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  • 1 The expression ‘adapted text’ is favoured by Linda Hutcheon, as her overall intention is literally (...)

1The reasons for the great success of Victorian and Edwardian novels with producers, screenwriters, film directors, actors and spectators alike are many, even if each category involved may have different reasons for being interested in the process. The first that comes to mind is the international popularity of the source1 materials such as Dickens’s A Christmas Carol (1843), Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (1847), or Forster’s A Room with a View (1908). The nineteenth century is acknowledged as the golden age for the full-fledged maturity of the novel as a form, after it was given a double birth certificate with Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe in 1719 and Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels in 1726. From this period onwards, the genre has split into two subgenres: the realistic and the un/sur-realistic, and this dual categorization has also proved useful right from the onset of filmmaking when in France the Lumière brothers and Georges Méliès set to working on two different types of films: the documentary film and the fantasy film.

2The realistic agenda of the nineteenth-century novel spawned Jane Austen’s comedies of manners during the Regency period as well as Thackeray’s developments in the mid-nineteenth century and both novelists may claim a long list of film adaptations of their novels —Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), The Luck of Barry Lyndon (1844), Vanity Fair (1847–48). This vein also generated the numerous novels immersed in social realism during the Victorian era from Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton (1848), Cranford (1853), Ruth (1853), North and South (1855), Wives and Daughters (1864–66), through George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss (1860) et Middlemarch (1871–72) to Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist (1837–39), David Copperfield (1849–50), Great Expectations (1860-61), and A Christmas Carol (1843). Though the last one in the list may claim to be clearly surrealistic, the Cratchit family could also be regarded as one of the best examples of Dickens’s depiction of London’s squalid lives. Generally speaking, the realist novel purported to denounce social problems so as to shock its middle-class readers into awareness and also to suggest possible solutions to these various social issues. Charles Dickens’s Circumlocution Office in Little Dorrit (185557), his Court of Chancery in Bleak House (1852–53), the industrial city of Coketown in Hard Times (1854) were all fictitious inventions but they were so close to actuality that the realities they denounced were transparent to the middle-class reader. Elizabeth Gaskell’s focus on industrialization in Cranford, on the fallen woman in Ruth, on the social-cum-geographical divide in North and South was understood as a systematic denunciation which meant to change mentalities and prejudices. Both social realists gave documentary-like depictions of Victorian towns, societies, characters and problems which the narratives solved in the final chapters because happy endings were still the best way to encourage people to read novels, together with lending community libraries and cheap journals publishing the chapters by instalments. The BBC has made the adaptation of such realist novels its speciality in an attempt to put the nation’s literary heritage on display.

3As to the novel’s properly surrealistic branch, it led to the early Gothic phase of the late 18th–century, such as the Radcliffe romances. The relative eclipse of the surrealistic vein during the middle section of the Victorian era may be credited to the hegemony of the realistic branch, but the romance bloomed once again with H. G. Wells’s science fiction romances of the 1890s, or with tales belonging to the second wave of the Gothic genre, such as Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886), Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), or Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897). Film even more than television has favoured the gothic genre, as its targeted audience may be more the adult or the teenager than the family. Hollywood in the 1930s and Britain (Hammer horror) in the 1950s and 60s catered to these spectators.

4Each one of the titles mentioned above is a classic or masterpiece, which is in Béla Balázs’s definition, ‘a work whose subject ideally suits its medium’ and therefore should not require or even accept, tolerate adaptation (qtd. in Andrew 87). This is more or less what both François Truffaut and Alfred Hitchcock suggested when they shunned adapting literary classics. The directors may have been afraid of scholars’ or fans’ reactions to any tampering with their pet literary works but more probably they considered that these works of art had reached their own perfection as novels and that film, as a medium, as a way of conveying a story, had nothing to bring them. They both preferred to adapt lesser known novels, plays or short stories which they could obviously showcase, so that the potential harm done to the adapted text through tampering with its structure and characterization could be compensated for by the instant celebrity the film could bring the novel and therefore the novelist. Who would have heard of Robert Bloch’s book Psycho without Hitchcock’s film? However, pace Truffaut and Hitchcock, classics have been adapted and continue to spur adapters for both small and big screens, though maybe not by so many famous filmmakers.

