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All Those StrangersThe Art and Lives of James Baldwin$
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Douglas Field

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199384150

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199384150.001.0001

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James Baldwin’s Religion: Sex, Love, and the Blues

James Baldwin’s Religion: Sex, Love, and the Blues

(p.82) {Chapter 3} James Baldwin’s Religion: Sex, Love, and the Blues
All Those Strangers

Douglas Field

Oxford University Press

Chapter 3 examines Baldwin’s relationship to the church and to Pentecostalism. Despite the saturation of biblical images in his writing (not to mention several works that are set in the church), few critics have looked closely at his complicated views on religion and spirituality. For most scholars, Baldwin simply became more secular, as illustrated by his condemnation of the church in The Fire Next Time. This chapter argues the case for looking more closely at Baldwin’s Pentecostal past, which in turn helps to illuminate his more puzzling and contradictory writings on religion. Finally, this chapter offers a reading of his first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, his short story, “The Outing,” and his last novel, Just Above My Head, in order to maintain that Baldwin’s views on religion, spirituality and love developed and that key themes emerge, countering the view that he simply became a more secular writer.

Keywords:   Pentecostalism, spirituality, love, secular, Go Tell It on the Mountain, Just Above My Head

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