Towards a historical turn?

Adaptation studies and the challenges of history

Authored by: Gregory Semenza

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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Let us acknowledge at the start that adaptation scholarship, generally speaking, is sophisticated and thriving. Someone needs to say it. For decades now—since Dudley Andrew’s characterization of adaptation discourse as “frequently the most narrow and provincial area of film theory” (1984: 96)—many scholars have seemed almost guilty about their professional interest in adaptations. As I have argued elsewhere (2015: 6), authorial laments about the field’s backwardness, in both article and book introductions, have hardened into tropes almost as predictable and ritualistic as the anti-fidelity declaration still proffered by so many authors. Andrew was right about the field thirty years ago, and even today, it is easy to understand the sorts of neuroses an institutional identity crisis such as ours (we’re not quite film studies, and we’re not quite literary studies) might cause. I think even the most formidable critics of adaptation studies would be hard pressed, however, to argue convincingly that the field is in toto more provincial or narrow than other ones. Moreover, in the past decade, the influences of poststructuralism, postcolonialism, feminism, cultural studies, and even evolutionary biology have helped to redefine adaptations as sites of a fascinating and limitlessly complex cultural and intertextual dialogism that has profoundly impacted the historical development of both literature and film. 1

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