Essay

You will write a letter to James Baldwin. In this letter, I’d like you to communicate what it is for a college student in 2017 to read and be impacted by his work (all that you have read up to this point, and including I Am Not Your Negro), and what his work means in today’s climate. What I’d also like you to address in this letter is your perspective of Giovanni’s Room, and what you feel that novel’s role was in enabling a space for a movie like Moonlight to be made and to have won all of the Academy Awards that it has. In other words, it is clear that Baldwin, in his first novel, had to disguise the material in a way that Moonlight did not. It may be useful for you all to know that Moonlight (if you didn’t already) was adapted from a traditional text as well, a play. I have, a while back, posted an article that speaks to Giovanni’s Room as a precursor to Moonlight, but you might want to find reviews of Moonlight and bring them into your letter as well. As a matter of fact, quoting reviews of I Am Not Your Negro might be useful in the earlier section of your letter as well. Make this clearly a personal letter to Baldwin, but one that is informed by your own thoughtful and academic critical engagement with all these texts. If you feel you have a particular relationship to him because of who you are, where you’ve been, what your life is like, please include that too. But make sure that you also bring in specific elements of all the texts to respond to him with, and not just general feelings regarding his work, or the films. Minimum two pages single spaced, but if you’re on a roll, write as long as you feel the need to! (Maybe not go over 10 pages.) Good luck!

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