David T. Johnson
Chapter 5 is an introduction to one of the most contentious concepts in adaptation studies: fidelity, or the idea that a given aesthetic object—traditionally, in adaptation studies, a film—reflects a faithful understanding of its source—traditionally, a literary text, especially a novel, play, or short story. Beginning by acknowledging the vexed history of the term for adaptation studies, especially in its recurring rejection, the essay investigates some representative moments in that history before turning to places where the use of fidelity to investigate adaptations—or what would come to be known as fidelity studies—might have found support. As it continues, the essay challenges the commonly held assumption that journalism is to blame for the recurring fascination with fidelity, and ends by suggesting three possible directions for fidelity in the future of adaptation studies in the years ahead.
Defne Ursin Tutan
Chapter 33 argues that all historical representations are radically adaptive and that the ways in which they are conceived and perceived tell us more about the present than about the past they refer to. As the historian adapts the material into a pre-planned scheme to meet a certain end, every version of history becomes essentially an adaptation. While such a view of history is neither novel nor groundbreaking among historians, it has yet to find acceptance among popular readers and audiences of history. In other words, the discrepancy between how history is conceived and how it is perceived remains intact. A brief case study of the ways in which audiences have perceived The Tudors and Magnificent Century, and how fervently televised adaptations are contested, signals the need to challenge this discrepancy.
Illustrations in illustrated editions are rarely theorized as adaptations in the field of adaptation studies. Chapter 27 attempts to redress that oversight by examining the disciplinary practices and medial assumptions that have shaped approaches to illustration and adaptation in their respective fields. Focusing on the manner in which illustration and adaptation have been defined, their engagement of source material, and assumptions related to static and dynamic modes of representation, the essay draws parallels between the fields of illustration and adaptation and proposes a cross-disciplinary approach to adaptation that illuminates common characteristics of adaptation across media and modes and common features across a given work’s adaptation history.
In recent years, the novel/film debate of adaptation studies yore has given way to another binary between old media and new, one in which adaptation scholars posit apps and videogames as more participatory than such predecessors as novels and films. This essay turns to the eminently interactive genre of children’s fiction to challenge the claim that digital adaptations necessarily involve different kinds of participation than other adaptive modes. Instead of asking what new media can do that old media cannot, it asks what adaptations can do that other texts cannot, tracing the movement of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are across books, films, plays, and videogames to ask what kinds of interactivity adaptations—rather than particular media—invite from their audiences.
Chapter 29 investigates the relation between adaptation and intermediality and makes the case that adaptation studies would profit from a broad intermedial research context. It discusses ten ways of delimiting the notion of adaptation within the broader field of intermediality. Pinpointing border zones of adaptation that are only partly recognized as such by adaptation scholars, it argues that failing to reflect on these borders ignores relevant neighbor disciplines, and that insufficient attention to related theoretical fields reduces the possibility for adaptation studies to produce research that is relevant for a broader range of phenomena and a broader field of scholars. The essay briefly investigates some core issues of intermedial research, and hence of adaptation studies, and summarizes several notions vital in investigating essential similarities and differences among media and in capturing the material and semiotic conditions for adaptation.
Linda Hutcheon and Michael Hutcheon
The tried and tested, not the new and original, became the norm early in the over-400-year history of opera, the Ur-adaptive art: because opera is a costly art form to produce, misjudging one’s audience can be disastrous. This may explain the persistence of a version of that familiar, limiting fidelity theory that has gone out of fashion in recent years in other areas. Since the Romantic period, opera’s tradition of Werktreue has demanded authenticity in realizing the operatic work authenticated by tradition. This has made the critical acceptance of adaptations of opera to film, for instance, a challenge. This essay theorizes not only adaptation into opera but also the adaptation of operas to both old and new media. The first, opera as adaptation, is especially complex, for it involves a series of stages: adapted text to libretto; libretto set to musical score; both libretto and score put on stage.
Chapter 37 uses the process of revision—revisiting the ideas of oneself or others in order to produce a new response—to explore the relations between adaptation studies and academic writing. It argues that adaptation provides a theoretical framework that encourages students to question such established writing categories as author, reader, text, plagiarism, and revision, and that adaptation clarifies the processes and stakes of the practical moves students perform through reading, interpretation, writing, and rewriting. The essay concludes by examining the ways foundational ideas in adaptation studies can help students working on revisions of their earlier drafts to think of their instructors, their peers, and themselves as critical readers and translators of their own ideas.
This essay focuses on the topic of “adaptation” to argue that Japanese cinema has been less bound by traditional culture than by low culture in general, and Hollywood film in particular. Focusing on the 1930s, it shows Japanese studios shamelessly imitating Hollywood technologies and Japanese filmmakers (most prominently Ozu Yasujiro) shamelessly appropriating Hollywood genres as part of an ambivalent project of “transcultural mimesis.” As the geopolitical incline between the United States and the rest of the world levels out, the concept of transcultural mimesis draws more broadly on contemporary critical discourse than on Miriam Hansen’s text-based “vernacular modernism” to remind us that cinema on the margins of the world film system has always been a form of adaptation, from something closely identified with the West into something more ambiguous that could split the difference between homage and parody, and sometimes even become an instrument of reflexive understanding.
Chapter 14 examines the role of adaptation as both genre and practice in contemporary Hindi mainstream cinema, with reference to Indian film history and adaptation in Hollywood. In Bollywood today, despite the relative scarcity of literary adaptations, the multiplex boom has led to new ways of marketing adaptations and to a greater number of best-seller adaptations in recent years. Intramedial adaptations of both local and foreign films, by contrast, are a fully established practice of risk management, whose policies of copyright and self-positioning in relation to foreign films, for example the switch from “Indianization” strategies toward attempts at global accessibility, have reflected Bollywood’s changing role within world cinema. Based on its investigation of adaptation in Bollywood, the essay proposes several corrective implications for adaptation studies that arise from testing analytical categories developed on the basis of Western adaptations against adaptation in a different cultural sphere.
Mary H. Snyder
Chapter 6 aims to navigate the distance between practitioners who write adaptations and scholars who write about adaptations. Screenwriters and adaptation scholars perform a similar function in that they both build their writing from a source text (or texts), requiring a focus on the way a source text is read or interpreted. In “Lamia,” John Keats, contrasting the reading of a text for uncritical pleasure and the reading of a text specifically in order to judge it, finds neither effective in fully identifying or understanding the multiplicities and complexities inherent within texts. The deconstruction practiced by Roland Barthes and J. Hillis Miller offers a middle ground for reading source texts. Intensive interpretations of source texts and a purposeful divergence from fidelity in adaptation help to close the gap between practitioners of adaptation and adaptation scholars.