The Fiction and Nonfiction of James Baldwin


Course Description

Despite his reputation as one of the great American essayists, James Baldwin saw himself primarily as a novelist and wrote many important fictional works throughout his career. This course will examine Baldwin’s contributions to American literature as both a writer of fiction and nonfiction by reading his novels and short stories alongside many of his most celebrated essays. In reading these works together, we will consider such questions as: How does Baldwin explore topics such as race, class, sexuality, religion, the importance of art, the dangers of American innocence, and the redemptive power of love through both his fiction and nonfiction? How do his novels and short stories bring to life the social conditions and struggles for identity and belonging that he describes so powerfully in his essays? To what extent does Baldwin’s social problem fiction resist the sentimentality and simplistic morality that he criticized in “protest novels” like Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Richard Wright’s Native Son? And more broadly, how can fiction move readers in ways that nonfiction cannot, and what are the limitations of fiction as a mode of social critique? 

We will also discuss the continued relevance of Baldwin’s writing by looking at recent works that engage with Baldwin’s oeuvre such as Ta-Nehisi Coates’s essay collection Between the World and Me, Jesmyn Ward’s anthology The Fire This Time, Barry Jenkins’s film adaptation of If Beale Street Could Talk, and Raoul Peck’s documentary I Am Not Your Negro.

Books to Purchase (will be available at Argo Bookshop during the weeks prior to the course beginning):

  • Go Tell It on the Mountain, James Baldwin (ISBN: 9780345806543)
  • Giovanni's Room, James Baldwin (ISBN: 9780345806567)
  • Another Country, James Baldwin (ISBN: 9780679744719)
  • If Beale Street Could Talk, James Baldwin (ISBN: 9780307275936)

Please note that this course has a maximum enrollment of 18 students.

NEW PAYMENT POLICY: Participants must pay the course fees in order to be considered registered for the course. 

For fully registered courses, a waiting list will be created. Should vacancies develop, those on the waiting list will be contacted on a first-come, first-served basis.

Please note that we do not allow participants to audit courses for free.

Course Details

Location: Atwater

First Session: Monday 13 March 2023

Course Length: 12 weeks, Mondays, 6:15 to 8:15 p.m.

Discussion Team: Charlotte Boatner-Doane, Shernaz Choksi, Sara Pistolesi

Degree Credit: 3 credits

Course Fees: 

$150.00 (standard tuition)
$100.00 (promotion for new students)

Administrative Fee:



$185.00 (standard tuition)
$135.00 (promotion for new students)

Course fees are refundable in full before the second session. After the second session, a fee of $50 for the withdrawal will be applied. Refunds will not be issued after the third session. Please note that non-attendance does not constitute a withdrawal.

Students pursuing studies for credit are encouraged to consult with their advisers as they register for courses.

Course leaders, and students wishing to use credit vouchers, should call (514) 935-9585 to pay by phone or to schedule an appointment to pay in person.

Fill the following form to register

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