Questions at a Crossroads

How can we call into question the validity of an adaptations faithfulness to its source material when discussing adaptation theory?

Leitch says that, like the title of his essay, “adaptation is at a crossroads.” He discuss the various schools of thought and transitions that have taken place throughout the film critiquing era, however one I still am curious has to how this can even be viewed as a legitimate or sound question. It makes me wonder what an adaptation is if not some fleeting or faintly familiar recreation of an idea from one medium to another. If we are no longer concerned with the faithfulness of the adaptation when what are we basing the idea of the adaptation itself on? Is it an adaptation if I am no longer concerned with its relation to the original? This somewhat perplexes me. Bazin was concerned with fidelity and how much of the original spirit is maintained in the adaptation. Now while these could be considered immeasurable units of assessment, I still believe that if one is to address or partake in adaptation studies then faithfulness must be addressed in some shape or form and I am not sure that placing that particular question in the realm of a crossroads discussion about the study at all is viable. However Leitch does acknowledge the contradictions of all schools of thought and discussion on the topic of changing film adaptation studies (which in my opinion should and does include his own theory): “These contradictions between the desire to break new ground in adaptation studies and the constraints of a vocabulary that severely limits the scope and originality of  new contributions are often frustrating, especially to readers who think that they are encountering the same essay over and over and over with only the names of  novels and their fi lm adaptations changed. Increasingly, however, the very same contradictions have generated productive debate.” I suppose to that being a “wordy” person myself I get caught up on the literal words themselves and perhaps thats what is happening here.

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3 Responses to Questions at a Crossroads

  1. amelia daly says:

    I don’t think you are getting too “caught up on the literal words” at all. I too think that it is important to analyze these readings with a certain suspicion. Otherwise we risk settling with a potentially flawed school of thought.

    Your statement, “if one is to address or partake in adaptation studies then faithfulness must be addressed in some shape or form,” was particularly interesting to me. The debates on what constitutes faithfulness, its definition, its value, are so contradicting. It is easy to lean toward letting it go because it seems to bind the artistic freedom of adaptation, however, I think you are right in pointing out that the label of “adaptation” begins to fade if there is no original to associate with. How do we address this? I am not sure. I am beginning to wonder (on the subject of literal word focus) if “faithfulness” is the wrong term. What lies between
    “faithful” and “influenced by?”

  2. Philosophy might help here: contemporary poststructuralist theory would agree that “faithfulness” might be the wrong term. Here’s how wikipedia summarizes the philosopher Derrida, who “argued that the essential feature of a signature was that it had a recognizable form and could be repeated. As soon as a signature has a recognizable and repeatable form, however, it can also be copied or counterfeited. In other words, although a signature is supposed to testify to the presence of an authentic original intention, it simultaneously sets up the possibility of an inauthentic copy.”
    Likewise, there’s not a cause-effect relationship in adaptation, but the two are “mutually dependent” on each other in a certain sense?

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