Project MUSE – A Theory of Adaptation (review)

Linda Hutcheon opens her modern script provocatively : ‘ If you think adaptation can be understood by using novels and films alone, you ’ re wrong. ’ And so she proceeds to theorize adaptation in a kind of media, including as her text poem, novels, plays, operas, radio, and calculator games. Her method, she says, is to ‘ identify a text-based topic that extends across a assortment of media, ’ study it ‘ relatively, ’ and ‘ tease out the theoretical implications. ’ Rather than follow a case-study exemplar, then, she examines not lone the ‘ formal entity ’ or adaptational product but the ‘ process of universe ’ involved in adaptation ; she besides scrutinizes the ‘ process of reception, ’ or how audiences take pleasure in consuming cultural remediations. Because so little work has been done on reception, she focuses on the ‘ modes of engagement ’ audiences experience when being told or shown – or when they interact with – adaptations ; on what happens to an audience when a textbook moves from telling to showing, from one performance medium to another, or from either into a participatory mode, such as that of synergistic video games. She looks at how stories ‘ travel, ’ in chapters on the adaptors and their motivations – economic lures and legal constraints, skill of cultural capital, and political commitments – and on the pleasures of consumption – the know of ‘ knowingness, ’ the common sense of being immersed or ‘ transported, ’ the ‘ comfort of ritual and recognition with the delight of surprise and novelty. ’ She considers, deoxyadenosine monophosphate well, the social and political, transcultural, indigenizing context the critic must investigate when writing about adaptation. Like early recent critics of adaptation, such as Brian McFarlane, Robert Stam, Thomas Leitch, and Julie Sanders, Hutcheon concentrates on overturning the notion of fidelity aesthetics that once governed the discussion [End Page 172] about a redress and its ‘ adapted text, ’ a condition she prefers to the common ‘ master ’ or ‘ informant ’ text. In fidelity ’ second place, she puts culture, and therefore theorizes a floor ’ randomness ‘ action of mutant or adaptation, through adaptation, to a particular cultural environment. ’ Borrowing a model from the biological sciences, then, she posits ‘ cultural transmission ’ as ‘ analogous to familial transmission, ’ but, alternatively of genes, ‘ memes, ’ that, like genes, are ‘ replicators ’ and enable a textbook to compete for ‘ survival in the “ meme pool. ” ’ The fittest stories undergo ‘ cultural excerpt ’ and not only survive but besides ‘ flourish ’ ; the qualities necessary for ‘ high survival value ’ are ‘ longevity, ’ ‘ fecundity, ’ and ‘ copying-fidelity. ’ hera, Hutcheon smuggles back into her theory the notion of fidelity that she had promised to discount, for ‘ copying-fidelity ’ is, as she defines it, a replication that ‘ chang jiang [ es ] with each repetition, whether debate or not. ’ She admits, then, that ‘ some copying-fidelity is needed ’ as a consequence of ‘ changes across media and contexts. ’ Yet she brackets the historical forces and cultural changes that constitute the context in which consumers demand sealed cultural documents in particular historical moments and geopolitical locations ; besides, the industrial and economic structures that affect media production and reproduction and the choices corporations make about both, which are notoriously unmanageable to assess.

such issues, of course, more appropriately suit the case-study model Hutcheon eschews in favor of theoretical probe. And Hutcheon ’ sulfur book is distinctly a foundational textbook for anyone studying theories of adaptation, in any metier. The ledger ’ sulfur careful, intelligent theorize of the discipline – without having deployed the frequently useless categories that many novel-to-film studies spawn – means that scholars, graduate students, undergraduates, and cosmopolitan readers will find it extremely valuable as they think about the kinds, values, and uses of cultural rewritings and remediations. furthermore, Hutcheon ’ south inclusion body of text and media frequently excluded from such studies – opera, calculator games, and so forth – makes this a peculiarly utilitarian bible. It will be a basic textbook for adaptation studies, an sphere just being constituted as a field.

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