Multiliteracies in ELA Classrooms

Entries Tagged as 'adaptations'

some thoughts on adaptation

July 11th, 2014 · 1 Comment

Our group’s presentation on adaptation led to some interesting class discussion. One point worth considering is that of authorship. Some link authorship more tightly with ownership. For these, the process and product of adaptation might be more touchy—the notion of honouring the original text is important, which is to say the new adapted material must uphold a particular artistic standard. It somehow must be “true” to the original. I’m curious what drives these feelings of loyalty toward novelists, screenwriters and directors.

The negative reaction to Van Sant’s Psycho is a curious one. Having seen many film adaptations, the criticism I’m accustomed to reading often outlines how the new film fails to capture the spirit of the former. Key details were missing; the performances lacklustre; the director somehow missed the point. In these instances, the places of deviation are problematic for the critic. And yet when a skilled craftsman remakes a classic, honouring it so carefully and particularly that the outcome is a virtual replica, critics don’t like that either. They snivel, “What was the point?” A loose adaptation is dubious and a facsimile futile. My conclusion here is that when source material is considered a masterpiece, there is simply no winning. The emotional attachment to the former is too powerful for the critic to use an objective eye.

The piece by Bortolotti and Hutcheon is useful because it potentially liberates us from that challenging position. Adaptation is central to who we are as a species; we continuously evolve— socially, mentally, even physically. Our narratives evolve too; they adapt and survive. Written work, film and television continue to be produced at a dizzying rate. Clearly we have an insatiable appetite for stories despite the fact that identical scenarios and similar plot lines are revisited over and over again. When our position is less emotional, we allow ourselves to study work for what it is and not what it was. As teachers, it seems this is a better place to be to help students engage with the growing body of material around them. Those that disagree with this point might consider the usefulness of their position as well as what drives it.


Tags: adaptations · Uncategorized

Film, Television, and Adaptation

July 10th, 2014 · No Comments

I remember when i was going through elementary and secondary education, that the most valued ideas were ideas written on paper, that most things online are evil, and that film, television, music, any other medium of presentation was purely for entertainment. Nothing could bring critical thought to the table if it was not in print form. However, I did love watching adaptations of my favourite books come to life in the movie theatre. I think I remember the first one I ever watched in the theatre – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. It caused my heart great joy to see it on the big screen. However, I was deeply saddened when many of the tasks that Harry, Ron, and Hermione have to go through in order to get the Philosopher’s Stone. Overall though, I was thoroughly impressed that through the magic of cinema they were able to depict a world that blew and stretched my imagination even further. I kept wanting to watch these movies because of it.

This idea of adaptation and how Bortolotti and Hutcheon express their ideas on treating the adaptation as an original work in and of itself is quite curious. I totally agree with this idea for many reasons. First, this idea of what a “text” is in British Columbia is a pretty ambiguous term. Teachers use film and television in the classroom in order to use the time for marking or to give the students a break from intense course work – as a form of reward for finishing the unit for the most part. Rarely have I seen teachers use film as a method of critical thinking. The only instance I have seen film used as such was in a Philosophy 12 class at my practicum school. His rationale behind it was that films reflect current philosophies, textbooks reflect past philosophies. Ultimately, he wanted his students to be aware of who they were as individuals.

Secondly, as teachers, we always teach our students how to compare and contrast and even synthesize two or more texts in an essay. Bortolotti and Hutcheon advise their readers that adaptations should be treated originally because of this. We should be able to engage in critical thinking not only with the text that we see on the page, but the text that we see performed. This distinction between the two is rather curious. During my practicum, my SA was concerned with the final project that I assigned my English 11E class. I told my students to create an adaptation of Act V in Othello in whatever way they could as long as it doesn’t take away from what the original text is saying. I had projects ranging from so many different genres – Hitchcock thriller, The Avengers, a really bad kung fu dubbed movie, a dark socialite world in high school, and a simple modern day application. All these projects ended up being amazing and it turned out that my SA had reservations about the project because he wasn’t open to the idea of adaptations as, in his view, they often strayed away from the original or were never as good as, case in point, the fidelity discourse.

