Franke Lectures examine ‘James Baldwin’s American Scene’

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The Franke Lectures on James Baldwin have been organized in conjunction with Yale Professor Jacqueline Goldsby's Yale College seminar on the legacy of the writer.

“James Baldwin’s American Scene” is the subject of the fall Franke Lectures in the Humanities, hosted by the Whitney Humanities Center.

Hilton Als

The series will open Tuesday, Sept. 20, at 2:30 p.m. with “James Baldwin in the 21st Century,” a conversation between Windham-Campbell prizewinner Hilton Als and Yale professor Jacqueline Goldsby on Baldwin’s legacy. Als is a staff writer for The New Yorker, where he has been the magazine’s chief theater critic since 2013. He is the author of two acclaimed works of nonfiction, “White Girls” and “The Women.” A former fellow of the Guggenheim Foundation, Als is an associate professor in the writing program at Columbia University’s School of the Arts. He has also taught at Wellesley, Wesleyan, Smith, and the Yale School of Drama. Goldsby teaches English and African American studies. This term’s Franke Lectures have been organized in conjunction with her Yale College seminar, also titled “James Baldwin’s American Scene.”

The series will continue Thursday, Sept. 22, at 5:30 p.m. with a screening of “James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket,” followed by a discussion with the film’s writer, co-producer, and director, Karen Thorsen. As a filmmaker, Thorsen finds her inspiration and themes at the intersection of art and social justice. She tells stories about “game changers,” as she puts it, “artists and activists who shape history.” “The Price of the Ticket,” her first feature-length documentary, was a worldwide hit. After its PBS debut in 1990, the film was screened and honored in such major venues as the Sundance, London, Berlin, and Tokyo Film Festivals. Recently, Thorsen launched a major fundraising campaign to restore and digitize the film. With that success, she now leads “The James Baldwin Project,” an initiative to establish school curriculum based on Baldwin’s writings in precollege classrooms across the United States.

Karen Thorsen

Additional lectures in the series include:

Thursday, Oct. 13, 5:30 p.m. — Ed Pavlić, “The Whole Body of the Sound: Listening to Jimmy Baldwin Listen.” Pavlić is Distinguished Research Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Georgia and director of the Ph.D. program in creative writing. He is the author of “Let’s Let That Are Not Yet: Inferno”; “Who Can Afford to Improvise?: James Baldwin and Black Music, the Lyric, and the Listeners”; “Visiting Hours at the Color Line”; “But Here Are Small Clear Refractions”; “Winners Have Yet to Be Announced: A Song for Donny Hathaway”; “Paraph of Bone & Other Kinds of Blue”; “Crossroads Modernism: Descent and Emergence in African American Literary Culture”; and “Labors Lost Left Unfinished.” “Live at the Bitter End: A Trial by Opera” and “Another Kind of Madness: A Novel in 88 Improvisations” are forthcoming. Pavlić has won the Albert Christ-Janer Creative Research Award, the National Poetry Series Open Competition, theAmerican Poetry Review/Honickman First Book Prize, the Writer of the Year Award from the Georgia Writer’s Association, and the Darwin Turner Memorial Award from African American Review. He has held fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Bread Loaf, the Vermont Studio Center, the Willson Center for the Humanities, and the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard University.

Ed Pavlić

Tuesday, Oct. 18, 5:30 p.m. — Rich Blint, “The Devil Finds Work: James Baldwin on American Cinema.” Blint is the 2016–2017 scholar-in-residence in the M.F.A. Program in Performance and Performance Studies in the Department of Humanities and Media Studies at Pratt Institute. His teaching and research interests include American, African American, and Anglophone Caribbean literature and culture; the life and work of James Baldwin; racial visuality and U.S. popular culture; post-colonialism and diaspora; as well as urban form and politics in the context of the global. He is coeditor of a special issue of African American Review on James Baldwin (Winter 2013); contributing editor of The James Baldwin Review; guest critic of the October 2016 issue of the Brooklyn Rail, which focuses on James Baldwin; and is completing the introduction for an e-book of selections from Baldwin’s first collection of essays, “Notes of a Native Son,” and poems from “Jimmy’s Blues.” He is presently at work on his book project, “Trembling on the Edge of Confession: James Baldwin and National Innocence in Modern American Culture.” Blint has held faculty, research, and administrative appointments at Columbia University, Barnard College, Hunter College, and the Murphy Institute at the Graduate and University Center, CUNY; and has received fellowships from the Andrew W. Mellon and Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundations.

Rich Blint (Photo by C. Daniel Dawson, 2016)

Tuesday, Oct. 25, 5:30 p.m. — Magda Zaborowska, “Erasure, Overlay, Manipulation: James Baldwin’s Queer Dwellings. Magda Zaborowska is a professor in the Departments of American Culture and Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. Her research and teaching fields include literary and cultural studies’ approaches to intersections of social space and transatlantic discourses on race, nationality, sexuality, and gender; African American literature; immigrant ethnicities, feminist, and critical race theory; and post-totalitarian East-Central Europe. She has taught and been a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Oregon, Furman University, Tulane University, Aarhus University in Denmark, University of Italy in Cagliari (Sardinia), and Université Paul-Valéry of Montpellier in France. Among her published works are the Modern Library Association award-winning “James Baldwin’s Turkish Decade: Erotics of Exile”; “How We Found America: Reading Gender through East European Immigrant Narratives”; and the edited and coedited collections “Other Americans, Other Americas: The Politics and Poetics of Multiculturalism”; “The Puritan Origins of American Sex: Religion, Sexuality, and National Identity in American Literature”; and “Over the Wall/After the Fall: Post-Communist Cultures in the East-West Gaze.” Current book projects include “Me and My House: James Baldwin and Black Domesticity”and “Racing Borderlands,” a monograph on the proliferation of American notions of race and sexuality in post-Cold War Eastern Europe.

Magda Zaborowska

Tuesday, Dec. 6, 5:30 p.m. — Christopher Lebron, “Why Does James Baldwin Love You?” Lebron is an assistant professor of African American studies and philosophy at Yale. He is the author of “The Color of Our Shame: Race and Justice in Our Time,” winner of the American Political Science Association Foundations of Political Theory First Book Award, as well as numerous academic articles and book reviews on race and political ethics. Lebron has also written for The New York Times’ “The Stone” column and Boston Review. He has just completed “The Making of Black Lives Matter: A Brief History of an Idea,” forthcoming in 2017. He was recently named a finalist for the Hiett Prize, awarded by the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture, which recognizes promising young scholars and writers who are influencing public debates through their work.

Christopher Lebron

Pavlić’s talk will be held in Rm. 208 of the Whitney Humanties Center, 53 Wall St. All other events will be held in the center’s auditorium. All talks are free and open to the public. The lectures are made possible by the generosity of Richard and Barbara Franke, and are intended to present important topics in the humanities to a wide and general audience. For more information contact the Whitney Humanities Center at 203-432-0670 or via email.

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