Event—Scholarly Seminars

Chanté Mouton Kinyon, University of Notre Dame


A Horror of Sorts: Betrayal, Reconciliation, and Restoration in "Uptight" (1968)

Chanté Mouton Kinyon

A Horror of Sorts: Betrayal, Reconciliation, and Restoration in "Uptight" (1968)

Chanté Mouton Kinyon, University of Notre Dame

Uptight (1968), a film made with a primarily black cast, attempts to capture a feeling of desolation and hopelessness that existed in Afro-America in the mid-twentieth century. Famed film critic Roger Ebert wrote in 1969 that director Jules “Dassin made a strategic error at the very beginning, when he chose ‘Up Tight’ (sic) as a remake of ‘The Informer,’ Liam O’Flaherty's novel (and John Ford’s film) about the Irish revolution. The transplant doesn't work. The Irish and black revolutions have little in common, either in methods or in style” (Ebert). Similarly, Jerry Watts argues in Amiri Baraka: The Politics and Art of a Black Intellectual that the inclination to compare the Irish and Afro-American situations “is enticing” but ultimately unsustainable. But Ebert and Watts miss specific nuances of Irish history in their criticism of how the referenced Afro-American projects relate to the Irish projects. Further it was also during the American Civil Rights Era that those in Northern Ireland began using the American movement as a blueprint for their own. This paper uses the signaling that I call the transatlantic gesture to evaluate Uptight. In the paper, I argue that Uptight (1968), directed by Jules Dassin (1911 –2008), and co-written by Dassin, Ruby Dee (1922 –2014), and Julian Mayfield (1928 –1984), functions as the most faithful adaptation of Liam O’Flaherty’s (1896 –1984) The Informer (1925). John Ford’s (1894 –1973) film The Informer (1935) romanticizes Ireland, plays up the Irish as victims of the English, and sells America as a space of spiritual renewal. However, Uptight, similar to the novel it is based on, is void of romance, hope, or promise. Uptight, rather than the blaxploitation film it has been characterized as, is a horror film; a reflection of a disenfranchised Black America that is haunted by a reality that Black lives are still considerably impacted by a racist American society even though significant advances have been made in the Civil Rights Movement.

Respondent: Allyson Nadia Field, University of Chicago


This event is free, but all participants must register in advance below. Space is limited, so please do not request a paper unless you plan to attend.

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About the Irish Studies Seminar

The Newberry Library Irish Studies Seminar brings together scholars to advance understanding of Irish culture both nationally and globally. The Irish Studies Seminar is supported by Mr. and Mrs. William F. Mahoney and Christine and Michael Pope, the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies at the University of Notre Dame’s Keough School of Global Affairs, and the DePaul University Irish Studies Program.


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