  • 2 Once again, I will use Hutcheon’s neutral term ‘knowing’ for people who have read the adapted text.
  • 3 The list provided by Robert Stam is edifying: ‘infidelity’, ‘betrayal’, ‘deformation’, ‘violation’, (...)

5Knowing audiences2 have expectations and demands, and the younger they are, the more conservative they seem to be. Harry Potter fans were particularly adamant when it came to ‘desecrating’ their 7-novel masterpiece. Christopher Columbus, director of the first volume Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001) put it this way: ‘People [understand young fans] would have crucified me if I hadn’t been faithful to the books’ (qtd. in Hutcheon 123). Young readers are less tolerant as to the process of adaptation and the inevitable ‘changes’ that it involves.3 Children want to be told the same story over and over. Linda Hutcheon repeatedly confirms that part of the pleasure involved in reading/ viewing/ interacting with an adaptation ‘comes simply from repetition with variation, from the comfort of ritual combined with the piquancy of surprise. Recognition and remembrance are part of the pleasure (and risk) of experiencing an adaptation; so too is change’ (Hutcheon 4). When Hutcheon therefore suggests that adaptation is repetition, but repetition without replication’ (Hutcheon 7), she knows that one does not automatically entail the other and that for some readers, a masterpiece is a work which ‘a particular audience cherishes and resists seeing changed’ (Hutcheon 122).

6A novel (or series of novels) recently published has not acquired the status of a classic yet and here may the difference lie between the two terms we initially equated: the masterpiece and the classic. Indeed, the classification of a novel as a masterpiece may still be a debatable point as it might be a recently published novel for which we have no hindsight yet. On the other hand, the classic has proved its mettle through time… and through adaptations. The corollary of that remark is that a classic may already have been tampered with, desecrated, violated (see Stam’s list) and that therefore the metaphorical lady is no longer a virgin. David O. Selznick did not worry too much about adhering or not adhering to the details of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847) when he was shown the script for Robert Stevenson’s film (1943) because an audience survey determined that few had read the novel, while he did worry about the details of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca because the novel (regardless of its closeness to the plot of Jane Eyre) had been a recent best-seller, as well as Gone with the Wind, the fidelity to which also preoccupied him (Naremore 11–12). So if we compare a Victorian classic and a recent best-seller, the adaptation of the former is less likely to cause public disaffection when it wanders away from its source text and changes it to suit the new context, the film director’s own preoccupations or the targeted audience.

7The other reason for the predestination of Victorian and Edwardian texts to be adapted to the big or small screen is simple to explain as it is a mercantile aspect: there will be no copyright infringement in this case as the works are now in the public domain. The physical destruction of all the English copies of Nosferatu (1922), F. W. Murnau’s film adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, due to copyright infringement, can no longer happen today as all Victorian and Edwardian novels have outlasted their copyrights by now.

8There is an obvious financial appeal to adaptation as well, since the hazards of investment are in no way similar between an original screenplay and a script adapted from a famous classic or a best seller. In order to avoid financial risks, adapting reliable—that is, already financially successful—stage plays or novels is deemed preferable, even more so when Victorian and Edwardian texts are involved since they are no longer copyrighted. Hollywood films of the 1930s and 1940s intensely relied on adaptations from popular novels, while the BBC has specialized in adapting the culturally sanctified 19th-century novel, respectively the ‘tried and tested’ and the ‘tried and trusted’ (Ellis 3). However we should not simply see in this a negative way of approaching the matter, i.e. a manner of avoiding any risks. It is also a profitable enterprise since, unlike a best-selling book which may reach only a million readers, and a successful Broadway play which will be seen by 1 to 8 million people, a movie or television adaptation will find an audience of many million more as Linda Seger hints in her manual The Art of Adaptation: Turning Fact and Fiction into Film (Seger 5).

  • 4 ‘In the 18th century, the genre of the “Imitation” was particularly popular, its terms and conditio (...)

