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January 06, 2022



January 06, 2022

More Decks by aadams

Other Decks in Education


  1. Adaptation Analyzing the process of filmic change Title: Nov 7

    - 11:56 AM (1 of 26)
  2. In Spike Jonze’s 2001 film, “adaptation” is more than a

    title; it’s a conceit. The wildly inventive film, which narrates the seemingly un­ filmable story of a screenwriter’s unsuccessful attempt to adapt Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief, exploits the biological, interpersonal, sociological, and journalistic uses of the term, jumbling them together in a solipsistic narrative that formally effects the very process it seemingly denies­adaptation. We have neither world enough nor time to delve into all the aspects of adaptation touched on in Jonze’s work, but we will spend the semester keenly investigating the process Kaufman’s screenplay so cleverly deconstructs­“the transfer of a printed text in a literary genre to film” (Desmond and Hawkes 1). Title: Nov 7 - 12:03 PM (2 of 26)
  3. As Jonze's film suggests, the process of adaptation is central

    to movie making in general, but the film industry, critics, and movie audiences tend to reserve the term for quite specific instances of this filmic "transfer." In other words, we often choose to see only a small portion of films based on written texts as adaptations proper. Title: Nov 8 - 9:51 PM (3 of 26)
  4. When is an adaptation not an adaptation? For the most

    part, a filmic adaptation is only considered a filmic adaptation if the “original” written text is widely known, discussed, and studied in its own right. In other words, adaptation only counts as adaptation when critics discuss the author­ity of a filmed version by analyzing it in relation to its literary predecessor. Did you know these films are adaptations? (Don't worry if you didn't­­they are rarely discussed as such!) Title: Nov 8 - 10:57 AM (4 of 26)
  5. From movie version to film classic­­the trajectory of the "successful"

    adaptation: Many films that were originally billed as adaptations are no longer marketed as such. In some cases, the popularity of the film has eclipsed the source material ( Jaws); in others, the quality of the film far surpasses the quality of the written text (this is particularly evident in Gone With the Wind, Doctor Zhivago and The Godfather). Ironically enough, one way to measure the success of an adaptation is to see how infrequently industry insiders, critics and scholars refer to it as an adaptation at all. As George Bluestone notes in Novels into Film, "film­makers still talk about ‘faithful’ and ‘unfaithful’ adaptations without ever realizing that they are really talking about successful and unsuccessful films. Whenever a film becomes a financial or even a critical successthe question of 'faithfulness' is given hardly any thought. If the film succeeds on its own merits, it ceases to be problematic." When an adaptation is not an adaptation pt. 2 Title: Nov 8 - 9:22 PM (5 of 26)
  6. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view), we

    won't be inhabiting a cultural milieu within which the issue of adaptation ceases to be problematic. The entire semester, we'll be exploring the relationship between a "text in a literary genre" and its filmic interpretation. But before we can move on to an analysis of this complex connection, we still need to justify why we're focusing on literature and determine what qualifies as a "text in a literary genre." Title: Nov 8 - 9:16 PM (6 of 26)
  7. The literary adaptation: There have been a fair amount of

    films that have been adapted from non­literary (and non­fiction) sources, but these works tend to be less interesting from an adaptive viewpointbecause the problem of adaptation is less pronounced in non­fictive transfer. For the most part, non­fictive works use less figurative language and employ much simpler narrative styles than creative works of fiction (which can include poetry, prose and drama). As a result, they transfer well to a visual medium that necessarily displaces the primacy of the verbal icon. The same cannot be said of literary texts, which produce much of their meaning through linguistic play. Critics tend to focus on adaptations of creative texts because these texts create a greater interpretive challenge for a filmmaker. Title: Nov 9 - 9:22 PM (7 of 26)
  8. Taking a creative turn (in a festive frock) : A

    focus on literary adaptation is also justified by the fact that Hollywood itself adapts more creative texts than non­fictive ones. Most films are narrative in nature, and filmmakers have to get their stories from somewhere. Popular fiction has been and continues to be an economically viable source. Title: Nov 9 - 9:33 PM (8 of 26)
  9. Popular fiction's economic viablity, though, does not secure its literary

