James Baldwin and the Heavenly City: Prophecy, Apocalypse, and Doubt (Hardcover)

James Baldwin and the Heavenly City: Prophecy, Apocalypse, and Doubt By Christopher Z. Hobson Cover Image


Behind James Baldwin’s uncanny ability to evoke a nation’s crisis and potential hope lies his use of religious language to describe social and sexual transformation. The first study of its kind, James Baldwin and the Heavenly City shows that Baldwin’s novels use biblical ideas in partly but not fully secularized ways to express the possible human attainment of a new life embodying a real but undefinable holiness. Focusing on Baldwin’s six novels, along with essays, stories, and drama, the book first shows Baldwin’s method of recasting biblical and African American prophetic traditions to reveal their liberating core. It then examines several key themes: the prophet’s selection, seen in Baldwin’s debut novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain; the three linked ideas of prophetic art, the “apocalyptic body,” and the “apocalyptic city,” as presented in all his novels; and the polarity between prophecy and doubt, the subject of his last novel, Just Above My Head. This important work provides new readings of Baldwin’s novels, reassesses his once-neglected later fiction, and shows Gospel music’s centrality (with blues) in his fictional imagination.

About the Author

CHRISTOPHER Z. HOBSON is Professor of English at SUNY Old Westbury and author of The Mount of Vision: African American Prophetic Tradition, 1800–1950; Blake and Homosexuality; and other works on African American literature and culture, William Blake, and political theory.

Praise For…

“This book demonstrates that James Baldwin’s cutting social criticism can be found just as much in his novels as in his essays. Hobson brings a subtle understanding of prophecy to this task, displaying how Baldwin mobilized his powerful religious imagination in the service of social justice. James Baldwin and the Heavenly City: Prophecy, Apocalypse, and Doubt is a highly valuable addition to the growing scholarship on one of the greatest sages of the twentieth century.”
VINCENT LLOYD, Associate Professor, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, Villanova University

Product Details
ISBN: 9781611862898
ISBN-10: 1611862892
Publisher: Michigan State University Press
Publication Date: August 1st, 2018
Pages: 258
Language: English