NeMLA Panel: 'The New Lost Generation': African American Expatriate Writers in Paris, 1945-60

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Courtney Mullis, Duquesne University
contact email: 

NeMLA 2020: Boston, MA

In his 1961 essay “The New Lost Generation,” James Baldwin argues that Europe gave the “new” African American expats of the late 1940s and the 1950s “the sanction, if one can accept it, to become oneself. No artist can survive without this acceptance. But rare indeed is the American artist who achieved this without first becoming a wanderer, and then, upon his return to his own country, the loneliest and most blackly distrusted of men.” Indeed, Baldwin asserts that African American expats in Paris gained a kind of liberation through their experience with a culture wholly unlike their own.

African American writers James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Chester Himes, and William Gardner Smith were all expats—or exiles—in post-World War II Paris. While Wright lived the rest of his life in Paris and (in Baldwin’s opinion) distanced himself from the political and social concerns of African Americans, Baldwin, Himes, and Smith maintained an ideological and literary proximity to other African Americans.

This panel seeks papers that engage with the works of these or other African American expat writers in Paris from 1945 to 1960 and address any of the following questions: How does the “New Lost Generation” compare to the Lost Generation of the 1920s? What exactly did the expat experience offer Wright, Baldwin, Himes, and/or Smith? What literary contributions did these African American expat writers make as a result of their time in Paris? What can scholars of African American literature learn from the literary contributions of the “New Lost Generation”?

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