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2019 | Book

Anamorphic Authorship in Canonical Film Adaptation

A Case Study of Shakespearean Films

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About this book

This book develops a new approach for the study of films adapted from canonical ‘originals’ such as Shakespeare’s plays. Departing from the current consensus that adaptation is a heightened example of how all texts inform and are informed by other texts, this book instead argues that film adaptations of canonical works extend cinema’s inherent mystification and concealment of its own artifice. Film adaptation consistently manipulates and obfuscates its traces of ‘original’ authorial enunciation, and oscillates between overtly authored articulation and seemingly un-authored unfolding. To analyse this process, the book moves from a dialogic to a psychoanalytic poststructuralist account of film adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays. The differences between these rival approaches to adaptation are explored in depth in the first part of the book, while the second part constructs a taxonomy of the various ways in which authorial signs are simultaneously foregrounded and concealed in adaptation’s anamorphic drama of authorship.

Table of Contents

Frontmatter
Chapter 1. Introduction
Abstract
The introductory chapter outlines the scope and content of the book, which develops a new approach for the study of films adapted from canonical ‘originals’ such as Shakespeare’s plays. The book problematises field’s current broad consensus that adaptations are heightened examples of the premise that all texts are in dialogue with other texts, so that all artworks inform and are informed by other artworks. The book instead argues that film adaptations of canonical texts partake in and extend cinema’s inherent manipulation and concealment of its own artifice. These source texts, which may have subtle gradations of artifice and verisimilitude in their ‘original’ forms are, to a greater or lesser extent, adapted into film texts which foreground the constructed, re-performative nature of the adaptation in relation to the source—the film adaptation announces that it has an artifice derived from the author in a manner that is quite different from other (non-adapted) films. In order to analyse this process, the book moves from a dialogic to a psychoanalytic poststructuralist account of film adaptation.
Robert Geal

From Barthesian and Bakhtinian to Benvenistene Adaptation Studies: Theories of Film Adaptation

Frontmatter
Chapter 2. Dialogism and the Radical Text
Abstract
This chapter positions contemporary adaptation studies within a historical academic-discursive context derived from the institutional status of its parental disciplines. Throughout most of the twentieth century, literary scholars who looked at adaptations were unconvinced that film was a worthy subject of study, and their analyses of film adaptations favoured a perceived fixed authorial meaning in the ‘original’, against which an adaptation was judged. Methodological developments, such as poststructuralism, which problematised fidelity-dominated adaptation studies, had little direct impact on the study of adaptation because of the field’s then un-institutionalised status. This bias was eventually overcome, but not until various Post-Theoretical approaches had displaced poststructuralism’s temporary dominance in film and literary studies. By this historical accident, adaptation studies replaced fidelity analysis not with poststructuralism, but with a model which dispensed with the poststructuralist focus on the importance of the radical critic in relation to the inevitably ideological text. The dialogic approach to adaptation studies developed a shift from radical critic to radical text, and sought to account for radical filmmaking interpretations within adapted texts. This approach centres on displacing the original’s author as fixed and final source of meaning. However, the chapter concludes by arguing that this authorial displacement has other unintended consequences which undercut this activist stance.
Robert Geal
Chapter 3. Poststructuralism and the Radical Critic
Abstract
This chapter sets out the psychoanalytic poststructuralist methodology that has been so influential in film studies, but which has not yet been applied to adaptation studies. Three important facets of the broader poststructuralist approach are developed in detail to support the book’s subsequent argument. These facets are: (1) poststructuralism’s fundamentally political project, with a focus on the combined importance of ideology and the unconscious; (2) Jacques Lacan’s concept of the Symbolic Order, which is the realm that creates imagined identities that individuals assent to occupying, but which is incomplete, so that fissures inevitably appear. The foregrounding and concealment of these fissures constitute the anamorphic process which binds individuals into the Symbolic Order; and (3) the application of Lacan’s anamorphism to film theory, with realist film grammar an inevitably incomplete articulation of the Symbolic Order, and with the foregrounding and obfuscation of that incompletion a masochistic process which gives film its ultimate ideological effect. The chapter ends by pointing towards how film anamorphism contrasts with dialogic understandings of the film text, which is developed in detail in the next chapter.
Robert Geal
Chapter 4. The Dead Author and the Concealed Author
Abstract
The final chapter in the first half of the book examines the differences between the two approaches discussed in the previous two chapters. It begins by setting out in detail the poststructuralist approach to canonical authorship that informs the book’s analysis of adaptation. Derived from the broad poststructuralist account explored in the previous chapter, this approach is situated in Benveniste’s distinction between two enunciative registers: discours, which reveals the source of its articulation, and histoire, which conceals that source. Christian Metz uses these registers to analyse how film grammar reveals and conceals the filmmakers’ articulative status. The chapter sets out how the registers can be used to analyse how film adaptation reveals and conceals the original author’s articulative status, which I call the ‘drama of authorship’. The detailed elaboration of this process is undertaken in the second half of the book. The focus in this chapter is on setting out the theoretical groundwork for this subsequent taxonomy, and on how the approach differs from, and addresses the unseen consequences of, dialogic approaches to adaptation derived from Barthes and Bakhtin.
Robert Geal

