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2018 | Book

Screen Adaptations and the Politics of Childhood

Transforming Children's Literature into Film

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About this book

This book features a cutting edge approach to the study of film adaptations of literature for children and young people, and the narratives about childhood those adaptations enact. Historically, film media has always had a partiality for the adaptation of ‘classic’ literary texts for children. As economic and cultural commodities, McCallum points out how such screen adaptations play a crucial role in the cultural reproduction and transformation of childhood and youth, and indeed are a rich resource for the examination of changing cultural values and ideologies, particularly around contested narratives of childhood. The chapters examine various representations of childhood: as shifting states of innocence and wildness, liminality, marginalisation and invisibility. The book focuses on a range of literary and film genres, from ‘classic’ texts, to experimental, carnivalesque, magical realist, and cross-cultural texts.

Table of Contents

Frontmatter
Chapter 1. Introduction: ‘Palimpsestuous Intertextuality’ and the Cultural Politics of Childhood
Abstract
Using Linda Hutcheon’s coinage ‘palimpsestuous intertextuality’ (A Theory of Adaptation. London and New York: Routledge, 2006, 21), this chapter (and the book) conceives of adaptations as ‘multilaminated’ texts, inscribed with memories and traces of other intersecting texts that resonate through ‘repetition without replication’ (21). This chapter argues that this way of understanding adaptation is particularly appropriate to scholarship related to children’s textual culture, given the radically intertextual nature of the primary material and the prevalence of retold stories. The chapter presents an overview and synthesis of contemporary theoretical approaches to adaptation and their relevance to the analysis of adaptations for young people. A common thread of the chapter and subsequent chapters is an interest in the politics of childhood; that is, how childhood is conceived and represented in adapted texts for and about children, and in the recurrence of certain texts and genres within the adaptation industry for young people.
Robyn McCallum
Chapter 2. The Imperial Child and the Romantic Child: Film Adaptation as Cultural Capital
Abstract
Chapter 2 focusses on a small selection of ‘classic’ children’s texts that have been adapted multiple times, and that span the three so-called golden ages of children’s literature (1865–1910, 1950–1970, and 1990–2010). Focussing on multiple film versions of single texts from different historical periods, the chapter examines the impact of changing cultural and ideological contexts for the representation of childhood and the function of adaptations for the survival, modification and transmission of cultural ideologies. The three focus texts, Treasure Island and the first two recent Chronicles of Narnia adaptations, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian, all depict children who are displaced into an ‘adult’ world where they must take on adult roles and responsibilities. This displacement functions to explore the nature of childhood in the late nineteenth century, the middle of the twentieth century, and the early twenty-first century. C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles and Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel in particular have also been subject to shifting interpretations, and successive adaptations reflect those shifts.
Robyn McCallum
Chapter 3. The Dream Child and the Wild Child: Adapting the Carnivalesque
Abstract
Historically, film adaptations of children’s texts have been heavily influenced by the dominant ‘Hollywood aesthetic’ of cinema. Chapter 3 focusses on four film adaptations that interrogate and/or offer alternatives to that aesthetic, through their adaptations of two ‘classic’ carnivalesque children’s texts: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (Carroll, 1865 and 1872) and Where the Wild Things Are (Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are, 1963). Both texts implicitly interrogate official culture in ways comparable to the traits of carnival identified by Mikhail Bakhtin. Both have been interpreted from a diverse range of critical perspectives and shaped ways of thinking about childhood as a relative state of disempowerment and empowerment. The focus film adaptations envisage the carnivalesque spaces of Wonderland and the Wild Thing’s island as dystopian heterocosms, and by drawing analogies between discourses of childhood and contemporary global politics these films raise questions about the possibility of alternative world orders. Further, their mixing of film styles and genres results in films that offer a cultural alternative to the hegemony of mainstream children’s film.
Robyn McCallum
Chapter 4. ‘Flapping Ribbons of Shaped Space-Time’: Genre Mixing, Intertextuality and Metafiction in Fiction and Film Adaptation
Abstract
The radically intertextual, playful and often metafictive modes of fiction for children presents film-makers with innovative opportunities, as well as posing challenges as texts cross media and genre. Literature and film for children both exist at the intersection of a number of other discourses, genres and intertexts, which they appropriate, adapt and mix, and, as a multimodal means of communication, film is a particularly hybridic medium with a unique range of resources at its disposal. Focussing on a small number of books and films that push the boundaries of audience, genre and form, namely The Princess Bride (Golding, 1973; Reiner, 1987), Stardust (Gaiman, 1998; Vaughn, 2007) and Inkheart (Funke, 2003; Softley, 2008), this chapter explores the phenomenon of genre mixing and narrative experimentation in both literary and film texts for children.
Robyn McCallum
Chapter 5. Angels, Monsters and Childhood: Liminality and the Quotidian Surreal
Abstract
The classic bildungsroman structure of many narratives for young people is apt to map transitional subjectivities onto a metanarrative that implies that childhood and adulthood are unified states of being that an adolescent transitions between. While grounded in a substantive ‘reality’, fantasies, in uncanny, Gothic and magical realist modes conjugate that reality with the fantastic and the surreal, and have the capacity to disrupt conventional metanarratives, render character subjectivity and the fictive world fluid, liminal and ambiguous, and offer a range of imaginative possibilities. Focussing on film adaptations of David Almond’s Clay (2005; directed by Andrew Gunn) and Skellig (1998; directed by Annabel Jankel), and Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie (2012), a loose reworking of the Frankenstein story and its filmic progeny, this chapter examines how magical realist and Gothic fantasy strategies are used in literature and film to blur distinctions between the real and the fantastic, thus creating a world of the quotidian surreal and raising questions about the nature of being and knowledge.
Robyn McCallum
Chapter 6. Invisible Children: Representing Childhood Across Cultures
Abstract
The position of film within the global cultural economy and its popularity, hybridity and intertextuality, makes it of particular interest when adaptations cross cultures. It is also, however, an area that is potentially beset with difficulties, as adaptations that cross both media and culture can raise ethical, political, ideological and aesthetic issues. Chapter 6 focusses on texts that move between Eastern and Western cultures: the Disney Corporation’s adaptation of the Chinese Mulan story, Mulan (1998); Jingle Ma’s Chinese adaptation, Hua Mu Lan (1999); two Japanese anime adaptations of British novels, Howl’s Moving Castle (Jones, 1986) and The Borrowers (Norton, 1952); and English and American adaptations of The Borrowers. Cross-cultural migrations such as these raise questions about the portability of the cultural traditions and metanarratives underpinning aesthetic traditions and the politics and ethics of adapting across cultures, but they also foreground the ways in which ideologies of childhood, subjectivity and national identity are culturally nuanced through the operation of cultural metanarratives.
Robyn McCallum
Chapter 7. Epilogue
Abstract
Adaptation studies has been a growth area of scholarly research and debate for at least five decades and more recent developments in the field have had significant implications for research in children’s youth literature and culture. While not drawing any definitive conclusions, this chapter briefly summarises the ground that has been covered in preceding chapters and indicates possible directions that further studies might take with the continued expansion of new medias and the more recent resurgence of interest in fidelity as a way of understanding and teaching adaptation as an interpretative practise of cross-fertilisation amongst writers, screen-writers, film-makers and audiences that continues to reflect on and question changing cultural concepts of childhood and youth.
Robyn McCallum
Backmatter
Metadata
Title
Screen Adaptations and the Politics of Childhood
Author
Robyn McCallum
Copyright Year
2018
Electronic ISBN
978-1-137-39541-2
Print ISBN
978-1-137-39540-5
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-39541-2