9Adaptation is not a new phenomenon, far from that, if we consider the case of ‘imitations’.4 Imitation of ancient literature was common practice in Alexander Pope’s century i.e. before the Romantics decided that originality and ex-nihilo creation (whatever that may be) should be praised before all. ‘It is the (post-)Romantic valuing of the original creation and of the originating creative genius that is clearly one source of the denigration of adapters and adaptations. Yet this negative view is actually a late addition to Western culture’s long and happy history of borrowing and stealing or, more accurately, sharing stories’ (Hutcheon 4). The Romantics felt that adapting was stealing and certainly not sharing. And so did the Victorians, when a novelist like Dickens fought a long battle for his own copyrights even if his attitude to stage adapters became less hostile as he realized that a good stage adaptation of his tales and novels was good salesmanship (and, by contrast, a bad one too for that matter). Theatrical adaptations previous to film adaptations were rampant in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, i.e. at the beginning of film. Quite often in fact, early film scripts were derived from stage adaptations which had been popular before, such as The Only Way, the 1899 stage adaptation of Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities (1859) which finally ended up as a 1925 silent film starring the very same thespian idol Sir John Martin-Harvey; or Scrooge, or Marley’s Ghost, the 1901 stage adaptation of A Christmas Carol which was turned into a silent film in 1913 and then again into a talkie in 1935, starring the same old Sir Seymour Hicks, who could claim to have been seen on stage over 2,000 times playing the part. Film thus borrowed both the script and the leading actor(s).

10Other reasons for film’s complex love story with novels may be related to Eisenstein’s theory according to which such a novelist as Dickens could have invented the fundamentals of cinema such as were used by Hollywood pioneer D. W. Griffith: a debatable point if we consider parallel editing as no doubt Shakespeare had used this technique in his own plays such as Macbeth, alternating scenes featuring the tragic hero preparing for battle and refusing to acknowledge the possibility that Birnam Wood should be advancing to his own Dunsinane castle with scenes with his opponents led by Macduff his nemesis. Eisenstein was determined to prove that Dickens had invented film’s basic technique so he continued with his spurious demonstrations, suggesting that the first lines in The Cricket on the Hearth are a close up on a kettle. Yes, why not? Was this kettle in close up the first description that might classify as a close up? One may doubt it very much. And Griffith did not invent the close up in film technique as everyone knows. An English film called The Sick Kitten (George Albert Smith, 1901) features the first close up. But spurious analogies from famous texts by famous artists die hard. That film however was influenced by pre-cinematic devices such as Reynauld’s praxinospcope, the magic lantern or the phantasmagoria, those devices which may have influenced Dickens in his composing the Christmas Carol, is quite sustainable and certainly illustrates the fact that Dickens would have been fascinated by cinema had he witnessed its birth.

11Finally, the importance of illustrations accompanying those texts cannot be put aside without any qualms. Dickens’s novels can hardly be imagined without George Cattermole’s, George Cruikshank’s or Hablôt K. Browne’s illustrations. The 19th century was certainly the period when this trend was in full development and no doubt New Yorker journalist Pauline Kael would have resented that infringement in her imaginative rights too, as she did each time a novel she had not read was adapted, claiming that it restrained her imaginative powers. It was no longer possible for her to imagine the character with a face different from the actor’s. The best way to fight an adaptation in that perspective is to create another one so that both faces will superimpose and merge with one another. There lies once again the advantage of the classic compared to a recently published best-seller which cannot make the most of a number of adaptations and is confined to one actor per character. It cannot be the case for characters such as Dr Frankenstein, Scrooge, Mr Rochester or Fitzwilliam Darcy.

12Illustrations are very close to what Conrad famously wrote about his imagination and his writing practice. It is difficult to contradict George Bluestone who was the first scholar to draw this well-known parallel between Joseph Conrad’s quote from his preface to the Nigger of the Narcissus and Hollywood pioneer D. W. Griffith’s similar intention to make the reader/spectator actually see what they both imagined in their creative minds. It is not possible either to reject the qualification Bluestone brought to this comparison: that ‘between the percept of the visual image and the concept of the mental image lies the root difference between the two media’ (Bluestone 1).

13Film’s quest for respectability as an art is another reason why cinema frequently adapted famous literary sources and especially classics of literature. Adapting a respectable medium such as the novel (born almost two centuries before) lent some credit to the newly born artistic form. But this triple indebtedness—the novel in question, the literary medium itself as well as its respectability—caused the film medium and the film itself to incur the usual critiques of infidelity to the source material. If you mean to use the respectability of the medium you are adapting, you ought to do it credit and honour. If you betray your source, you will face the readers’ dissatisfaction. That is one of the reasons why the BBC never drifts far away from the literary source which it adapts. It stands in awe of its model as it stands in debt to it.

