Samara Michaelson Humanities and Social Science
Self-Writing and James Baldwin: A reexamination of black autobiography
My work will focus on the autobiographical tendencies of James Baldwins texts as they engage with the sociopolitical and philosophical problems inherent to black autobiography’s genesisslaverywith the larger task of reexamining understandings of autobiography as a genre. The research will explore the history of African American literature in order to find how questions originating from the slave narrative are reformulated, and how the slave narratives resilient strain has injected itself into the nature of black literature so as to make autobiographical practice a fundamental method of communication. This will predictably produce questions of authorship, intention and social validation. To leverage these formulations in my reading of Baldwin, I will be studying literary theory, particularly of the structuralist and post-structuralist schools, as these writers are concerned with the philosophical freedoms that writing, considered generally, and self-writing particularly, afford a writer. As a foundation to these theories, the sociological assertion that identity is not only shaped by language but created through it will inform my inquiry.