The Reliable Author: James Baldwin’s Critique of Liberalism, Romanticism, and Western Monologism.
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Mueme, Chukwuma J.
James Baldwin’s Nobody Knows My Name (1961), Another Country (1962), and The Fire Next Time (1963) expose the sordid realities beneath the appearances of equality of rights and human dignity in the United States. Though classified as a novel and two collections of essays, these texts are intellectual and cultural manifestos denouncing racism, inequality and oppression in the United States and calling individuals to take responsibility for the continued existence of such conditions in what claims to be the most “exceptional” nation in the world. Central to Baldwin's vision and belief is the argument that it is actual individuals, engaged in meaningful acts of dialogue with one another and with institutions, that have the power to bring about positive and lasting change and solutions to the problems of racial and ethnic conflicts in America. Although a nation with a vibrant landscape of multiethnic peoples, the United States still does not have the appropriate language to articulate a coherent understanding of race, society and “the other.” In particular, the experiences in America of peoples of African origin expose the flaws and contradictions of the liberal United States that fails to include all peoples in the rights proclaimed in the nation's founding principles, as expressed in its Declaration of Independence. Baldwin’s poetics attempts a language that establishes dialogue among the subjectivities of authors, readers and fictional characters. His mordant commentary on social problems and his perceptive articulation of interracial relations create an intersubjective, non-monologic and non-binary, system of meanings that questions and reveals the contradictions in the colonial and Romantic legacies that prevent America from realizing its aspirations as a land of freedom and equality for all.
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