Gaze Upon My Shame: The Function of the Gaze on Marginalized Identities in Giovanni's Room

UNCA Author/Contributor (non-UNCA co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Alaina Masanto (Creator)
University of North Carolina Asheville (UNCA )
Web Site:
Lorena Russell

Abstract: A testament of a great writer and a great work of fiction is how well his work stands the test of time. James Baldwin, a social critic and novelist, is one such writer whose work has stood the test of time and remained popular in the present day. A major component of Baldwin’s work are social issues involving race and sexuality due to his life experiences as a black gay man coming of age in pre-Civil Rights era America. Baldwin used his platform and gift as a writer to give a spotlight to the people belonging to marginalized racial and sexual groups and placed them at the center of his stories, which was unusual for the time. By placing marginalized people as the focus of his novels, Baldwin gives the reader a window to observe the intimate, yet complicated, moments of those who are pushed to the dark corners of society. Giovanni’s Room (1956) challenges readers, and people in general, to question exactly why and how people are pushed to the margins and thereby forced to hide their true selves. At first glance, it is the story of a white American man who travels to France and comes to terms with his sexuality after a failed romantic relationship with an Italian man. But with a closer inspection the distance between the characters, the watchful gaze of the secondary characters, the foreign identities of the main characters and their self-deprecation all lead closer to answering why marginalized people hide in the dark. This presentation analyzes the connection between societal norms/pressure and the gaze in affecting the lives and self-perceptions of marginalized people.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2019
Giovanni's Room, James Baldwin

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