengagement of these passions. The style of the novels is pale,
like the novel itself is colorless. The contradiction with Baldwin is that he writes
'white' novels (by their style, and subject) while the essays are 'Black' [-]
profoundly committed and written in a flamboyant language. (39)

Baldwin's subjects in his novels, depending on which scholar you ask, are racial healing,

self love, finding one's own truth about the intersections of love, race and sexuality, and

man's (not to be confused with mankind's) search for the self. In his own words, his

particular aim in writing Country was "to show how a difference in skin color between

two lovers could corrupt everything, even the most sincere and intimate feelings" (Arts

4). Dommergues does not believe these are the "passions" of black people and his idea of

black style can be likened to a verbal zoot suit.

In a similar vein (though not in complete agreement), Auguste Viatte is troubled by

the foul language and sexual transgression littered throughout Country. It is not that the

novel is white, but that the black style is taken to an uncomfortable extreme. "Even in a

situation without any relationship with the Black question," he carps, "the morbid scenes

[and] the obscenities are in abundance" (41). Viatte and Dommergues fall into that great

majority for whom the sphere of blackness is imagined as a space of 'natural' flagrancy

and obscenity. Bobia illuminates that "Baldwin's linguistic impropriety would seem to be

admissible only if used when writing of racial issues" (41) and it is clear that the

standards change-even for the 'black' writer-outside of that space. The notable

difference from the American detractors is that neither masculinity nor sexuality becomes

a major concern in the French context. Homophobia does not overwhelmingly thwart the

attempt to analyze, essentialized notions of race do. This is evidenced in the fact that they

mostly disagree on whether Baldwin meets their standards for African-American

literature.









Conclusion

When studied under a microscope, Baldwin's so-called "era of decline" can be

better described as the era of critical deviation that Emmanuel Nelson suggests it was.

Nelson's article highlights how critics who recoiled from the homosexuality in the novel

could not limit their condemnation to the narrative. They would begin by making critical

observations about the writing style and thematic content, but would digress into tirades

against the integrity of a queer protagonist or the usefulness of rage. My project further

reveals that in these discussions about Another Country, prevailing constructs of

masculinity, sexuality and race were always subtly or overtly in play-not just

homophobia. This knowledge creates an interstice in which we can reassess their

judgments about Baldwin's artistry and perhaps mitigate the impact their words have had

on later scholars.

Ultimately, no matter where a critic stood on the issue of black authenticity,

whether blackness was believed compliant or aggressive, Baldwin's performance of it in

his life and his life's work often inspired anxiety. No matter how thickly cemented the

borders of prescribed masculinity were, Baldwin continually slipped through the cracks

and challenged the reader to take up his consciousness and follow him. He continues to

challenges us to reconsider what we think we know about people and ourselves. Although

negative reviews may have crippled his relationship to mainstream audiences, Baldwin

made it clear that he expected nothing less than a raucous reception to his writing. He

realized that the work of consciousness-raising is inherently antagonizing for the intended

audience. Baldwin put it this way:

... [A]ll societies have battled with that incorrigible disturber of the peace-the
artist. [He] is distinguished from all other responsible actors in society-the
politicians, legislators, educators, and scientists-by the fact that he is his own test






31


tube, his own laboratory, working according to very rigorous rules, however
unstated these may be, and cannot allow any consideration to supersede his
responsibility to reveal all that he can possibly discover concerning the mystery of
the human being. The artist cannot and must not take anything for granted but must
drive to the heart of every answer and expose the question the answer hides."
(Price of the Ticket 316)

It is in the spirit of Baldwinian discovery and exposition that we continue our drive

toward the question of James Baldwin's legacy.
















WORKS CITED

Asante, Molefi Kete. Afrocentricity. Trenton: Africa World Press, Inc., 1988.

Baldwin, James. Another Country. New York: Random House Publishing, 1960.

Baldwin, James. The Price of the Ticket. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1985.

