"Stranger in the Village": Reading Race and Gender in Henry James through a Baldwinian Lens

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2008-04-10

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This project studies gender and racial constructions in Henry James's canon through the lens of James Baldwin. Where previous critics have created a direct comparison between the two, addressing primarily Baldwinian echoes of or indebtedness to James, this project allows backward readings of James's explorations of masculinity, race, and their place in American identity. Baldwin articulated that the shaky, raced, and gendered foundation of the American masculine model was inherently unsympathetic to difference of any kind; in doing so, he enabled us to re-envision James's critiques of American masculine constructions and consider them as James's path toward interrogating race in America. Through Baldwin, we can see that James was searching for freedom to locate a self identity absent of the categorization and fragmentation endemic to the American identity, and that, ultimately, race in a Baldwinian sense was far more important to James than critics have previously understood.

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