12 Fallacies in Contemporary Adaptation Theory
- There is such a thing as contemporary adaptation theory.
- Differences between literary and cinematic texts are rooted in essential properties of their respective media.
- Literary texts are verbal, films visual.
- Novels are better than films.
- Novels deal in concepts, films in percepts.
- Novels create more complex characters than movies because they offer more immediate and complete access to characters’ psychological states.
- Cinema’s visual specification usurps its audience’s imagination.
- Fidelity is the most appropriate criterion to use in analyzing adaptations.
- Source texts are more original than adaptations.
- Adaptations are adapting exactly one text apiece.
- Adaptations are inter texts, their precursor texts simply texts.
- Adaptation study is a marginal enterprise.
Leading Questions from 5 Collections on Adaptation
(ordered “from least to most interesting”)
- Does the movie in question betray its literary source?
- Does a given adaptation seek to establish itself as a transcription or an interpretation of its source?
- Does the film depart from its literary source because of new cultural or historical contexts it addresses?
- If the movie transcends its original literary source, does that source, however fairly eclipsed by the movie, deserve closer consideration as interesting in its own right?
- Is it possible for a film to recreate what might be assumed to be specifically literary aspects of its source that challenge medium-specific models of adaptation by indicating unexpected resources the cinema brings to matters once thought the exclusive province of literature?
- Is the movie as well as its source subject to cultural and historical contextualization?
- What questions about different kinds of fidelity do adaptations of other sorts of texts than canonical literary works raise?
- How do television adaptations challenge assumptions about the formal and institutional differences between verbal and audio-visual texts that might be overlooked in discussions that restricted themselves to literature and cinema?
- How do adaptations based on non-literary or non-fictional sourcetexts similarly enlarge the range of adaptation studies by revealing the parochialism of theories that restrict their examples to films based on fictional texts?
- How are models of adaptation that assume the primacy of literary texts challenged by the phenomenon of novelizations based on cinematic sourcetexts?
- How must models of adaptation be modified to account for movies that demonstrably draw on other sources than their putative sourcetexts, some of them perhaps even more important in determining its textual strategies?
- When films self-consciously raise questions about their own status as adaptation, what general implications do they offer adaptation studies?
- What implications do characteristic features frequently found in adaptations carry for more general theories of intertextuality?
- How do concepts commonly treated by adaptation theorists as universal change when they cross national and cultural borders?
- How must models of adaptation change to accommodate novels that formally and economically usurp the place traditionally accorded movies?