    viablity, nor its necessary interest as a subject of adaptation studies. In many ways, the stakes of adaptation are only fully evident when both the film and the original text have something special to offer in their own right. If the writing style of the original text is bad, or only capable of generating a sense of suspense that is over once the book is closed, there's no great "loss" in the transfer from the verbal to the visual, as the filmmaker doesn't have to worry about recreating or replacing effects that weren't there in the first place. Rabid fans of the book may lament the loss of scenes or characters, and pop culture gurus may deconstruct the levels of intertextuality, but many scholars rarely feel the need to minutely analyze the adaptive choices filmmakers make when they transfer a popular tale to film. What interests many scholars the most is what will interest us the most, the adaptation of canonical works of literature to film. Title: Nov 8 - 10:35 PM (9 of 26)
  10. On First Looking at Whale's Frankenstein: As much of the

    preceding information has shown, the cultural "status" of the original text determines whether or not its filmic treatment is analyzed as an adaptation at all. Although successful films can eclipse popular precedents and transcend the label of adaption, no film based on a canonical work, no matter how well­ received or "independent" that film is,can escape comparison with the original text. Even very loose adaptations of texts that have only recently garnered canonical status are inevitably discussed as adaptations, even if critics spend all of their time implicitly or explicitly demonstrating how the resulting film necessarily diverges from the text. In this course, we'll be exploring the complex relation between canonical literary texts and their filmic adaptations. Title: Nov 7 - 1:29 PM (10 of 26)
  11. In order to fairly assess a filmic adaptation, we will

    have to determine, in Brian McFarlane's terminology, "what may be transferred from one narrative medium to another and what necessarily requires adaptation proper." In other words, we have to determine what narrative and stylistic elements of the original will have to be changed in order to be transposed to film. Complex Relations­­More than Just a Matter of Transference Title: Nov 11 - 11:47 AM (11 of 26)
  12. In many ways, adaptation studies is a study of translation,

    and we will spend a fair amount of time defining what can and cannot be said in each narrative "language." But before we can determine what is "lost in translation" when a story moves from novel to film (and sometimes back again), we will have to determine what the filmmaker wanted to translate in the first place. In other words, we will have to thoroughly familiarize oursleves with the types of adaptation and be able to discuss these types in our analyses. Title: Nov 11 - 12:11 PM (12 of 26)
  13. Many studies will rightly note that adaptation is a complex

    processthat cannot be be completely systematized into static classifications, but this point does not negate the fact that the adaptations of written texts tend to fall into three inter­ related yet easily recognizable categories. G. Wagner was the first critic to theorize the "magic three" in his influential The Novel and Cinema, and subsequent reclassifications, like those found in Dudley Andrews' The Concepts of Film Theory or our textbook, have only rechristened Wagner's basic concepts. Types of adaptation Title: Nov 10 - 12:55 PM (13 of 26)
  14. Wagner's three varieties of adaptation: transposition “in which a novel

    is given directly on the screen with a minimum of apparent interference” a.k.a., an attempt to precisely transfer, as accurately as the different media allow, a literary text to film (e.g., Jevin Connor's Frankenstein [2004]; Simon Langton's Pride and Prejudice [1996]) commentary “where an original is taken and either purposefully or inadvertently altered in some respect [. . . .] when there has been a different intention on the part of the film­maker rather than infidelity or outright violation” a.k.a., a method translation that changes a significant part of the original text for a specific purpose (e.g., Branagh's Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein [1994]; Joe Wright's Pride and Prejudice [2005]) analogy “which must represent a fairly considerable departure for the sake of making another work of art” a.k.a., a “loose” form of adaptation that uses the text as a “point of departure” (e.g., James Whale’s Frankenstein, Gods and Monsters; Bridget Jones’s Diary, Bride & Prejudice) ` Title: Nov 10 - 12:57 PM (14 of 26)
  15. from Andrews' Concepts of Film Theory (1984): Borrowing a work