The Drama of Authorship: A Taxonomy of Anamorphic Authorship

Frontmatter
Chapter 5. ‘Fainomaic’ Adaptation from the Verbal to the Visual
Abstract
The second part of the book is an extensive taxonomy of the drama of authorship which was introduced in the first half. The taxonomy uses Shakespearean films as a case study. Each part of the taxonomy conducts sustained textual analysis of key scenes from numerous Shakespearean adaptations which demonstrate different elements of adaptation’s anamorphism. This chapter addresses the most ubiquitous of these elements—the adaptation of some verbal dialogue, which foregrounds authorial origins, into visual images, which obfuscate those authorial origins. In order to distinguish this form of adaptation from a different form which is explored in the next chapter, I define the suppression of Shakespeare’s enunciating presence in favour of a seemingly ‘un-authored’ cinematic unfolding as a ‘fainomaic’ adaptation. I derive this from the Ancient Greek verb fainomai, meaning ‘to appear’, since it makes the verbal appear as the visual. The chapter breaks down this form of adaptation into a number of distinct categories.
Robert Geal
Chapter 6. ‘Állagmic’ Adaptation from Shakespearean to Non-(/Less-)Shakespearean Settings
Abstract
This chapter explores the ways in which foregrounded authorial enunciation is manipulated in relation to filmic shifts in location, language and character (most notably into adaptations set in a contemporary context). I define this as an ‘állagmic’ adaptation, from the Ancient Greek noun állagma, meaning the process of ‘change’ or ‘replacement’. This form of adaptation is not as ubiquitous as that explored in the previous chapter, because these shifts are optional, rather than inherent to adaptation. The principal delineation within this chapter is between those adaptations which shift contexts while keeping foregrounded Shakespearean dialogue, those which change this dialogue in part, and those which replace the dialogue (almost) completely.
Robert Geal
Chapter 7. The Drama of Foreknowledge
Abstract
This chapter addresses another element of canonical authorship which adaptations may foreground and subsequently obfuscate: audience foreknowledge about narrative events and famous passages of dialogue. It positions this anamorphic process within a reflexive context, derived from the idea of metacinema developed in Chapter 5 and from theoretical approaches to how perception operates in relation to the illusory movement of still images in cinematic projection. Adapted narratives can include visual clues about this foreknowledge, which are signifiers of artifice, but are also simultaneously suppressions of the verbal into the seemingly un-authored visual. The drama of foreknowledge, then, like the dramas of vision and of authorship, is an inherently anamorphic process. The chapter also explores how adaptations can subvert foreknown narrative conclusions and how this process is executed in an anamorphic manner which draws attention to, and subsequently obfuscates, the subversion.
Robert Geal
Chapter 8. The Drama of the Diegetic Author
Abstract
This chapter analyses those films which narrativise the lives of canonical authors. Such films are not adaptations in the strict sense, but they feature the same kind of anamorphic processes outlined in the preceding chapters, and narrativise many of the themes underlying adaptation studies’ competing conceptions of authorship: in these films, the author’s status as either dead or concealed is most clearly explored. These films foreground the artifice of narratives associated with the authors but then include numerous examples of those narratives occurring ‘spontaneously’ in the diegetic authors’ lives. This is the anamorphic process writ large—a signifier of artifice quickly displaced with an obfuscation of that artifice. These films also facilitate heightened examples of dialogic academic criticism. They therefore make a good final study which sums up how competing academic approaches to adaptation can analyse certain important facets of their subject matter, but are incapable of exploring other ideological elements.
Robert Geal
Backmatter
Metadata
Title
Anamorphic Authorship in Canonical Film Adaptation
Author
Robert Geal
Copyright Year
2019
Electronic ISBN
978-3-030-16496-6
Print ISBN
978-3-030-16495-9
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-16496-6