This chapter examines the critical discourse on acting in early Chinese cinema, and particularly the ways in which the contrast of film acting with stage acting exemplified broader rhetorics of realism, modernity, and scientism in semicolonial China following the May Fourth Movement. An emphasis on realism and mimesis in cinema rather than the formalism and semiosis of traditional Chinese art forms was part of a broader contemporary interest in the idea of objective representation. At the same time, the close-up in particular was thought to demand a new style of “interior performance” in which character emotions were felt by the actor and conveyed through the eyes and face with the purpose of “moving” modern audiences with authenticity. Nonetheless, claims for the unique realism of the film medium must be viewed in light of the growing dominance of realism in all the arts, including theater.
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.
Adaptation studies and adaptation scholars have persistently been faulted for theoretical failure. Developing the argument that this critique is the fallout of a dysfunctional relationship between adaptation and theorization in the humanities, this essay examines particular problems that have arisen in adaptation scholarship as a result of adaptation’s and theorization’s impasses: tensions between theoretical nostalgia and theoretical progressivism, theoretical sprawl, failures in citation, mythological field histories, and transtheoretical field myths, most notably the claim that adaptation studies has been primarily concerned with fidelity of adapting to adapted work. This is untrue. The essay concludes that scholars instead attend to and critique our attempts to force adaptations to be faithful to theories that all too often obscure, neglect, and abuse adaptation.
Pornographic adaptations—erotic parodies of mainstream films—have long been dismissed from critical notice as much because of their allegedly slapdash adaptation strategies as because of their demotic cultural associations. Focusing mostly on commercially produced US films, Chapter 24 traces the history of pornographic adaptations from the softcore exploitation films of the 1960s through “Golden Age” hardcore films such as The Opening of Misty Beethoven (1976) to contemporary DVD and online “XXX versions” and looks in detail at porn versions of Fanny Hill and Psycho (1960). The essay explores how far such film adaptations uncover disavowed erotic subtexts in their sources and considers what the process of porn adaptation can reveal about the more general processes of producing and consuming adaptations.
Adaptation scholars have long debated the proper relationship between theory and practice in adaptation studies. This essay considers the claims of theory and practice, examines the ways they compete in several particular theorists, and comes down on the side of theory, but theory defined in a new way. It urges not that adaptation scholars adopt a new and improved theory of adaptation, but that they adopt new ways of thinking about the activity of theorizing as a series of questions designed to lead to further, better questions. It ends, but does not conclude, with a list of questions that adaptation scholars might profitably explore.
The relationship between translation and adaptation has remained problematic despite the appearance of two books on the subject. The difficulty lies in understanding how both terms are culturally constructed and change over space and time. Chapter 28 suggests that there is no absolute distinction between the two; to look at the relationship between translation and adaptation requires us to study cultural policies and the way creative workers respond to them, and to understand how readers over time have reinterpreted the two terms. The essay considers the lessons ecological models of learning in collaborative micro-cultures have to offer adaptation scholars and translation scholars alike.
Tsai Ming-liang’s 1997 film The River features one of the most challenging scenes in contemporary Chinese cinema: a graphically sexual encounter in a dark bathhouse between two men who belatedly recognize each other as father and son. This chapter uses an analysis of the dialectics of desire and alienation that drives this scene to reexamine some of the implications of cinematic suture—both as it is deployed in this particular film, and also more broadly as a metaphor for the relationship between viewers and a general field of cinematic production.
One of the major expressions of American literary naturalism occurred in the cycle of Hollywood films made during the 1940s and 1950s commonly referred to as film noir. These films revisit and adapt nineteenth-century naturalist narratives via characters constrained by the forces of material environments, past experiences, instinctual urges, and mysterious fates. This article presents a close analysis of two of the most central and critically acclaimed films noirs, The Maltese Falcon (1941) and Double Indemnity (1944). These films blend naturalist narrative conventions with key cinematic devices: environmental constraints, emphasized through staging, high-contrast lighting, and low-angle cinematography; instinctual urges, emphasized through dialogue, costuming, blocking, and close-ups; and fate as a determining force, emphasized through dialogue, voiceover, and flashbacks. These conventions and devices find concrete expression in the thoughts and actions of the films' protagonists, who negotiate their desires for money and sex in the contexts of harsh environments, such as the criminal underworld, the private-detective business, an unsatisfying job, or a failed marriage. These negotiations often conclude with the characters succumbing to their greed and sinking into depravity or death; on rare occasions, however, these negotiations end with a hazy yet significant glimmer of hope. In each case, these movies attest not only to the power of film noir but also to the richness of cinematic naturalism.
This chapter is a chronological overview of some of the key developments in science fiction animated films, using the concept of the “thick text” as a way of understanding how the specific language of animation facilitates the metaphysical and metaphorical address of the genre. The discussion suggests that SF animation speaks to significant moments in the advances in technology and film form, while also referring to the rich tradition of SF literature and illustration. This enables such films to operate as modernist texts in times of social and cultural transition, and to explore notions of “space” and “time” as literal, aesthetic, and analogous phenomena. SF animation allows for a “scripted space” that nevertheless reimagines the world and self-reflexively foregrounds the relationship between scientific and technological interfaces and human creativity, consistently offering key insights about late-capitalist, postindustrial society and the human condition.
Focusing on two Korean War films, this chapter traces the development of aesthetic forms in relation to geopolitics and revolutionary ideology from the 1950s through the eve of the Cultural Revolution. Although Chinese films of the Korean War depict dramatic scenes of battlefields and intriguing strategies, they seek to offer an ideological exemplar rather than exciting stories. The war film articulates a politics of spirit and expresses Mao’s military romanticism. Against the Cold War geopolitics and the fetishism of weapons and through aesthetic, operatic elaboration, the war film holds up heroic, self-sacrificing figures of idealism for the whole society to emulate so as to empower the population. The politics of spirit also projects a cultural internationalism that aligns with third-world nations in the common struggle against imperialism.
This article looks at how the digital culture has transformed Asian films and the Asian film industry. It shows that the Asian connections with the digital have been slowly changing the global film culture, such as the increase in video piracy and the arrival of the inferior VCD. It then looks at how the processes of digital technologies, globalization, and consumer capitalism, have transformed the cinema culture of Asia. It notes that the impact of digital technologies on Asian film culture varies, and that the state of cinema culture differs dramatically across the entire continent. This article concludes that the digital revolution has helped make Asian films more readily available to global audiences, such as through sales, fan culture, and online advertising.