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Intersecting Aesthetics - Literary Adaptations and Cinematic Representations of Blackness

Intersecting Aesthetics

Literary Adaptations and Cinematic Representations of Blackness

Edited by Charlene Regester, Cynthia Baron, Ellen C. Scott, Terri Simone Francis, and Robin G. Vander
Hardcover : 9781496848840, 288 pages, 21 b&w illustrations, November 2023
Paperback : 9781496848857, 288 pages, 21 b&w illustrations, November 2023

Table of contents


Part I: Black Literary/Film Adaptations in Scholarly and Historical Contexts

Chapter 1. Introduction: Cinematic Adaptations Representing Blackness
Charlene Regester and Cynthia Baron

Chapter 2. Glimmers of Hope, Dreams Deferred, and Diminished Desires: Early African American Literary Figures and the Cinema Industry
Charlene Regester

Part II: Colonial Anxieties and Reclaimed Identities
Chapter 3. The Devil’s Wanga: Representations of Power and the Erotics of Black Female Planters in The Love Wanga (1936) and The Devil’s Daughter (1939)
Tanya L. Shields

Chapter 4. Filmic Migrations of the Carmen Figure: Karmen Geï and Its Implications for Diasporic Black Female Decolonization
Kimberly Nichele Brown

Part III: Hollywood’s Problematic Reconstructions
Chapter 5. Imagining the Haitian Revolution in Lydia Bailey: Kenneth Roberts’s 1947 Novel and Darryl F. Zanuck’s 1952 Film
Judith E. Smith

Chapter 6. Refusing to Be “Somebody’s Damn Maid”: An Examination of Space in Billie Holiday’s Autobiography and Biopic Lady Sings the Blues
Charlene Regester

Part IV: Black Literature’s Challenge for Screen Adaptations
Chapter 7. Burbanking Bigger and Bette the Bitch: Native Son and In This Our Life at Warner Bros.
Elizabeth Binggeli

Chapter 8. Frank Yerby and the Art and Discipline of Racial Sublimation
Ellen C. Scott

Part V: Black Auteurs Defying Dominant Norms
Chapter 9. Adapting Black Masculinity in Melvin Van Peebles’s The Story of a Three Day Pass
Priscilla Layne

Chapter 10. Black Autonomy On Screen and Off: Gordon Parks’s The Learning Tree (1969) and Shaft (1971)
Cynthia Baron and Eric Pierson

Chapter 11. Devil in a Blue Dress: Aesthetic Strategies That Illuminate “Invisibility” and Continue Black Literary Traditions
Cynthia Baron

About the Contributors

How twentieth-century Black writers and filmmakers struggled to create authentic adaptations that reflected Black experiences


Contributions by Cynthia Baron, Elizabeth Binggeli, Kimberly Nichele Brown, Priscilla Layne, Eric Pierson, Charlene Regester, Ellen C. Scott, Tanya L. Shields, and Judith E. Smith

Intersecting Aesthetics: Literary Adaptations and Cinematic Representations of Blackness illuminates cultural and material trends that shaped Black film adaptations during the twentieth century. Contributors to this collection reveal how Black literary and filmic texts are sites of negotiation between dominant and resistant perspectives. Their work ultimately explores the effects racial perspectives have on film adaptations and how race-inflected cultural norms have influenced studio and independent film depictions. Several chapters analyze how self-censorship and industry censorship affect Black writing and the adaptations of Black stories in early to mid-twentieth-century America. Using archival material, contributors demonstrate the ways commercial obstacles have led Black writers and white-dominated studios to mask Black experiences. Other chapters document instances in which Black writers and directors navigate cultural norms and material realities to realize their visions in literary works, independent films, and studio productions. Through uncovering patterns in Black film adaptations, Intersecting Aesthetics reveals themes, aesthetic strategies, and cultural dynamics that rightfully belong to accounts of film adaptation.

The volume considers travelogue and autobiography sources along with the fiction of Black authors H. G. de Lisser, Richard Wright, Ann Petry, Frank Yerby, and Walter Mosley. Contributors examine independent films The Love Wanga (1936) and The Devil’s Daughter (1939); Melvin Van Peebles's first feature, The Story of a Three Day Pass (1967); and the Senegalese film Karmen Geï (2001). They also explore studio-era films In This Our Life (1942), The Foxes of Harrow (1947), Lydia Bailey (1952), The Golden Hawk (1952), and The Saracen Blade (1954) and post-studio films The Learning Tree (1969), Shaft (1971), Lady Sings the Blues (1972), and Devil in a Blue Dress (1995).


"Intersecting Aesthetics is a pivotal work from leading scholars in African American film studies. The influence of this collection will reach long into the future."

- Gerald R. Butters Jr., coeditor of Beyond Blaxploitation

"A riveting take on overlooked chapters in Hollywood history"

- Publishers Weekly