    that makes no claims to fidelity or faithfulness; it cavalierly uses the original material for its own purposes [Wagner term: 'analogy'; Text term: 'loose interpretation'] Intersection a work that attempts to render the “distinctness” of a text by focusing on its underlying spirit or idea; it is not faithful to particulars in a text, but it does purport to accurately render the fundamental idea of the text [Wagner term: 'commentary'; Text term: 'intermediate interpretation') Fidelity of transformation a work that attempts to capture the “essential” text on film [Wagner term: 'transposition', Text term: 'close interpretation') Title: Nov 9 - 10:23 PM (15 of 26)
  16. The "Complex Relation" of Adaptation: A Marriage of Equals? Because

    this course is a literature course, we will necessarily be starting with literary works and focusing on how filmmakers translate literary ideas to the screen. That being said, we will not be privileging literature to the point of eliding film and film studies. No adaptation is merely an appendage to its literary original, and no film, no matter how literarily focused, can be "read" in the same way as a verbal text. In order to talk intelligently about these adaptations, we will have to grant the filmmaker his/her donne by analyzing the film according to the type of adaptation it adopts, and we will have to learn some basic film terms so that we can understand how that adaptation "speaks" to us and generates meaning. Title: Nov 9 - 9:18 AM (16 of 26)
  17. Learning the Lingo camera angle (high, straight­on/eye­level, low, canted/dutch) camera

    movement (tilt, pan, track, crane) continuity editing cross­cutting (a.k.a. parallel editing) focus (shallow, deep, racking) lighting (high key, low key, three point) mise­en­scene match (eyeline, graphic, match on action) montage scene sequence shot (long, medium, close­up, establishing, telephoto, zoom, crane, tracking, point of view) shot/reverse shot sound (ambient, diegetic, non­diegetic, bridge, dead track, offscreen, nonsimultaneous, simultaneous) transition (fade in/out, dissolve, wipe, cut, jump cut) [NOTE: these are all forms of editing] voice over Title: Nov 12 - 10:56 AM (17 of 26)
  18. As you may have suspected, we'll be learning the basics

    so that we can utilize the right terminology when we make more sophisticated claims about filmic texts. Throughout the semester, we'll be theorizing the process of adaptation by charting specific adaptative techniques and exploring key concepts in film and cultural studies. In other words, we will be starting with the fundamentals so that we can move into more advanced analyses of the ways in which individual films treat particular literary works. Playing the Theory Card Title: Nov 12 - 11:51 AM (18 of 26)
  19. Taking the "movie version" seriously One thing we will definitely

    NOT be doing in our advanced analyses of the ways in which individual films treat particular literary works is assuming that the film version is necessarily subordinate and/or inferior to the original text. Although we will be very concerned with what is transferred or adapted and how that transfer or adaption is achieved, we will try to avoid making sweeping claims that necessarily devalue a particular medium, or the process of adaptation itself.As Julie Sanders, the author of the New Critical Idiom guide, Adaptation and Appropriation, notes, "Adaptation studies [. . .] are not about making polarized value judgements, but about analysing process, ideology, and methodology." ��������������������������� ������������������������������ Title: Nov 9 - 11:00 AM (19 of 26)
  20. We will only be able to take the movie version

    seriously if we divest ourselves of some fallacies that have long bedeviled adaptation studies. These particular fallacies may be difficult to recognize and redress, but we will never be able to see film adaptation as anything more than a flimsy copy of a "real" original if we do not reject these assumptions. (The following list is taken from Robert Stam's introduction to Literature and Film: A Guide to the Theory and Practice of Adaptation .) 8 Fallacies to Avoid 1. the equation of seniority with superiority: older arts are assumed to be more important than (and better than) newer arts, hence poetry is the platonic ideal of art, classical theatre trumps the novel, the novel is superior to cinema, and cinema is better than TV. This erroneous way of thinking may seem compelling when you're comparing The Odyssey to MTV's My Super Sweet 16, but it doesn't really work if you factor in the established arts. For example, is it reasonable to assume that the greatest novel is necessarily inferior to the most mediocre lyric? Different artistic media express different things. They should be analyzed in their specificity, not pitted against one another in a cage match. Title: Nov 10 - 10:36 AM (20 of 26)
  21. 2. the oppositional thesis: the belief that literature and film

