Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Media, Art, and Text

First Advisor

Dr. Cristina Stanciu

Second Advisor

Dr. Richard Fine

Third Advisor

Dr. Michael Hall

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Tobias Wofford


Adaptation Studies suffers from a deficiency in the study of black, brown, yellow, and red adaptive texts, adaptive actors, and their practices. Adaptive Acts intervenes in this Eurocentric discourse as a study of adaptation with a (queer) POC perspective. My dissertation reveals that artists of color (re)create texts via dynamic modes of adaptation such as hyper-literary allusion, the use of meta-narratives as framing devices, and on-site collaborative re-writes that speak to/from specific cultural discourses that Eurocentric models alone cannot account for. I examine multi-ethnic American adaptations to delineate the role of adaptation in the continuance of stories that contest dominant culture from marginalized perspectives. And I offer deep adaptive readings of multi-ethnic adaptations in order to answer questions such as: what happens when adaptations are created to remember, to heal, and to disrupt? How does adaptation, as a centuries-old mode of cultural production, bring to the center the voices of the doubly marginalized, particularly queers of color? The texts I examine as “adaptive acts” are radical, queer, push the boundaries of adaptation, and have not, up to this point, been given the adaptive attention I believe they merit. David Henry Hwang’s 1988 Tony award-winning play, M. Butterfly, is an adaptive critique of the textual history of Butterfly and questions the assumptions of the Orientalism that underpins the story, which causes his play to intersect with Pierre Loti’s 1887 novella, Madame Chrysanthéme, at a point of imperial queerness. Rodney Evans, whose 2004 film, Brother to Brother, is the first full-length film to tell the story of the black queer roots at the genesis of the Harlem Renaissance, uses adaptation as a story(re)telling mode that focalizes the “gay rebel of the Harlem Renaissance,” Richard Bruce Nugent (1906-1987), to Signify on issues of canonization, gate-keeping, mythologizing, and intracultural marginalization. My discussion of Sherman Alexie’s debut film, The Business of Fancydancing, is informed by my own work as an adaptive actor and showcases the power of adaptation in the activation of Native continuance as an inclusive adaptive practice that offers an opportunity for women and queers of color to amend the Spokane/Coeur d'Alene writer-director’s creative authority. Adaptive acts are not only documents, but they document movements, decisions, and sociocultural action. Adaptation Studies must take seriously the power and possibilities of “adaptive acts” and “adaptive actors” from the margins if the field is to expand—adapt—in response to this diversity of adaptive potential.


© Michael Marcus Means

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission


Available for download on Thursday, May 02, 2024