Books in Motion: Adaptation, Intertextuality, Authorship

Books in Motion: Adaptation, Intertextuality, Authorship

Books in Motion: Adaptation, Intertextuality, Authorship

Books in Motion: Adaptation, Intertextuality, Authorship

Excerpt

Even though, as has often been noted, the history of adaptation is as long as the history of cinema itself, the critical and theoretical debate about adaptation was not established in the academy until the mid-twentieth century. Critics as diverse as Graeme Turner (1993: 39), Imelda Whelehan (1999: 17), Robert B. Ray (2000: 44–5) or Barbara Hodgdon (2002: v) have underlined the importance of the institutional history of film studies for an understanding of the different shapes adaptation theory has taken since its inception. Film departments, and the field of film and literature, began to emerge in the United States and the United Kingdom in the 1960s and 1970s out of English literature departments, inheriting the main assumptions of the dominant New Criticism and liberal humanism. These hinged on a view of the literary work as unitary and self-contained, and of meaning as immanently inhering in the words on the page, an immutable essence to be apprehended by the (fundamentally passive) reader. Such assumptions depended, in their turn, on an as yet unchallenged faith in the sovereign Author as source and centre of the reified text— as, ultimately, what careful, indeed 'reverential' close reading would reveal in the literary work. The words on the page, emanating from the Author-God, were sacrosanct—witness the hostility to translation (Ray 2000: 45) and the downgrading of the element of performance (Marsden 1995: 9; Worthen 1998: 1094) within the New Critical and liberal humanist paradigms. In this context, while not necessarily alluding to Walter Benjamin's 1936 essay 'The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction', first published in English in 1968, adaptation studies up to the late 1970s resonated with Benjamin's argument that mechanical reproduction, most pre-eminently film technology, obliterates the 'aura'—i.e. the authenticity, authority . . .

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