– Kevin

Tags: adaptations

On Adaptations…

July 9th, 2014 · No Comments

During our presentation yesterday on adaptations, Teresa brought up the idea that the “original” text may not always depend on chronology; rather, it may simply refer to the text that an individual experiences first, and forms an attachment to. There is an example of this in the reading, when Bortolotti and Hutcheon discuss the adaptations of the narrative of Romeo and Juliet. When people compare film adaptations of Romeo and Juliet to the “original text”, they almost always compare it to Shakespeare’s play, which as we know is not the “original” text but an adaptation in itself. Shakespeare’s version, because of its popularity and its status, is what most people consider to be the source text of this narrative; it is therefore what people (even those who perhaps have not read the play but are still aware of it through collective cultural knowledge) have an attachment to. People measure their subsequent experiences of this narrative against their experience of the play, engaging in a fidelity discourse that is not in fact directed towards the “original” text.

I would like to once again explore this phenomenon in the experience of music. As I mentioned in class, music lends itself to this type of reverse fidelity discourse because of the expansive nature of genre and sub-genre within the medium. Covers are a common form of adaptation in music, and because covers often cross-genres in radical and profound ways, new audiences are often exposed to songs from genres that they may never have been interested in before. This sometimes leads listeners to hear cover songs before their “original” counterparts, and also increases their chances of attachment towards the adapted piece, as it falls into a genre that they most likely (having sought it out) prefer and relate to. Hearing the “original” piece, after forming this attachment, may not satisfy the listener; they may find themselves sensitive to the perceived shortcomings of the “original” as compared against the covered version. The listener therefore engages in the same type of critique as those engaged in fidelity discourse over texts such as Romeo and Juliet, but in a reversed order.

The two above examples illustrate some of the limits to the usefulness of fidelity discourse; because it revolves around the concept of “proximity to the original” it leaves itself vulnerable to individual or even collective interpretation of what the “original” text is; if someone hears “Hurt” as covered by Johnny Cash before they hear “Hurt” as originally performed by Nine Inch Nails, they will carry a personal attachment to Cash’s version of the song, whether technically “original” or not. In a similar way, it seems to be the pervasive belief that Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is the “original”, rendering the other source texts negligible to the larger cultural perception. When I consider this limitation, I feel more inclined to follow the suggested critical strategies of Bortolotti and Hutcheon concerning adaptation.

Tags: adaptations

Adaptations, Caliban and The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

July 7th, 2014 · No Comments

Does life imitate art or does art imitate life? This question has been asked in thousands of classrooms – from Harvard university to Lac La Hache middle school.  But what if these questions have been leading us astray? What if art is life? What if art has the same biological imperative to replicate and spread its genetic code, like the rest of us genetic slaves vying and vetting each other from cradle to grave? What if Macbeth has its own parasites to fool – dodging this way and that so it can pass on its progeny? If so, who are the parasites? Who are its predators? Who does Art mate with? And what does it mean for Art to evolve? What would a chromosome look like in a poem?

According to Zoologist Matt Ridley, “In history and in evolution, progress is always a futile, Sisyphean struggle to stay in the same relative place by getting ever and ever better at things. Cars move through the congested streets of London no faster than horse-drawn carriages did a century ago. Computers have no effect on productivity because people learn to complicate and repeat tasks that have been made easier. This concept, that all progress is relative, has come to be known in biology by the name of the Red Queen, after a chess piece that Alice meets in Through the Looking Glass, who perpetually runs without getting very far because the landscape moves with her…Every creature on earth is in a Red Queen tournament with its parasites (or hosts), its predators (or prey), and above all, with its mate. (Ridley 11).

Through this lens, our genes are adapting fast enough to outsmart our competitors, parasites and predators. Our genes are driving our bodies (gene vehicles) on a continuous treadmill that won’t allow us to stop evolving. We cooperate and conflict like crabs in a bucket. Anything that threatens the spread of our DNA is a threat. Anything that helps is a friend or a mate.

The Garden of Eden isn’t about a garden. It’s about the human burden/responsibility of choice, it’s about Pandora, it’s about temptation. Like the human body, The Garden of Eden is a vehicle to pass along genetic scripts – human characteristics and traits that have been left after millions of years of evolution. The depression and shame of Raskolnikov is the result of certain evolutionary demands of the genus Homo 3 million years ago. Today, that same shame is portrayed in the movie The Machinist with Christian Bale. Both texts evolved in Red Queen fashion for their times. Crime and Punishment was a great novel, but it could never compete with Breaking Bad today.

