Thursday, December 28, 2017

James Baldwin & LitCharts

By Kenton Rambsy

My time at the Dallas Institute teaching “Reading James Baldwin in the Digital Age” has made me consider how online resources play a vital role in shaping conversations about literature. After my first class, I was moved by how many middle and high school teachers were in the audience. In addition to demonstrating an interest in gaining a deeper perspective on Baldwin, some of the teachers asked questions about online resources that would help them teach Baldwin to high school students.

Among the numerous online resources, one of my favorite sites to use when examining Baldwin is LitCharts . Similar to Cliff’s Notes, Lit Charts provides summaries and plot overviews for over 500 texts and also definitions for over 130 literary devices. Lit Charts provides a different format, though, by focusing on the visual presentation of information and story summaries. Currently, the site has three pages devoted to Baldwin’s work. Two of his essays, Notes of a Native Son and The Fire Next Time as well as his short story Sonny’s Blues”
are covered on the site.

The layout is what makes the site so appealing and useful when studying Baldwin’s work. LitCharts uses “Theme Wheels” to provide a color-coded visual overview of the themes in a given text. In this regard, LitCharts helps readers improve their close reading skills and analytical analysis by tracing the prevalence of themes as they develop throughout the book.

Often times, educators draw on supplementary materials to facilitate their classroom discussions and readings of a particular artist. Over the last decade, the resurgence of interest in Baldwin has been met with the development of many new online pedagogical materials. The sustained interest in Baldwin in literature courses has spurred the development of online sites such as Lit Charts that help guide students, general readers, and even some scholars through his works.

Reading James Baldwin in the Digital Age

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