Readings with Daniel Karpowitz_Figures of Speech

The intersection of African Americans and violent crime have long constituted each other in American life and the white imagination-literary, sociological and historical.  James Baldwin explored this terrain most brilliantly in his essay “Many Thousands Gone” - a passionate critique of both white supremacy and African American protest literature of the Left. The essay is centered around Baldwin’s reading of the notorious literary character Bigger Thomas, a murderer supposedly produced by the injustices of American capitalism. We will read Baldwin’s essay “Many Thousands Gone” and a contemporary chapter of non-fiction that depicts the speeches given by graduates of a college-in-prison program.


Key reading:

Baldwin, James. 1951, “Many Thousands Gone"


Suggested Reading:

Karpowitz, Daniel. 2017. College in Prison: Reading in an Age of Mass Incarceration. Rutgers University Press (pages 111-158)


Additional recommended readings:
1. For a sweeping contextualization of the contemporary phenomenon of mass incarceration,
and an argument about the intersections of political economy and the construction of race,
consider  "Deadly Symbiosis", Loic Wacquant (Boston Review).
2. For a thoughtful attempt to complete the racially-polarized political narratives characteristic of the “Jim Crow”
literature, consider the book Locking Up Our Own, by civil rights lawyer James Forman Jr.
3. For a take on the figure of African American’s in US literature and literary criticism, see 
Toni Morrison, Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination