The ‘art’ of adaption

Posted by | October 25, 2016 | Our past, present and future | No Comments

Literature, Media, Communication

From daring reimaginings of Russian classics like Anna Karenina to audacious adaptions of The Great Gatsby, textual transformation is an integral part of the media landscape.
More than merely recycling stories ad infinitum, this work is prolonging and enriching our relationship with classic fiction.

… adaptations such as the American Homeland series require both cultural and geographical makeover.

Dr Yvonne Griggs, Lecturer, School of Arts

Dr Yvonne Griggs, Lecturer, School of Arts

But what is at stake in these transformations? For Dr Yvonne Griggs, widely published in the field of Adaptation Studies, the ABC’s recently serialised adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina illustrates the ways in which adapters reshape much-loved narratives. Rather than replicating 19th century Russia, scriptwriters Bell and Gavin create a contemporaneous Australian family drama of compelling energy for their 21st century audience.

In her recent book The Bloomsbury Introduction to Adaptation Studies: Adapting the Canon in Film, TV, Novels and Popular Culture, Dr Griggs shows how revered novels transition from page to screen, and explores the creative and industrial processes that affect their adaptation. Consider, for instance, Baz Luhrmannís reverential yet bold makeover of The Great Gatsby, its sound track infused with a contemporary hiphop vibe rather than the jazz of Fitzgerald’s Roaring Twenties. Or the reach and influence of King Lear: appearing as Hollywood studio Western Broken Lance, as Samurai epic Ran, or gangster movie My Kingdom. More than merely recycling stories ad infinitum, adaptations prolong and enrich our relationship with classic fiction.

But it’s not just classic novels and plays that are being adapted: in both her forthcoming monograph, Adaptable TV: Rewiring the Text, and in The Routledge Companion to Adaptation Studies, Dr Griggs shows that television is adapting television. Global remakes of Nordic Noir television crime fiction abound (The Bridge, The Tunnel, The Killing), and are inspiring further adaptations around the world. Critiquing the creative and industrial transactions at work in transforming these texts, Dr Griggs shows how adaptations such as the American Homeland series require both cultural and geographical makeover (from Israel’s Prisoners of War). For Dr Griggs, though, it is TV series Penny Dreadful, a complex, incestuous hybrid adapted from literature of the 19th century (both classic and popular) and cinematic adaptations thereof that encapsulates the art of adaptation in all of its rich complexity.

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