Multiliteracies in ELA Classrooms

Adapting the Adaptations– A Fair Comparison?

July 6th, 2014 · No Comments

Adapting the Adaptations– A Fair Comparison? By Justin Bolivar.

Daniel Radcliffe is Harry Potter, Jennifer Lawrence is Katniss Everdeen, Leo is Romeo, Gregory Peck is Atticus Fitch, but there is no way in hell that Rooney Mara is Lisbeth Salander.

Why is it imperative in our roles as readers and viewers that we have specific bonds with characters? Do we feel violated when a film adaption casts someone in a role that is not what meets our mind’s eye? Do we also feel cheated when a character is adapted that does meet our expectations?

In Bortolotti and Hutcheon’s article “On the Origin of Adaptations: Rethinking Fidelity Discourse and “Success” — Biologically,” they discuss the idea that “[a]s a biologist and a literary theorist, [they] decided to look to the possibility of new questions and answers for narrative adaptation theory by investigating the relevance to cultural adaptation of the insights about adaptation in post-Darwinian biology.” (444) In the work, they establish that there is a homogenous relationship between Darwinian biology and how we culturally adapt texts. The key question that the article asks is “how useful is this kind of reductive judgmental discourse in determining either the artistic significance of a work or its cultural impact or even its vitality?” (444)

When considering that an adapted text “stands on its own as an independent work, and can be judged accordingly” (444-445), I think back to Wolfgang Iser’s text “Interaction Between Text and Reader.” Iser states that every “literary work has two poles, which we might call the artistic and the aesthetic: the artistic pole is the author’s text, and the aesthetic is the realization accomplished by the reader.” (391) If a text is presented to the reader or viewer, and they adapt the text to their own meaning. If we split a text into the artistic and aesthetic poles, then every time we read or view a text we adapt it to our own lens, and impose a personal adaptation. So even if a text is adapted from folklore or a book to a visual representation, as a reader or viewer we then adapt the text again. Since we are in a mode of constantly adapting, I agree with Bortolotti and Hutcheon’s idea that adaptations need to stand alone as independent works, and that it is not a fair to either text to look at them in unison.

When we think of literary adaptions in the classroom, we tend to favour print texts over visual texts. Why is this the case? Looking at the example of “Romeo and Juliet,” my school advisor was adamant that the 1996 Baz Lurman film be shown at the end of the unit, and that we should stick to reading the play as a class. However, if we are studying the text as a play and not a community reading activity, then are we really teaching it effectively? When approaching the unit, I first started with the community reading approach, but found that our classroom “adaptation” was not conducive to learning, so I sought out several visual versions of the play, and as a class, we discussed the differences in film, stage, and oral adaptions of “Romeo and Juliet.”

Works 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.

Iser, Wolfgang. “Interaction Between Text and Reader.” Book History Reader. Eds. David Finkelstein and Alistair McCleery. Oxon: Routledge, 2006. 391-396.

Tags: adaptations · multiliteracies · Visual Literacy

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