Connor’s clarification of fidelity

Can fidelity be divorced from moralizing judgements?

Connor notes that one of the criticisms leveled at fidelity as used in adaptation studies is that it must fall back on a hierarchy between the adaptation and its source.  That is, per critics such as Ray, fidelity criticism ultimately boils down to the boring discussion of whether or not the adaptation is better than the original–producing the unproductive question, “how does the film compare to the book” (2)?  Connor holds that “fidelity debates provide a way of avoiding questions of quality” (2).

This avoidance is enabled by the ease of comparing two things (e.g. determining faithfulness or matching) as opposed to determining which of two different things is better (e.g. the question of quality or merits).  What fidelity discourse can do when not avoiding questions of quality is highlight a reader’s judgements and ultimately the basis for those judgments.  An adaptation provides an alternative text on which one can judge their judgements about the original text.  Connor notes that he’d rather refer to a ‘prior’ rather than ‘original’ text since there is something about the first text one encounters (be it the original or adaptation) that causes some sort of firm allegiance to it.  And so fidelity discourse is important not for determining faithfulness between source and adaptation but between prior text and reader.  The degree to which a reader wishes to challenge or support a particular adaptation implies a link between reader and text and the reasons for that link are what should be addressed: “Questions of matching or mis-matching address the viewer’s ability to recognize the systematicity of the differences between source and adaptation; question of judgment speak to the perceptiveness of the viewer in recognizing both the systematicity of the individual works and the grounds for her own judgements” (3).

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One Response to Connor’s clarification of fidelity

  1. My comment is in relation to Raj’s statement: “The degree to which a reader wishes to challenge or support a particular adaptation implies a link between reader and text and the reasons for that link are what should be addressed.”
    I am in no way shape or form looking to over-simplify this, but isn’t it true that everyone simply thinks they know better than the “younger generation.” The thoughts that I have are difficult to put into coherent language – so let me try an example. The Great Gatsby is being released late this year or early next year. Everyone who has read The Great Gatsby and studied it as a classic text will most likely be disappointed on some level or another, compared with the younger generation that has not been as exposed to the source novel. This younger generation will most likely enjoy the film much more than the older generation that has more experience with Gatsby. In other words, the link between the reader and text is stronger for the older generation than the younger generation. Is it that simple?

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