If Art is alive and created about us and for us and by us, then why do we not embrace it like our kids? And why do we always seem to reject new Art? Why did it take so long to appreciate Duchamp’s toilet? Why did Gogol die in poverty? Well, maybe its because deep down these texts carried the hard truth of our burden to evolve. It’s painful! It’s literally death to us! And perhaps we instinctually resent and reject it for its pain and throw nostalgia, money, ethos and anything we can to slow it down. It’s same instinct as the proverbial, “Can you believe kids today?” or “Computers are turning us into Robots.” We really don’t want to run anymore.

And like the parent who takes his bratty, loud kids to the play centre in Macdonalds, the artist sends his or her adaptation in the world. Most people will hate the art but if the art somehow contains the raw truths of the Genetic codes of people, it will survive. Shameless Adaptations like, The Passion of the Christ, are always suspect.

We tend to disregard adaptations of the classics: “The manifest ubiquity of narrative adaptations in contemporary culture notwithstanding, the critical tendency has been to denigrate them as secondary and derivative in relation to what is usually (and tellingly referred to as the “original.” (Bertolottim, Hutcheon 443)

Because of the times we live in, these adaptations tend to be associated with film and abridged novels. I remember my elderly grade 8 English teacher reprimanding me because I watched the movie The Outsiders before the book. The movie wasn’t real, according to her. It wasn’t real in the same way I believe now that emoticons aren’t real English. The fact that we denigrate these particular Adaptations is cultural, but the impulse is biological. Perhaps, we resent these adaptations because of the burdens we carry to adapt and transform if we are going to survive.  And when our lives have been dedicated to studying and proclaiming expertise and authority on “real art,” new art and mediums can work to undermine the human capital we have worked so hard to acquire. Why would a Shakespearian scholar welcome the replacement of Julius Caesar with The Sopranos? This would only work to undermine his or her survival and reproduction value.   These new forms offer little economic or social incentives to an “expert” in the field.  When we dismiss Bieber’s Baby and deny it as a timeless classic, are we parasites? Are we Predators? Are we mates? Maybe we are all three at once because Art only dies when it is ignored.

The more we hate Artistic works, the more they come to life in spite of us. It’s like Lady Gaga once said, “People will talk, so let’s give them something to talk about.” And we did. We talked about Elvis’s pelvic thrusts and we were disgusted as we tuned into “Meet the Kardashians” and regretted ever signing up for Facebook while scanning our news feeds. We have been appalled by mutations. And we, soon to be crusty old teachers will denounce some electronic device that claims its art twenty years from now and throw up our arms in evolutionary exhaustion proclaiming it’s not real, it’s not real. Some of us might even say, “Sit down, put your head phones in and I want those Conventions of Reality Television Essays and the Canonical works of Reality Television tweeted in by the end of class.”  While the evolutionary treadmill motors on,  and some agent is trying to sell a “Meet the Kardashians” adaptation to a rich virtual reality art producer in the Hollywood hills. The literary genes will continue to find a way.

–Brian Boyce


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.

Ridley, Matt. The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature. Harper Perennial, New York, 2003.





