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This book posits adaptations as 'hideous progeny,' Mary Shelley's term for her novel, Frankenstein . Like Shelley's novel and her fictional Creature, adaptations that may first be seen as monstrous in fact compel us to shift our perspective on known literary or film works and the cultures that gave rise to them.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Introduction

Introduction

Literature, Film, and Their Hideous Progeny: Adaptation and ElasTEXTity argues on behalf of creative adaptations that reread and rewrite prior works of art, forging new perspectives and variant ways of looking not simply at source texts as their origins but at the creative means by which adaptations come to be. My hope is that the analyses that follow can model for students, readers, and viewers a way of engaging cultural production that promotes greater openness to the ingenious if challenging conversations that can take place among creative works across time and medium. Because of their potential for promoting cross-textual conversations and observing connections among sometimes very dissimilar works, studies in adaptation, when construed broadly, invite a kind of critical thinking that moves viewers and readers beyond their comfort with inherited boundaries and preexisting patterns.1
Julie Grossman

Journeys and Authorship

Frontmatter

1. “It’s Alive!”: The Monster and the Automaton as Film and Filmmakers

If hideous progeny and the mutating narrative of the Frankenstein story can be considered a critical lens for understanding adaptation, the films Gods and Monsters and Hugo demonstrate an obsession with artistic progeny and offer an analogy between textual adaptation and the ability to shift perspectives on earlier life and work. In the narrative of Gods and Monsters (1998) and Hugo (2011), filmmakers are seen as refashioning materials in life and art. In fact, the films are strikingly similar: They both fictionalize the life of an important director in cinema history, James Whale (Ian McKellan) and George Méliès (Ben Kingsley) respectively. These directors are, as the stories told in these films begin, lost—alienated and depressed. Having repressed the experiences of their early filmmaking successes as these gave way to personal trauma, the two men are brought back to life by the workings of another male figure who has his own personal psychological agenda; Clay Boone (Brendan Fraser) and Hugo (Asa Butterfield) seek meaning in their lives after having been left or abandoned by their fathers. Redeemed and revivified by their relationship with the boys they encounter, Whale and Méliès come to terms with their past: they “rejoin the living,” in the case of Méliès, and rest in peace, in the case of Whale, who commits suicide after confronting his guilt and regret surrounding past (Barnard) and present (Clay) “creatures” he has loved. However, as I hope to show, both films explore the relationship between the magical and the monstrous, affirming the power of “hideous progeny” to reveal new ways of seeing the past and the present.
Julie Grossman

2. Lightening Up: Reappearing Hearts of Darkness

The chapters in this book represent conversations of a sort among texts related to one another. Clear sources, pointed or loose adaptations, indistinct influences, “quiet adaptations” (see Chapter 5), or intertextual resonances—the subjects, topics, and texts I address in this book generate meaning through their relationships. Such meaning is not limited to the varied perspectives on human experience and culture these works establish, but extends to the idea and issue of perspective itself: its importance as the critical and creative linchpin of humanities-based teaching, writing, and cultural conversation. Indeed, in their recent book Adaptation Studies and Learning, Laurence Raw and Tony Gurr argue that “adaptation studies has the potential to open up new paths for collaborative work in the humanities, film, and media studies, thereby strengthening their position in the higher education institution” (5).1
Julie Grossman

3. Hideous Fraternities: The Coen Brothers Hit the Road

Joel and Ethan Coen’s O Brother, Where Art Thou? revisits the theme of the journey, interpreting Homer’s Odyssey by way of Preston Sturges’s Sullivan’s Travels (1941), the source of the film’s title. In Sturges’s film, John Lloyd Sullivan (Joel McCrea) is a film director weary of making silly hit comedies such as “Hey, Hey in the Hay Loft” and “Ants in your Plants of 1939.” With the nation still in the pre-war throes of the Great Depression, he sets out to make a serious film, to be titled “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” about the suffering of the unemployed. His plan includes first going undercover as a hobo. Sturges’s film reveals Sullivan’s journey to be foolhardy and affirms the role of comic art rather than high-toned “message pictures” in providing escapist entertainment for the common person.
Julie Grossman

Textual and Marginal Identities

Frontmatter

4. Imitations of Life and Art

The works called Imitation of Life—Fannie Hurst’s 1933 novel and its two film adaptations, John M. Stahl’s in 1934 and Douglas Sirk’s in 1959— investigate a series of ideas about selfhood and identity, adapting not only previous texts but also a cultural history and debate about “passing.” Resonating powerfully with novels about passing, such as Nella Larsen’s Passing (1929) and Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye (1970), this sequence of texts reveals how adaptations display their richest meaning in conversation with other works. Often these adaptations are deeply self-conscious about their provisional nature as singular free-standing texts. The Imitation of Life texts tap into reader and viewer ambivalence about representations of race and of gender roles. The wildly varied responses these works elicit suggest their importance in examining the ways in which adaptations can ignite discussion about differing perspectives on textual and cultural matters. These works raise issues of fixity and change that are at the heart of adaptation theory, as well as of American cultural politics.
Julie Grossman

