Not just the facts

Adaptation, illustration, and history

Authored by: Thomas Leitch

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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Writing as a lowly adaptation scholar, I presume in this chapter to offer advice and assistance to historians who clearly do not believe they need either one. In fact, their published descriptions of cinematic history make it unlikely that they would be inclined to give a serious hearing to a scholar of either adaptation or cinema. One of the great ironies of history is that just as historians were becoming more self-conscious and tentative about their own claims to be telling the truth, cinema arrived on the scene to provide a convenient scapegoat, an increasingly extensive corpus of works that could never, in the view of a surprising number of historians, tell the truth. The determination of what William Guynn has called the “scientific” (2006: 16) history that arose toward the end of the nineteenth century to distinguish itself from earlier history, “an unregulated form of discourse” produced by “amateurs” (2006: 16), was followed a century later by a crop of historians who

acknowledged the role of subjectivity in the production of scientific discourse. […] Indeed, it is only in taking their critical distance from the facts stored in historical archives of all sorts that historians are able to winnow the grain of history from the chaff of myth and ideology and pass judgment on the errors of their predecessors.

2006: 26

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