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Off Campus Writers' Workshop - OCWW

Adrianne Hayward - Exploring James Baldwin's Novel Approach to Story Structure

  • July 18, 2024
  • 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM



Join Adrianne Hayward in exploring the unconventional story structure and unique narrative style of James Baldwin’s seminal novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, and the relatively simple structure of his personal essay, “My Dungeon Shook,” from The Fire Next Time.

Coming-of-age meets mid-life crises in Baldwin’s semi-autobiographical 1954 novel, which deftly examines themes of race, religion and family dynamics through the rule-bending lens of multiple points of view. Growing up in Harlem, young John struggles under the weight of the Grimes family’s expectation that he will grow up to be a preacher, while the adults around him wrestle with the realization that the “better life” they sought when they migrated from the South remains beyond reach. Baldwin’s storytelling prompted one reviewer to proclaim him a literary time-traveler, cramming the lives of four people – John, his mother, stepfather and aunt – into a two-day timeframe. Another critic describes the novelist’s complex narrative style as “jazz.”

In contrast, Baldwin takes a straightforward narrative approach to “My Dungeon Shook.” He uses the centennial anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation as impetus for this epistolary essay, a tender and sentimental sharing of worldly wisdom, addressed to his namesake nephew.

Hayward is eager to share her fascination with Baldwin, an award-winning expatriate novelist, essayist, playwright, scholar and civil rights activist.

“There’s so much to be gained from studying Baldwin’s rhythmic prose and innovative technique; I can’t wait to discuss both his mastery and defiance of craft. The mere prospect of sharing the joy of discovery with our Summer Session participants is exciting.”


Adrianne Hayward, a career journalist and corporate communications professional is now a budding novelist. She wrote a chapter for the collaborative novel, A Reason to Be Here, and her short story, The Marriage Bed, was published in OCWW’s Turning Points. 

HOSTED BY: Paula Mikrut

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