5. The Quiet Presence of “The Yellow Wallpaper” in Todd Haynes’s Film [Safe]

In Far from Heaven (2002), filmmaker Todd Hayne’s mash-up of Douglas Sirk’s Imitation of Life and All That Heaven Allows (1955), Haynes levels a contemporary critique of conventional notions of selfhood and identity that is in conversation with the Imitation of Life sequence discussed in the previous chapter. In this chapter I want to posit another of Haynes’s films, [Safe] (1995), as the “hideous progeny” of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 1892 short story “The Yellow Wallpaper,” a classic American text about selfhood and oppressive social institutions that anticipates by a century Haynes’s critique of cultural disciplines that objectify and repress human desire, especially that of women. Further, his film subverts the principle of ameliorative art, a shallow optimism that thinks a feminist position can only be imagined in terms of paradigms of role-modeling.
Julie Grossman

6. Musical Theater and Independent Film

This study argues for a broad concept of adaptation, one that recognizes the extent to which works born of other works often do not inhabit source texts or try to recreate them but shift, sometimes aggressively, our perspective on another text, just as good critical readings choose a point of emphasis in relation to their object(s) of inquiry. Adaptation is an act of independence that acknowledges what is most interesting to the adapter about a previous work of art, stretching its identity into new media and different socio-cultural or historical eras.
Julie Grossman

Immersive Theater and the Monstrous Avant-Garde

Frontmatter

7. Adapting Time and Place: Avant-Garde Storytelling and Immersive Theater

In 2011, the Punchdrunk Theater Company brought its intriguing “immersive theater” mash-up of Macbeth and film noir to Chelsea warehouses in NYC. Supporting the show’s attempt to create a holistic mood that goes beyond a traditional performance “stage,” “SLEEP NO MORE” is inscribed on the sidewalk yards away from the entrance to “The McKittrick,” which is the character of the dormant hotel in which the show takes place (Figure 7.1).
Julie Grossman

8. Time Will Tell: Adaptation Going Forward and Film at the Art Museum (Christian Marclay’s The Clock)

Christian Marclay’s 2011 video installation The Clock, a 24-hour film comprised of thousands of film and video clips drawn from the history of cinema and television, stretches the idea of adaptation into the realm of avant-garde art. Synching the clocks and watches featured in each clip to real time over the course of a 24-hour period, The Clock exemplifies an idea of adaptation that fully divorces the process of revisiting earlier texts from a dyadic model (origin/adaptation). Like immersive theater, The Clock assumes its viewers to be utterly part of the film, challenging not only the idea that the viewer or audience is distinct from the art itself but also the notion that film is opposed to life. Instead, viewers’ lives correspond to filmed fiction: the very moments experienced by the viewer are represented within the film, thus exemplifying the world-making Jenkins describes in his analysis of transmedial adaptations: “More and more, storytelling has become the art of world building, as artists create compelling environments that cannot be fully explored or exhausted within a single work or even a single medium” (414).
Julie Grossman

9. Cape Fear, The Simpsons, and Anne Washburn’s Post-Apocalyptic Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play

In describing the power of Christian Marclay’s The Clock, Daniel Zalewski has written, “By presenting a day in the life as a ceaseless parade of fictional narratives, [Marclay] had confirmed Joan Didion’s dictum that ‘we tell ourselves stories in order to live’ while reminding us that we are all going to die.” Appropriately enough, the final chapter of this study explores Anne Washburn’s musical drama Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play, which premiered in 2012, about a group of survivors of the fall of civilization recreating episodes of the long-running animated Fox television series The Simpsons. The play engages not only television but also film, music, theater, and popular culture in general, leveling the playing field of sources and adaptations in a post-apocalyptic setting. While it argues for the dire necessity of retelling stories in times of trauma, Mr. Burns avoids the fatalism implied in Zalewski’s comment; instead, the play imagines stories, including reframed ones, as creative forces that look forward instead of backward. Washburn’s play suggests the vital role adaptation can play in crafting a future in which our real and imagined worlds merge.
Julie Grossman

Epilogue

In his book Hollywood Remakes, Deleuze and the Grandfather Paradox, Daniel Varndell reminds us that “One cannot watch a film for the first time twice” (5). In every subsequent reading or viewing of a book, film, play, or work of art, the text will always be a figure of adaptation, since stories change over time in our personal and cultural imagination, even without an “adapter” there as a catalyst for such evolution. The changes in the individual and cultural reception of a work suggest that agency in the process of adaptation is shared and shifting, just as the identity of a text shifts as it is read, viewed, and performed differently over time. The broad view of adaptation this study has argued for embraces the vast potential in adapting stories, which are always already rewritten by virtue of changing reception habits, practices, and desires. Meeting that potential depends upon the openness of readers, viewers, art-goers, audience members, and creative artists to the changing—often radically mutating—emphases in the content and form of texts and media.
Julie Grossman

Backmatter

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