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Open Access (free)
Robert J. Corber

The author reviews Barry Jenkins’s 2018 film adaptation of Baldwin’s novel, If Beale Street Could Talk, finding that Jenkins’s lush, painterly, and dreamlike visual style successfully translates Baldwin’s cadenced prose into cinematic language. But in interpreting the novel as the “perfect fusion” of the anger of Baldwin’s essays and the sensuality of his fiction, Jenkins overlooks the novel’s most significant aspect, its gender politics. Baldwin began working on If Beale Street Could Talk shortly after being interviewed by Black Arts poet Nikki Giovanni for the PBS television show, Soul!. Giovanni’s rejection of Baldwin’s claims that for black men to overcome the injuries of white supremacy they needed to fulfill the breadwinner role prompted him to rethink his understanding of African American manhood and deeply influenced his representation of the novel’s black male characters. The novel aims to disarticulate black masculinity from patriarchy. Jenkins’s misunderstanding of this aspect of the novel surfaces in his treatment of the character of Frank, who in the novel serves as an example of the destructiveness of patriarchal masculinity, and in his rewriting of the novel’s ending.

James Baldwin Review
Open Access (free)
James Baldwin’s Poethics of Love
Emanuela Maltese

Often overlooked by James Baldwin criticism or addressed according to its unique relationship to sex and gender, love plays a central role in the writer’s oeuvre. This article, conceived as a contrapuntal reading between A Dialogue (1972)—the transcript of a four-hour conversation between James Baldwin and poet Nikki Giovanni in November 1971—and If Beale Street Could Talk (1974), Baldwin’s fifth novel, will shed light on Baldwin’s “poethics” of love in the 1970s, after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination and the author’s engagement with Black Power and feminism. This revision takes its cues from intersectionality and extends them via Hortense Spillers’s bold critique of Baldwin’s politics of intimacy, his writing style, and the American family grammar. His vision of love as moral “energy” not only anticipates what Denise Ferreira da Silva terms a “Black Feminist Poethics,” but is also a potential “key” to end “the racial nightmare” and “save the children,” thereby becoming a poethics of love for the infancy of the world.

James Baldwin Review