The Critical Reception of James Baldwin, 1963-2010

The Critical Reception of James Baldwin, 1963-2010

"An Honest Man and a Good Writer"

Conseula Francis

eBook for Handhelds

Camden House



Examines the major divisions in criticism of this major African American writer, paying particular attention to the way each critical period defines Baldwin and his work for its own purposes.
James Baldwin is a widely taught and anthologized author. His short story "Sonny's Blues" remains a perennial favorite in literature anthologies, and all of his essay collections and novels are still in print. His first essay collection, Notes of a Native Son, is a seminal work that led a new generation of African American writers from beneath the shadow of Richard Wright. The Fire Next Time is widely held as one of the most profound and accurate articulations of black consciousness during the Civil Rights movement. It is difficult to imagine teaching a survey of African American literature or considering the development of black intellectual thought in the twentieth century without mentioning Baldwin.
For more than half a century, readers and critics alike have agreed that Baldwin is a major African American writer. What they do not agree on is why. Because of his artistic and intellectual complexity, his work resists easy categorization, and Baldwin scholarship, consequently, spans the critical horizon. Conseula Francis's book examines the major divisions in Baldwin criticism, paying particular attention to the way each critical period defines Baldwin and his work for its own purposes.

Conseula Francis is Professor of English and Associate Provost for Curriculum and Institutional Resources at the College of Charleston.

An e-book version of this title is available (9781571138958), to libraries through a number of trusted suppliers. See here for a full list of our partners.


174 pages
9x6 in
Literary Criticism in Perspective
Paperback, 9781571139689, April 2016
Hardback, 9781571133250, April 2014
eBook for Handhelds, 9781580468923, April 2014
Camden House
Share on Facebook   Share on Twitter   Pin it   Share by Email

Table of Contents

Judging James Baldwin: 1963-73
Canonizing James Baldwin: 1974-87
Retheorizing James Baldwin: 1988-2000
The Critical Reception of "Sonny's Blues"
James Baldwin and the Popular Reviews
Baldwin Studies Now
List of Works by James Baldwin
Works Cited


As its title reveals, this well-researched and engagingly written study is a biography of Baldwin's critical reception [that] provides a thorough, smartly contextualized overview of the various ways Baldwin's wide-ranging oeuvre has been received, both during his lifetime and after. . . . Her survey of Baldwin criticism and reasons for his popularity are instructive for anyone who teaches or reads Baldwin. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. CHOICE

[This book] analyzes the trajectory of Baldwin's critical reception and rigorously positions the debates revolving his writings in their historical contexts. Due to the complexity of Baldwin's oeuvre . . . Francis's project becomes a microhistory of trends in literary theory and criticism since the 1960s, scrupulously registering the emergence of black, gender, and queer studies. . . . [S]cholars of many academic disciplines will find [Francis's book] useful and engaging. POLISH JOURNAL OF AMERICAN STUDIES

[N]ot only a superb overview on Baldwin criticism, but also a comprehensive study of the vastness and depth of Baldwin's literary legacy. . . . [I]nspires both the newcomer and the established reader to engage with Baldwin . . . . AMERIKASTUDIEN

Also in Series