Dr Emanuela Maltese, a PhD candidate at DALC, has received the Graduate Student Essay Award from the James Baldwin Review for her article “‘Love Is the Key’: James Baldwin’s Poethics of Love”.
Often overlooked by James Baldwin criticism or addressed according to its unique relationship to sex and gender, love plays a central role in the writer’s oeuvre. This article, conceived as a contrapuntal reading between A Dialogue (1972)—the transcript of a four-hour conversation between James Baldwin and poet Nikki Giovanni in November 1971—and If Beale Street Could Talk (1974), Baldwin’s fifth novel, will shed light on Baldwin’s “poethics” of love in the 1970s, after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination and the author’s engagement with Black Power and feminism. This revision takes its cues from intersectionality and extends them via Hortense Spillers’s bold critique of Baldwin’s politics of intimacy, his writing style, and the American family grammar. His vision of love as moral “energy” not only anticipates what Denise Ferreira da Silva terms a “Black Feminist Poethics,” but is also a potential “key” to end “the racial nightmare” and “save the children,” thereby becoming a poethics of love for the infancy of the world.