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A Companion to Literature, Film, and Adaptation

  • Erscheinungsdatum: 03.08.2012
  • Verlag: Wiley-Blackwell
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A Companion to Literature, Film, and Adaptation

This is a comprehensive collection of original essays that explore the aesthetics, economics, and mechanics of movie adaptation, from the days of silent cinema to contemporary franchise phenomena. Featuring a range of theoretical approaches, and chapters on the historical, ideological and economic aspects of adaptation, the volume reflects today's acceptance of intertextuality as a vital and progressive cultural force.
Incorporates new research in adaptation studies Features a chapter on the Harry Potter franchise, as well as other contemporary perspectives Showcases work by leading Shakespeare adaptation scholars Explores fascinating topics such as 'unfilmable' texts
Includes detailed considerations of Ian McEwan's Atonement and Conrad's Heart of Darkness
Deborah Cartmell is Professor of English and Director of the Centre for Adaptations at De Montfort University, UK. A former chair and founding member of the Association of Adaptation Studies, she is co-editor of two international journals - Shakespeare and Adaptation . Her recent publications include Screen Adaptation: Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (2010) and, with Imelda Whelehan, Screen Adaptation: Impure Cinema (2010).


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A Companion to Literature, Film, and Adaptation


Literary Adaptation in the Silent Era

Judith Buchanan

When the nascent moving picture industry emerged in the 1890s, its significance in technological, social, and economic terms quickly became apparent. Less clear, however, was the dominant use to which moving pictures should be put. What did they do best? Through what sort of subjects could they most effectively broadcast their technological wizardry, showcase their artistry, and maximize their returns? Was this a medium for recording the world with previously untapped verisimilitude, or a medium in which the fantastical imaginary could be given rein as never before? A vehicle for exploring life as it was, or life as it might be? A medium of description or creation? A mechanism or an art form? Film offered what James Monaco has termed a "neutral template" (2009: 45) to be appropriated differently by producers according to their priorities, interests, and broader thinking about the medium's strengths and potential. And surveying the uses to which this "neutral template" was put in cinema's pioneering years (1896–c.1906) reveals no immediate consensus about where the industry thought it should principally channel its energies. This sustained equivocation about what sort of films it should be producing is graphically reflected in the diverse nature both of production company output and of exhibitors' film programs across this period.

An 1896 Edison catalogue advertising its films to exhibitors, for example, reveals much about the company's breadth of production. Each film subject that Edison had for sale is, as the catalogue introduction announces, "tabulate[d] and concisely describe[d] ... in a manner which will enable our patrons to select intelligently from our list, those pictures which are best suited to the tastes of their audiences" (Herbert et al., 1996: 19). At a cost of £4 for each fifty-foot film subject, the catalogue lists films by genre: "Dances" (stick dances, Sioux Indian dances, Japanese dances, London Gaiety Girl dances, buck dances, and a dancing dog); "Combats" (a Mexican knife duel, a broadsword fight in full armor, a Graeco-Roman wrestling match, female fencers, and a pair of boxing cats); "Military Scenes" (a dress parade, a mess call, a skirmish drill); "Acrobatic Performances" (trapeze acts, head balancing, an Arabian knife tumbler, and a "marvelous lady contortionist"); and "Descriptive Scenes" (a fire rescue scene, a scalping, 'Chinese Laundry' scene, Joan of Arc, and two different scenes adapted from David Henderson's stage burlesque of George du Maurier's popular 1894 novel Trilby ). Some exhibitors may have favored one film genre over another in deciding what was "best suited to the tastes of their audiences." Surviving exhibitors' programs, however, suggest that what was most frequently valued in exhibition venues of the period was variety.

Let us consider one London film program from 1899 to sample the flavor of a picture-going audience's viewing experience from the very early days of the industry. The program of "The American Biograph" exhibited at the Palace Theatre of Varieties in London on September 20, 1899 featured shots of Queen Victoria in her carriage inspecting the Honorary Artillery Company, of "Madame Dreyfus Leaving the Prison" (capitalizing on the popularity of the ongoing Dreyfus affair), of the Henley regatta, of a panoramic view of Conway Castle, of the Meadowbrook Hunt, of a sketch entitled "Man Overboard," and of an international hurdles race at the Queen's Club. And, on the same program, sandwiched directly between "Polo at Hurlingham" and some actuality footage of American naval hero "Admiral D

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