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ROBERT SUTHERLAND VISITORSHIP -- Robert Reid-Pharr : Archives and Icons: James Baldwin and the Practice of Celebrity

Friday, November 1, 2019
3:30 PM – 5:00 PM
University Club
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Robert Fitzgerald Reid-Pharr is Professor of Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Harvard University. Robert Reid-Pharr’s talk will address the tensions between James Baldwin’s role as both apublic celebrity and a Black intellectual. This talk will build on Reid-Pharr’s previous work, including Once You Go Black: Choice, Desire, and the Black American Intellectual (NYU Press, 2007), while highlighting the extensive archival research he has undertaken for his forthcoming biography of James Baldwin. Questions that inform this work include the following: what are the political and ethical questions that attend an attempt to write a biography of an artist as singular as the novelist, essayist, andplaywright, James Baldwin? Moreover, how might the forms of traditional biography be bent and manipulated in order to accommodate the complexities of an individual who spent his life attempting to chronicle the profoundcultural and affective complexitiesthat attended the United States’ lurching movement toward racial integration? James Baldwin is a difficult subject. How can we note and celebrate that difficulty while also producing useful criticism of his life and work?

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