  • 5 Like Scrooge, the first talking adaptation of A Christmas Carol in Britain (Henry Edwards, 1935), A (...)

14Fidelity to the source text (Gone with the Wind, Rebecca, best-seller oblige) or the verisimilitude of fidelity (Jane Eyre) made the heyday of Selznick’s adaptations. The producer meant indeed to give his American audience the verisimilitude of the reading experience by being as faithful as possible to the initial story line and characterization. When it was not the case, as in the case of Jane Eyre, the opening shot showed the spectator the book open on page 1, read by Joan Fontaine, the actress playing the part of the homodiegetic narrator. However, the readers of the literary classic knew very well that this was not the first page of the famous novel. The pretence at fidelity in a 1944 Hollywood movie became actual fidelity for David Lean’s 1946 version of Great Expectations, intending to inform the spectator that he was about to watch a faithful film transposition of the famous classic. The film however cannot be faithful to its source because it is a film and the novel is a novel. This truism should be enough to invalidate any quest for perfect similarity between the novel and the film and therefore should help adapters feel less guilty about the whole process, but classic Hollywood films and the British golden age of film adaptation in the 1940s both tended to stand in awe of that fidelity grail and displayed this feeling by this telltale shot of the first page. More recent films’ playing with this notion tends to illustrate the fact that novels are like the truth. Indeed two recent films—Wes Anderson’s 2002 The Royal Tenenbaums and Joel and Ethan Coen’s 1996 Fargo—have played a similar hoax on their audience. The former suggested that it was adapted from a novel while it was not and the latter claimed it was based on a true story while it was not, as the film’s screenplay, published a year later, made it perfectly clear.5 This similar hoax played on the spectators of two different films pretending to be an adaptation or pretending to be based on a true story indicates that some postmodernist distance has now been taken from the truth, be it the fictitious truth of a literary source or the actual truth of historical facts. Playing with the seriousness of history or literature is the definitive show of maturity for adaptations.

  • 6 Kamilla Elliott’s typology: (1) The psychic concept, (2) the ventriloquist concept, (3) the genetic (...)
  • 7 Gérard Genette’s typology: (1) Intertextuality, (2) paratextuality, (3) metatextuality, (4) hyperte (...)
  • 8 Thomas Leitch’s typology: (1) Celebration, (2) adjustment, (3) neoclassic imitation, (4) revisions, (...)

15Our purpose here will not be to engage directly in the constant debate over degrees of fidelity or betrayal from adapted text to adaptation. Like Linda Hutcheon did in her Theory of Adaptation, we shall clear away from Geoffrey Wagner’s 1975 or Dudley Andrew’s 1980 or Klein and Parker’s 1981 three-tier typologies. We will not try to implement Kamilla Elliott’s six critical approaches based on different ways of conceiving the relations between narrative form and content,6 or Gérard Genette’s five modes of possible relationships between one text and another,7 or Thomas Leitch’s more recent, ten possibilities as defined in his book Film Adaptation and Its Discontents.8 The limited space of this introduction does not allow us to dedicate any more time to the presentation of these various taxonomies. None is perfectly suitable anyway though all are interesting to some extent.

  • 9 Cf. the Odessa massacre in October 1905 (related in Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin, 1925) (...)

16Whenever the adapters mean to drift away from the most faithful transpositions in mini-series, which the BBC still deems a viable and advisable model, they may put the initial story through a process of ‘indigenization’—a term which Susan Stanford Friedman borrowed from anthropological science. Doing so, they have a vast range of possibilities from minimal alterations of a year or two in the diegesis to much vaster changes concerning the ending for example. A shift of a year or two in the diegesis of Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth from 1905 to 1907 is intriguing, because it may seem gratuitous, anecdotal and unimportant if we consider New York City as a locus only. American society did not undergo fundamental changes in two years. Wharton’s novel’s diegesis is set in 1905 and Terence Davies’s film adaptation in 1907. The action lasts less than two years, from September to late April. If the novel was published in 1905, we may suppose the action to be dated from September 1903 to April 1905, or the year before; but certainly not to start in 1905 and end in 1907 as it does in the film. This detail may become more meaningful if we now consider the heroine’s downward trajectory from the upper leisure class of New York City to the working class through to her final unemployment and destitution. The only explanation we could come up with which may account for this shift is the Russian Revolution of October 1905. Only if the story starts in September 1905 can it involve a reference to the Russian Revolution, which it surreptitiously does in the final stages of the film.9