    are bitter rivals necessarily competing for the same audience; critics who implicitly deride adaptation attempt to “save” literature from the onslaught of film. This faulty way of thinking is easily disproven by a study of 20th century literature, which shows a "dynamic of exhange" (to use Keith Cohen's phrase) among poetry, drama, fiction and film, and by the success of movie­ book tie­ins, which demonstrate (in sales numbers) that texts actually gain a wider readership once they are adapted. Last, but not least, this oversimplified binary is undone by the process of novelization, which shows the complementarity of the media. Title: Nov 12 - 11:53 AM (21 of 26)
  22. 3. the celebration of iconophobia: seemingly despite the plethora of

    images that surround us, we live in a culture, and in a world, that is leery of the pictorial arts; all of the major monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) preach against “graven images,” and much of Western philosophy is based on a distrust of representation (Plato’s disparagement of the arts and celebration of ideal forms). As Aristotle demonstrated so long ago, literature is openly responsive to the pictoral arts, and one could argue that the venerable term "ekphrasis" is meant to register this phenomenon. It seems somewhat contradictory to laud one form of art (written literature) that spends a great deal of time doing what we purport to avoid in denigrating film­­looking at pictures. 4. the celebration of logophilia: the written word is necessarily more important than other means of communication. There are legal reasons why this is the case, but we don't need to let legal precedent establish artistic praxis. In this course, you may want to surpress your inner Plato Title: Nov 10 - 10:29 AM (22 of 26)
  23. 5. the privileging of anti­corporeality : film seems to offend

    “through its inescapable materiality, its incarnated, fleshy, enacted characters, its real locales and palpable props, its carnality and visceral shocks tothe nervous system” (Stam). The "embodied" and immediate narture of film may demonstrate one of the many ways in which film narrative differs from written narrative, but this "bodily excess" does not justify a devaluation of the form. 6. the myth of facility : the belief that films take no time or mental energy to make and require no mental effort to comprehend. This is just not true. (By the way, the same argument was used to justify the devaluation of novels, which were considered mere "entertainment.") 7. class prejudice: movies are for the masses; filmed versions of written texts are necessarily “dumbed­down” for the illiterate. Emebedded within this deep­rooted bias are a great many other fallacies (the belief that pictures are necessarily inferior to words, an assumption that movies are "easy" to watch and books are "hard" to read, etc.). Although there may be some adaptations that are "bad," it is erroneous to assume that the very act of adaptation will necessarily "dumb­down" the content. Title: Nov 10 - 11:30 AM (23 of 26)
  24. 8. the assumption of parasitism: adaptation seems to steal the

    life of the original. Like the teens in Clueless, manymovie goers may know their Mel Gibson better than their Shakespeare, but there is no direct evidence that the process of adaptation necessarily takes away from the original. If anything, the process boosts book sales and keeps works on "best seller" lists longer than they would have been without a film tie­in. As many Shakespeare critics note, Shakespeare continues to remain a Bard for all ages because we continue to keep him relevant by adapting him to our own day and age. If anything, film is one of the things that keeps the Shakespeare industry going! Title: Nov 10 - 11:34 AM (24 of 26)
  25. Instead of affirming a priori assumptions about the inherent value

    of adaptation, we will be investigating the purpose and the effects of particular adaptations. In other words, we will be evaluating the necessary choices that filmmakers face when they adapt written material; we will not be judging the resultant filmic "evidence" by standards only appropriate to literary explication. So, if we determine that an adaptation has "failed," we will have to do more than merely judge its "fidelity" to the source material; we will have to determine what it lacks from a filmic perspective. Title: Nov 10 - 11:55 AM (25 of 26)
  26. As Robert Stam notes in the introduction to Literature and

    Film: A Guide to the Theory and Practice of Adaptation, "adaptations engage in the discursive energies of their time, they become a barometer of the ideological trends circulating during the moments of production. Each re­ creation of a novel [or a play or a poem] for the cinema unmasks facets not only of the novel [or play or poem] and its period and culture of origin, but also of the time and culture of the adaptation.” In this course, we'll be exploring not only what these cinematic "re­ creations" say about our contemporary understanding of the texts that they adapt, but also what the films themselves say about the "time and culture" of their own creation. Title: Nov 9 - 10:23 PM (26 of 26)