Two Lists from Thomas Leitch

12 Fallacies in Contemporary Adaptation Theory

  1. There is such a thing as contemporary adaptation theory.
  2. Differences between literary and cinematic texts are rooted in essential properties of their respective media.
  3. Literary texts are verbal, films visual.
  4. Novels are better than films.
  5. Novels deal in concepts, films in percepts.
  6. Novels create more complex characters than movies because they offer more immediate and complete access to characters’ psychological states.
  7. Cinema’s visual specification usurps its audience’s imagination.
  8. Fidelity is the most appropriate criterion to use in analyzing adaptations.
  9. Source texts are more original than adaptations.
  10. Adaptations are adapting exactly one text apiece.
  11. Adaptations are inter texts, their precursor texts simply texts.
  12. Adaptation study is a marginal enterprise.

Leading Questions from 5 Collections on Adaptation
(ordered “from least to most interesting”)

  1. Does the movie in question betray its literary source?
  2. Does a given adaptation seek to establish itself as a transcription or an interpretation of its source?
  3. Does the film depart from its literary source because of new cultural or historical contexts it addresses?
  4. 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?
  5. 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?
  6. Is the movie as well as its source subject to cultural and historical contextualization?
  7. What questions about different kinds of fidelity do adaptations of other sorts of texts than canonical literary works raise?
  8. 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?
  9. 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?
  10. How are models of adaptation that assume the primacy of literary texts challenged by the phenomenon of novelizations based on cinematic sourcetexts?
  11. 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?
  12. When films self-consciously raise questions about their own status as adaptation, what general implications do they offer adaptation studies?
  13. What implications do characteristic features frequently found in adaptations carry for more general theories of intertextuality?
  14. How do concepts commonly treated by adaptation theorists as universal change when they cross national and cultural borders?
  15. How must models of adaptation change to accommodate novels that formally and economically usurp the place traditionally accorded movies?
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About Kevin L. Ferguson

Assistant Professor of English and Director of Writing at Queens
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6 Responses to Two Lists from Thomas Leitch

  1. Pingback: Adaptation Theory Today [Web Class] » Film Adaptation

  2. Laura Callei says:

    Does the movie in question betray its literary source?

    When looking at the clips I was surprised that Drive is an adaptation piece. For me I hated the movie. I thought it was dreadful but from what I heard about the film a lot of people enjoyed the film adaptation in comparison to the text. So based on this it would seem the movie doesn’t betray the literary source however, I can’t answer the question personally because I haven’t read the text.

  3. trevor11 says:

    Looking at the trailer for Drive when examining or attempting to respond to Leitch’s 6th fallacy leads be to believe Leitch is quite mistaken when stating that novels offer more immediate access to a characters psychological state thereby meaning that novels are more complex. Drive however is one, a great film, and 2 extremely psychologically mysterious in terms of breaking down Ryan Goslings character and his true motivations. Its difficult to really determine what he is thinking or what really, sorry for the pun here, drives him. I would argue that with films such as this that create a great cerebral atmosphere and don’t use ridiculous exposition to explain things, you can create deeply complex characters and films.

    • trevor11 says:

      Sorry it seems I answered from the wrong list but I will answer the first question as I too like laura did not know this was a adaptation piece yet I did enjoy the movie. I too also did hear from those who did read the text found the movie to be exceptional, which when discussing any adaptation is a surprising word to hear. Additionally the same individuals also said that while it is different, it also does IMPROVE upon the original text which is another oddity when discussing adaptations. Now given that small block of opinions I don’t think that the source material could have betrayed it but rather deviated where necessary to create a visual text.

  4. Does a given adaptation seek to establish itself as a transcription or an interpretation of its source?

    I would say, in using the examples of Drive and Be Kind Rewind, that the adaptations offer both a transcription and interpretation. In Drive, the text is much different than the film (in my opinion it is an improvement); however, in Be Kind Rewind the two main characters are transcribing the original directly. But, in doing that, they are creating their own interpretation. In the trailer Mos Def’s character says something along the lines of their version of the film is twenty minutes. If that is the case, they are selecting what they essential parts of the film and adapting them.

    • trevor11 says:

      I think that last part of what you said in terms of how Mos Det and Jack Black’s characters are choosing what are the essential parts and putting them into the movie, I feel like this is what many are seeking or upset about when watching a film based on a beloved text because either its not enough of whats essential or its ONLY whats essential. Either way, especially with the nerdier examples (harry potter, batman, hunger games) you get poke by a double edged sword by the outside.

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