17Other alterations may be much more ambitious. Clémence Folléa’s article in a previous issue (79) of Cahiers victoriens et édouardiens analyzed the range of changes brought to Oliver Twist when she studied the shifts in space-time contextualisations (21st-century South Africa or Toronto). But whatever the far-reaching consequences of these new chronotopes, the proof was made that Dickens’s story was still relevant to our contemporary societies.

18Drifting from its source, the film may propose stunning modifications concerning the ending or the moral of the story, such as Stanley Kubrick did with A Clockwork Orange (1971). When he adapted Anthony Burgess’s 1962 novel to the screen he drew his inspiration from an American edition of the novel, which had pruned the original novel of its final chapter in which Alex Delarge, the ultra-violent droog finds redemption through time (and not through the state-enforced chemical lobotomy). The moral of the American edition is therefore dramatically different from the British one which allows Alex to find redemption when he grows up into an adult. In the American edition, and therefore in Kubrick’s film, Alex is not redeemed and the film’s ending is much more sombre than hopeful. These alterations are to be considered as the visible tip of the adaptive iceberg. There are in fact many different ways of revisiting the source texts and it is the aim of this new volume to allow new analyses to emerge.

19The contributions gathered here focus on the newly acquired type of gender relationships (feminist and neo-feminist approaches), on the space- or time-shifts from hypo- to hyper-texts (cultural studies) or on a new narratological point of view in the transposition process (narratological and intermedial studies). Comparing and ranking adaptations according to their fidelity to the source text is really not on the agenda and simply accounting for what has been lost or gained in the adaptation process is not enough, but rather a close analysis of what the interpreting third party has wished to throw into relief will be necessary.

20Thanks to the processes of renewal, critique, extrapolation, popularization, transculturalization (Robert Stam), this appropriation will be seen from the more positive angle of the inflections brought to the initial text and of the renewed relevance of the work and its author’s ideas and preoccupations, thus avoiding fixation and ‘museification’. In the introduction to her book Adaptation Revisited (2002), Sarah Cardwell drew a parallel between the Darwinian definition of the term ‘adaptation’ and the film and television adaptive practices, thus suggesting that one had to adapt or perish. If the well-known reception theory (or ‘reader response theory’ from the School of Constance with Hans Robert Jauss and Wolfgang Iser) has been influential in these analyses, it is not mentioned probably because it is now part of our common critical heritage and its principles are now obvious and well accepted.

21On the other hand, Brian McFarlane’s 1995 neo-structuralist comparative methodology, Sarah Cardwell’s 2002 pluralist approach as well as Linda Hutcheon’s fundamental 2006 A Theory of Adaptation (revised in 2013) have all been instrumental in the ways the analyses of this volume are developed and supported. Finally, the cross-fertilization between cinema and the other arts (music in two different cases here) as well as interfilmicity itself have also been quite useful to sustain these analyses.

22In short, we shall abide by Hutcheon’s three general definitions of adaptations: ‘an acknowledged transposition of a recognizable other work or works, a creative and an interpretive act of appropriation/salvaging, an extended intertextual engagement with the adapted work’ (Hutcheon 8).