Tags: adaptations

To adapt or not to adapt, that is the question

July 7th, 2014 · No Comments

In my opinion, Bortolotti and Hutcheon present a fine argument in trying to get people to snap out of the expectations that an adaptation of any variety should not be considered as a “success” based upon the fidelity it has in accordance with the original work. They present an argument that is highly interesting in discussing that we should take a biological approach in discussing how successful a piece is based upon three characteristics, which are: persistence, abundance and diversity. They present that our expectations of an adaptation is much too singular and they argue that there is in fact a need to expand our horizons and base an adaptations success on it’s own characteristics (based upon cultural influences from the time) and not only upon our own expectations of what the work derived from. They say that we as a culture make our decisions of an adaptation based upon how close it is to the original, instead of acknowledging the fact that there has been a story told in a similar way before, but what we are seeing is a change to the story.
Their take of the “profound process” that is adaptation is one that I find quite persuasive and that I believe should be taken into serious consideration while considering adaptations of a work. Something that I agree with is that there needs to be recognition of what the adaptation is. Like in biology, the evolutionary traits of where the piece or organism comes from. We need to recognize that one is not better or worse than the other, rather there has been a change. Like with mutation there may be a benefit, detriment or neutral effect after the change has occurred; we should decide strictly upon what is being presented at the moment in time and not based upon where it comes from. The description of what has changed is what is important and whether or not proliferation happens from the new form is what is essential to understand. They present the idea that in order for something to be fairly judged and not just based upon similarities to the original, one must take into account the cultural significance of the time and what is popular and relevant. I find that the arguments they present are a generalization of the population, however I agree with the need to look as adaptations as a completely separate piece of work and take an increased biological ideological approach to what it is we are experiencing through a different medium.
It is in my belief, that diversity is something to be celebrated and not thwarted or cut off. What makes us different is what makes everyone and everything interesting. Just because we do something differently doesn’t necessarily mean that we are wrong and I believe that that is what the authors are trying to get across. Diversity and the change is what makes us want to read or watch something; if we knew exactly what was going to happen or how they were going to portray a piece then why would we watch it? There needs to be something different to engage us and keep us entertained and watching as opposed to just reusing the same material over and over again.
Overall, I found the article to be something of great interest. I believe that there is immensely profound work done through adaptations that largely get overlooked because of what the general public believes should or should not happen. We become those that know more than the artist does through their own personal interpretations and we get so caught up in what we think is right based upon what we know from the original, that we cannot see past our own ideas. I am talking in a very general and widespread way, however I believe that many of us do this. Keeping all of their arguments and ideas in mind, I hope to become a person that respects an adaptation for what it is and not analyze it based only upon where it came from.

Roberta Coleman


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.

Tags: adaptations

This Is Just To Say

July 6th, 2014 · No Comments

The Law of Conservation of Energy states that energy may not be created or destroyed, only changed in form. All creative endeavours are subject to the same Law. We do not create out of nothing but simply change or utilise mediums to produce an effect: a representation of the cognitive process which deigns us to place this next to that, chip away here or there, mix this with a cropped version of that, take this short story and rewrite it for the stage.

But why am I not satisfied with the thought only or the inner mind’s vision? Why do I seek to engage certain objects and often in ways they may have never imagined? Why does a particular scene hold a significance for me or lead me to think that to capture it would be an or the ultimate expression of my artistic thought? Why does a poem inspire me to manipulate its language for my own ends? And what makes me think that at any point what I am doing is creating? The piece (the work) is the material manifestation of the drive which leads me here—the passion which compels me to make art.

Some artists admit their predilection for collage or pastiche. We even have words like collage or pastiche to lend credibility to this sort of endeavour. But it is all as such. We are all simply changing that which was already there. Not some postmodern apathetic notion of the futility and unoriginality of existence in this time. It is a continuum upon which we sit. Ashes to ashes…paint to canvas. The matter remains the same only altered by the contortions we exact upon it. And despite its inclinations otherwise. To be an artist is to be despotic with ones tools. I make them do what I want them to do; I change them in form.

When I put paint to canvas it remains paint and canvas. I have simply exacted a juxtaposition neither the paint nor canvas had the will or means to exact. I do not create, therefore, I rearrange. Art may not be created or destroyed, only rearranged in form. This is how I make art.

Such is true with the adaptation. Indeed, this Law of Conservation of Art insists that adaptation is inevitable. There is no reason why one might argue beyond personal proclivity that the media of raw language or visual representation is any more valid than an already extant piece of writing. Indeed, art must evolve in order to exist and this evolution requires, along with the altering of raw materials, that certain works are co-opted and changed in form.

I have stated
the argument
that was in
my brain

and which
you may or may not
in a new post

Forgive me
it was inevitable
so sweet
and so cold

~ gunita.

