First Advisor

Sarah Ensor

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) in Creative Writing and University Honors


Creative Writing


James Baldwin (1924-1987). Giovanni's room -- Criticism and interpretation, Innocence (Psychology) in literature




I am investigating a “queer innocence” which I read through Baldwin’s novel Giovanni’s Room. The queerness of it comes from its refusal to remain tied to childhood, to the past. I will be examining the factors which traditionally are figured oppositionally to innocence: shame, guilt, knowledge and desire. By representing a loss of innocence as “perpetually recurring,” Baldwin frames innocence itself as repetitive. It is not something which is simply lost, it can be found again. If the novel is suggesting that innocence is not just to be lost, but to be found and experienced again, then how do the elements listed above contribute to David’s experience of innocence? And what is the result of “perpetually recurring death of innocence?” As innocence connotes a “younger self,” we are introduced to multiple “younger Davids” through his narrative, and while this is greatly due to the use of memory and the past tense voice, I believe it is the present tense voice which allows us to distinguish between our “multiple narrators,” and which allows Giovanni’s Room to take on the depth of dealing with this “fracturing” of narrative and narrator.


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