William J. Maxwell

Professor, Arts and Sciences / English and African and African American Studies

William J. Maxwell’s scholarly research, rooted in both modernist and African American studies, explores the ties among Black writing, transatlantic culture, and U.S. political history. His first book New Negro, Old Left (Columbia UP, 1999), explored the fraught relationship between race and class dynamics and representations in the era when many Black American writers were also members of the Communist Party. His second, an edition of Claude McKay’s Complete Poems (U of Illinois, 2004), was the first inclusive anthology of the writing of a Caribbean-born pioneer of the Harlem Renaissance. His third book, F.B. Eyes (Princeton UP, 2015), documented the racial imagination of J. Edgar Hoover’s Federal Bureau of Investigation and its effects on the history of modern Black writing. His fourth book. James Baldwin: The FBI File (Arcarde/Simon and Schuster 2017), dove deeply into the longest FBI file yet found on an African American author. His fifth book, co-edited with Gary Holcomb, introduced the first publication of Claude McKay’s lost novel of race, disability, and the meaning of reparations, Romance in Marseille (Penguin Classics, 2020). Finally, his book in progress, James Baldwinism Now (contracted with Princeton UP) explores the dramatic 21st-century Baldwin revival as a means to grasp the still-unfolding historical imagination of Black Lives Matter.

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