Multiliteracies in ELA Classrooms

Zombies, Superheros, and Biology??? Oh my!

July 8th, 2013 · No Comments

Hopefully I was not the only one who began to have vivid memories of cramming high school level biology information into my brain before one of my last finals as a grade 12 student when I began reading this article. My skepticism was at an all time high when there was discussion of biology jargon related to literary criticism. However, both Bortolotti and Hutcheon posit a very interesting cross-disciplinary argument for employing biological adaptation ideology when looking at adaptations of literary works. I really like how the concept of the homologue was used. It emphasized that biological literacy would not replace literary dialogue, but rather complement it in the way it functioned. Both authors provide a strong correlation between various biological concepts (e.g. genotype, phenotype, dynamic and conservative selection), with strong examples that provide a solid grounding of the different terms and how they may function across academic boundaries.

I found the most interesting section to be around the idea of success. Bortolotti and Hutcheon suggest that “‘success’…means ‘thriving’” (Bortolotti and Hutcheon 450). The article expresses that thriving can exist in three ways: the number of copies of a narrative, persistence of the narrative, and diversity of the narrative through a multitude of forms (450). I can relate these concepts to many different franchises that even I love to participate in. Star Wars, Star Trek, and The Hunger Games, just name a few. I also have been thinking about how narrative types are beginning to become more persistent in todays popular culture, one strong example being the post-apocalyptic/apocalyptic story plot. One question the article does not seem to explore is why particular narratives tend to do so much better than others. Why is it that there is this sudden surge of interest in zombies and survival narratives? Where does this thirst for stories about destruction and the end of the world as we know manifest from? A similar example presents itself through the resurgence of popular superhero franchises. Why have there been so many new retellings of heroes like Batman, Superman, Spiderman, and even the X-Men? The article provides one answer, discussing “adaptive radiation” (451) where narratives adapt and modify to different environments they attempt to thrive in (452). In this case, perhaps, the new environment is an older audience who is interested in reliving childhood stories, however in a grittier and more adult way. In the case of the apocalyptic narratives, perhaps we are attempting to suppress rage and destructive manner, a way to express our fears of the possibilities of an impending doom…But to be totally honest, they are also just really awesome to watch!


Work Cited

Bortolotti, G. and Hutcheon, L. (2007). On the Origin of Adaptations: Rethinking Fidelity Discourse and “Success” — Biologically. New Literary History, 38(3), pp. 443-458.

Andrew Knorr


Tags: adaptations · Uncategorized

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