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James Baldwin and the Queer Imagination

Subjects: Literary Studies, American Literature, Sexuality Studies
Open Access : 9780472904082, 228 pages, 6 x 9, June 2023
Paperback : 9780472052349, 228 pages, 6 x 9, September 2014
Hardcover : 9780472072347, 228 pages, 6 x 9, September 2014

This open-access version is made available with the support of Big Ten Academic Alliance member libraries.
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Stepping back to examine the relationship between James Baldwin and queer theory, Brim unveils new critical insights that their complicated pairing provides

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The central figure in black gay literary history, James Baldwin has become a familiar touchstone for queer scholarship in the academy. Matt Brim’s James Baldwin and the Queer Imagination draws on the contributions of queer theory and black queer studies to critically engage with and complicate the project of queering Baldwin and his work. Brim argues that Baldwin animates and, in contrast, disrupts both the black gay literary tradition and the queer theoretical enterprise that have claimed him. More paradoxically, even as Baldwin’s fiction brilliantly succeeds in imagining queer intersections of race and sexuality, it simultaneously exhibits striking queer failures, whether exploiting gay love or erasing black lesbian desire. Brim thus argues that Baldwin’s work is deeply marked by ruptures of the “unqueer” into transcendent queer thought—and that readers must sustain rather than override this paradoxical dynamic within acts of queer imagination.

Matt Brim is Associate Professor of Queer Studies in the English department at the College of Staten Island, CUNY.

"In addition to being a lovely prose stylist, Brim is a dexterous and efficient guide through a variety of critical contexts and debates, making his book accessible to Baldwin fans only passingly familiar with queer theory, as well as to queer academics and students new to Baldwin’s work."
---Lambda Literary Review

- Sam Huber

"[R]ich textures and surprising insights ... fill his book. The sensitivity and vision of Brim’s readings concoct a complex 'queer imagination' across the chapters, creating what Brim calls 'a navigation system for liberatory thought and action.'"
---Theory & Event

- Joel Alden Schlosser

"Theorists have debated for decades about issues such as sexual identity and orientation, desire, and what is gay, queer, or trans. Brim adds a brilliant, provocative perspective to these conversations. He shows that gay and queer are far more complicated than most people imagine... Highly recommended."

- W. Glasker