Fidelity, medium specificity, (in)determinacy

Identities that matter

Authored by: Shannon Brownlee

The Routledge Companion To Adaptation

Print publication date:  April  2018
Online publication date:  April  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138915404
eBook ISBN: 9781315690254
Adobe ISBN:


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Two principal threads in adaptation theory are the discourses of fidelity and medium specificity. These intersect when we ask how particular media can support or foreclose fidelity in adaptation. Adaptation theorists have charted their frustration with the moralistic ideal of fidelity, but generalisations about what specific media ‘can’ and ‘cannot’ do can be similarly confining, especially when media conventions are conflated with the wider possibilities that materials of expression can offer. Both theoretical approaches intersect and gain a political dimension when we ask how either faithful or unfaithful adaptations in different media can or do construct identities related to questions of social justice, such as race, gender, and age. By attending to questions of fidelity when adaptations test the limits of medium specificity, we can gain a better sense of the different ways identities are constructed, naturalised, and denaturalised, and propose ways of representing and imagining identity that may challenge oppressive social regimes.

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