Bobia, Rosa. The Critical Reception of James Baldwin in France. New York: Peter Lang
Publishing, 1997.

Bone, Robert A. "James Baldwin." The Negro Novel in America, rev. ed. New Haven:
Yale University Press, 1965. Rpt. in Kinnamon 28-51.

Booth, Wayne. The Rhetoric ofFiction, 2nd ed. Chicago: The U of Chicago P., 1983.

Campbell, James. Talking at the Gates: A Life of James Baldwin. New York: Penguin
Books, 1991.

Cleaver, Eldridge. "Notes on a Native Son." Soul On Ice. New York: Dell Publishing
Company, Inc., 1968. 97-111. Rpt. in Kinnamon 66-76.

Dommergues, Pierre. Ecrivains americains d'aujourd'hui. Paris: Presses Universitaires
de France, 1995. Qtd. in Bobia 39.

Dyer, Richard. White. New York: Routledge, 1997.

Eckman, Fern Marja. The Furious Passage of James Baldwin. New York: M. Evans &
Company, Inc., 1966.

Faulkner, William. The Sound and the Fury. New York: W.W. Norton & Company,
1994, 1929. A Norton Critical Edition, 2nd Ed.

Galet, Matthieu. "Une sorte de gene." Arts 13 (19 January 1965): 5. Qtd in Bobia 40.

Gates, Henry Louis Jr. Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Man. New York: Random
House, 1997.

Gresset, Michel. Nouvel observateur (31 December 1964): 13. Qtd in Bobia 39.

Guissard, Lucien. "Aux U.S.A. une nouvelle generation d'ecrivains." La Croix (4
December 1964): 5. Qtd. in Bobia 26.






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Hicks, Granville. "Outcasts in a Caldron of Hate." Saturday Review 45 (1962): 21. Rpt.
in Standley and Burt 149-152.

"James Baldwin en France, la couleur ne colle pas a ma peau." Arts 30 (September 6-
October 1964): 4. Qtd in Bobia 39.

Kent, George E. "Baldwin and the Problem of Being." CLA Journal 7.3 (1964): 202-14.
Rpt. in Kinnamon 16-27.

Kinnamon, Keneth, ed. James Baldwin: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood
Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1974.

Nelson, Emmanuel. "Critical Deviance: Homophobia and the Reception of James
Baldwin's Fiction." Journal ofAmerican Culture 14.3 (1991): 91-96.

Nordell, Roderick. "Old and New Novels on Racial Themes." Christian Science Monitor
(19 July 1962): 11.

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Howard University Press, 1977.

Penel, Alain. "Une saison en literature." La Tribune de Geneve (11 December 1964):13.
Qtd. in Bobia 38.

"Races: Freedom-Now." Time 81 (May 17, 1963): 23-27.

"Review of Another Country by James Baldwin." Libre Belgique (27 N ovember 1964):
7.

Root, Robert. "It's a Wasteland" (Review of Another Country by James Baldwin).
Christian Century 79.45 (7 November 1962): 1354-55.

Scott, Lynn Orilla. James Baldwin's Later Fiction: Witness to the Journey. East Lansing:
Michigan State University Press, 2002.

Standley, Fred L., and Nancy V. Burt, Eds. Critical Essays on James Baldwin. Boston:
G.K. Hall and Company, 1988.

Standley, Fred L., and Louis H. Pratt, Eds. Conversations iiih James Baldwin. Jackson:
University Press of Mississippi, 1989.

Sylvander, Carolyn Wedin. James Baldwin. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing
Company, 1980.

Viatt, Auguste. Livres et lectures (September 1965): 9.

Watkins, Mel, "James Baldwin Writing and Talking." New York Times Book Review 23
(September 1979): 3.






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Weatherby, W.J. James Baldwin Artist on Fire. New York: Dell Publishing, 1989.















BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

Marlon Moore obtained her Bachelor of Arts in English from The University of

North Florida in 2001. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in African American

Literature at the University of Florida.