Jennifer Carson - Read (James Bladwin) Like a Writer


Read (James Baldwin) Like a Writer

 4 Wednesdays, April 17 - May 15, 2024 (No class on May 1)

4:30PM-6:00PM PST

Online via Zoom
Classes will be recorded and video replay will be available for a limited time. 


* Note that for all classes held on Zoom, registration closes at noon the day before the class begins. Same-day registrations are not available, so please plan ahead.


“Read like a writer,” goes the perennial instruction. That is, bring a writer’s eye to everything you read, noticing the many craft decisions the author has employed, and, in addition to marveling over great prose, asking: How did they do that? The more we bring an analytic eye to others’ work, the more possibilities open up in our own. In this course, we’ll focus on closely reading the classic novel Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin.

Giovanni’s Room is Baldwin’s second novel, after Go Tell It on the Mountain. He wrote it mostly in France, where he moved in 1948 to distance himself from American racism. The novel centers around a forbidden relationship between two white men, and Baldwin explained that the book was ‘‘not so much about homosexuality, it is what happens if you are so afraid that you finally cannot love anybody.’’ Written in a confessional style, the book is a nuanced portrayal of intimacy and a complex exploration of morality. In a 2016 essay, Colm Toibin drew a throughline between Giovanni’s Room and Baldwin’s essays on race, thus: “In [the essays], he held up an unsparing mirror so that the stained soul of his country could catch a glimpse of itself, a glimpse as penetrating, risky, truthful and disturbing as the glimpse of lost and wasted love offered in Giovanni’s Room.” 

We’ll read this edition of the book.

April 17: first several paragraphs, an introduction to the novel, an overview of close reading

April 24: Discuss first two chapters

May 1: No class

May 8: Discuss through Chapter 3 of part 2

May 15: Discuss the whole book

Jennifer Carson is an author, literary critic, book group facilitator, physicist, and the founder of To the Lighthouse. Her work has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, Science, Six Hens Journal and Barnes & Noble Review. She has just completed her first novel, The Savage Path, and is represented by Stephanie Cabot at Susanna Lea Associates.


Online Class