Tags: adaptations

“Using Graphic Novels […] in the Urban High School” Response and Prompts

July 6th, 2014 · No Comments


Frey and Douglas do a succinct job of explaining how graphic novels are useful educational tools in the classroom. It was also interesting to see the themes and ideas within the texts being transferred into the students’ own written works. Though it is not explicitly stated, the authors seem to imply two main ideas: that graphic novels (and popular culture in general) are only resonant in the urban/diverse classroom in cities like San Diego, and that students must find some sort of personal connection or parallel to the text in order to enjoy and make use of the literary-visual materials they are given as classroom texts. With increasingly “wired” classrooms, distances between urban, suburban, and rural classrooms are decreasing.

While they do not explicitly deny the universality of graphic novels within popular culture, they do not include this idea in their discussion. It is also important to acknowledge that there is a boundary between what was/is taught and what specific media students take personal cultural ownership of. As educators we should certainly respect what students claim as their own and what would not be fruitful to teach.

With the risk of stating the obvious, graphic novels and other media (film, television, art, etc.) are not only enjoyed and read worldwide but these stories –  those outside the reader’s frame of reference – can leave a lasting impression. An experience or narrative that does not fall within ones own purview can often teach us the most. Art Spiegelman’s MAUS (being an easy example) shows us the experiences of those persecuted and those who witnessed genocide first hand in World War II. This is a text that is often taught in classrooms, and not only within urban and inner-city contexts. Students may have trouble taking perspective and connecting to seemingly distant experiences but it is our job to bridge this gap. Once this division is diminished, what can be gained becomes all that more expansive to the reader.

Question(s) to ponder:

1. Can there not be an intersection between what is “teachable” and appropriate and what students already have a pre-existing interest in reading/viewing? How do we tread through material that students may want kept out of classroom analysis and dissection? What sort of consultation should we doing with our classes?

2. Where is there more value in literature (graphic or otherwise)? Do we take more from a recognizable narrative or from one completely outside of our own knowledge? Do we take different ideas and meanings from both, to the point where we are comparing “apples to oranges?”


Graphic Novel as Prompt

During my B.A. at SFU, I was exposed to a few different graphic novels. The one that stuck out for me the most was Ann Marie Fleming’s The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam. Fleming uses the – very open – format of the graphic novel to explore and display her own personal and familial history. The narrative is centred around the author’s relatively mysterious/unknown great-grandfather Long Tack Sam, a world famous vaudevillian in the early 20th century. The text is also accompanied by a film where a lot of the images have been taken and adapted from and put in the novel (and vice versa). What is most fascinating about the text is its intersectionality and how it transcends genre. Within about 160 pages we see: memoir, autobiography, biography, geographic exploration, history (Canadian and international), cultural interaction and exchange, etc. All of these themes and ideas are doubled (or squared, we might say) in the format of the film.

This overt openness of the graphic novel genre and format leads back into the idea of the graphic novel as prompt. Again, there is a value and importance in students taking an assigned text and turning into something of their own. Not only does this move us away from the passive mode of simply reading and accepting a text but it also encourages students to continue the narrative in a direction that they find meaningful. The students can also have endless choice in how they want to present their resulting creative texts.  Some may wish to work alone, other collaboratively. Some may wish to follow the children’s book format (e.g. Sendak’s The Miami Giant), others in an audio visual format (E.g. Long Tack Sam). Students can have constraints on what topics they are considering/presenting, and how much time they get, without being limited by how it is presented. With increased accessibility through the internet, such assignments/projects can more easily be created and shared worldwide.

Possible assignments/prompts:

  1. Create a children’s book based off of a Shakespearean play, such as Julius Caesar.
  2. Create one page of a comic book/graphic novel translated from a canonical text, e.g. To Kill a Mockingbird.
  3. Adapt a frequently studied graphic novel/comic/picture book into a one/two/three act play, e.g. Death of a Salesman as a generic guideline.
  4. One group creates a video/theatrical representation of a graphic novel, the other a text-based representation.
  • What does this transfer do to the story? What is lost or gained in this translation? Which genre/format does what for the reader/viewer? -> How can students be meta-cognitive of the process of creation/publication?

Discussion prompts:

1. Fleming ends up doing a lot of self discovery in addition to revealing more about her family’s past. Is it feasible to get our own students to do similar kinds of research and the self-reflection and -realization that comes out of this searching? There is undeniable value in bringing everything back to the self. How or should we ask this of our students?

2. What graphic novels or visual narratives do we connect with? Are these the same kinds of texts we would want to adapt into our own perspectives and narratives?

3. How might a graphic novel prompt be used when classroom resources and technology are limited? Seeing as how the genre is open, how can we as educators work around these sorts of limitations while still giving students to opportunity to, as Ezra Pound said , “[m]ake it new”?

-George Frankson

Works Cited

Fleming, Ann Marie. The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam. New York: Riverhead Books, 2007.

Frey, Nancy, and Douglas Fisher. “Using Graphic Novels, Anime, and the Internet in an Urban High School.” English Journal 93.3 (2004): 19.

Some suggested texts to use as prompts (which will be brought into class for our perusal and consideration):

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie | | Louis Riel: A Comic Strip Biography by Chester Brown | The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam by Ann Marie Fleming | The Castafiore Emerald by Hergé | The Last Musketeer by Jason| Watchmen by Alan Moore | The Miami Giant by Arthur Yorinks & Maurice Sendak

Tags: adaptations · graphic novels · Seminar Prompts

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

A “Graphic” Novel: Safran Foer’s Tree of Codes

July 4th, 2014 · No Comments

American author Jonathan Safran Foer recently published his own interpretation of one his favourite novels. He took The Street of Crocodiles (originally written in Polish, translated into English) by Bruno Schulz  and completely gutted it by die-cutting out the majority of the text. It is basically impossible to read but it is visually stunning and shows us how we can adapt the written text into an interactive art piece.

It is not graphic in the standard sense but it is still visually arresting for the reader/viewer.

There is a especially fascinating video (the bottom video) showing the production of the work, something we take for granted or do not always consider.

Take a closer look at this fascinating piece of work:

-George Frankson

Tags: adaptations · graphic novels

On “On the origin of adaptations” (and, inevitably, Shakespeare)

July 8th, 2013 · 1 Comment

Before I start, can I just say that I’m amazed that I didn’t know Richard Dawkins coined the term “meme”? My life is forever changed.

 I’ve chosen to post a blog about “On the origin of adaptations” because I’m really interested in film adaptations and movies in general. I was a Film Studies minor during my undergrad (the one where you study movies, not the one where you make them). This minor wasn’t due to any special talent or deep knowledge of film; mostly I just wanted to sit around watching and talking about movies. So. I am now going to proceed to sit in front of my laptop and type about movies.

 While I was initially a bit baffled by the idea of “homology” between biological and film adaptation, after reading through the article I find value in the comparison. I like that the article points out that “biology does not judge adaptations in terms of fidelity to the ‘original’; indeed, that is not the point at all” (445). While film adaptations are often panned for going “off the script” of the source material, biological adaptation necessitates this kind of change. Perhaps, like biological adaptations, film adaptations should attempt to improve upon the originating material and adapt to changing social and cultural environments. This is summed up quite nicely in the article’s simple formula: “narrative idea + cultural environment = adaptation” (448). Math!

 The article touches on an issue that I fondly call the Shakespeare Exception, in that Shakespeare is celebrated as high culture despite containing certain elements of style and subject matter which, when they appear in any work not written by Shakespeare, are disdainfully labeled low culture. In the article, the Shakespearean Exception is that we don’t criticize Shakespeare for straying from the source material he used to write Romeo and Juliet, whereas we so often critical of more modern adaptations that do the same thing. (To learn more about the source material for Romeo and Juliet, you can watch this awesome video by Young Adult fiction author John Green.) Another example of the Shakespearean Exception that I rather obsessively must mention is that of the pun.  Shakespeare’s plays are packed with line after line of shameless and wonderful puns, yet when I make an especially punny joke involving the words duty and doody, I am not celebrated for my brilliant Shakespearean wit (as I rightfully should be).

 Before I sign off, I feel the need to bring up an issue not dealt with much in the article that complicates the idea of adaptation, and that is the fact that adaptation is not always a strictly book-to-film process. In these mad times of ours, we have board games, action figures, and TV series being made into films. We also have films being adapted into books, comics, and other media. Indeed, adaptation is a messy and unpredictable thing: just as Twelfth Night became She’s the Man, the dinosaur became the chicken.

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.

– Allison

Blog post #1

Tags: adaptations · Uncategorized