23In his article, Florent Christol from Université Paul Valéry, Montpellier, goes back to the origin of cinema by referring back to a canonical text of the Victorian era: Dickens’s A Christmas Carol (1843). Eisenstein suggested that Dickens was at the origin of many technical devices in film narration such as the close up and parallel editing. The article selected here intends to show that Scrooge’s story is a metaphor of the cinematic experience itself. The miser Scrooge is visited by the three Spirits of Christmas—the Spirit of Christmas Past, the Spirit of Christmas Present and the Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come—and each shows him a slice of life (his own past, Bob Cratchit’s present, and the possible future of both). What is the focus of the article is not the allegorical dimension of the tale or the redemption of an old avaricious uncle, but the way Dickens anticipates the seventh art in his depiction of the projecting device in his narrative. The vast number of screen adaptations of the Carol has spawned two books entirely devoted to the phenomenon (by Paul Davis and Fred Guida) but Christol’s focus on the cinematic apparatus, with the necessary references to ancestors of cinema such as the Magic Lantern and the Phantasmagoria, serves to prove once more that Dickens was at the heart of the creation/reception process and that if he had lived long enough to witness the actual birth of the Lumière brothers’ invention, he would have made ample use of it, as Anny Sadrin, espousing Eisenstein’s thesis, also intuited. By staging ‘a character’s personal cinematic experience’, as Christol notes, Dickens was the first filmmaker of all time. To adapt the Carol is therefore to complete it in the most natural way.

24Michel Naumann, Emeritus Professor at the University of Cergy, and his colleague Natalia Naydenova from the University of Russia in Moscow have dedicated their article to what Linda Hutcheon calls after Susan Stanford Friedman ‘indigenization’ and what Thomas Leitch from a different angle dubs ‘colonization’. Both terms indeed could very well be applied to what Kijû Yoshida’s 1988 Onimaru did with Emily Brontë’s 1847 Wuthering Heights. Geographically and culturally wide apart, the two narratives are compared by Professor Naumann, who is specialized in anticolonial cultural movements and Ms Naydenova who has a strong interest in cross-cultural communication in literary and didactic practices. They naturally joined forces to focus on the appropriation of a text from the western literary canon by an oriental filmmaker. De(re)contextualization is another, more general concept we might use, subdividing into three pairs: historicizing/dehistoricizing, racializing/deracializing, embodying/disembodying. ‘Transplantation’ is the term they use, which aligns the changes and transformations with a surgical act or with some agricultural grafting practice. By concentrating its analysis on three fundamental aspects in the adaptation (protagonists, images and music) the article links Japanese traditional beliefs in shamanism with the inner workings of one of the strangest and most powerful Victorian novels, claiming as in the previous article, that the film adaptation reveals as well as completes the initial text.

25Elena Raicu from the University of Bucharest favours a more classical approach to the study of film adaptation comparing two films adapted from E. M. Forster’s A Room with a View (1908): the famous and celebrated 1985 version by the Merchant / Ivory / Jhabvala team and the more recent version (2007) directed by Nicholas Renton and scripted by Andrew Davies. Forster’s female Bildungsroman showcasing Lucy Honeychurch’s discovery of the world, of herself and of romance, begot two very different visions as the former is a relatively faithful adaptation in which few characters or events have been suppressed while the later version, scripted by Andrew Davies, was clearly at odds with Forster’s own sequel novel A Room without a View (1958) centring on a retrospective view of Lucy’s past decade following the initial diegesis. The novel was also a critique of British society in Edwardian times, of which Ivory’s film is a good, faithful adaptation, when concerned with the English abroad in this Florentine environment. The second adaptation is neatly contrasted with the first as it restricts its point of view to Lucy’s sexual awareness, neglecting to delineate the other characters peopling the novel and refusing to focus on either society (English or Italian). In her article, Raicu dedicates most of her remarks to this contrast and to what the films tell us about the last part of the 20th century and about the first years of the 21st century, as far as feminism and sexual awareness are concerned. Linda Hutcheon had dedicated a whole chapter to the notion of contextualization (chapter 4: ‘Where? When?’) and Elena Raicu has decided to use this angle to confront the two versions.

26Sophie Mantrant from the University of Strasbourg focuses on music and the colour scheme. She has selected a less famous source than Forster’s novel for her study in adaptation: Andrew Birkin’s 1981 version of Saki’s short story ‘Sredni Vashtar’ (1911). One of the threshold functions of film adaptation has always been to be a gateway to the literary text. For those who had not read Saki’s short story, Birkin did here what Truffaut and Hitchcock have repeatedly done. Sophie Mantrant approaches the film through its soundscape and its colour scheme. Drawing from Michel Chion’s expertise in sound theory, she delineates how the film’s soundscape serves the oppositional system that underpins Saki’s story. The necessary addition of such a background score as Carl Orff’s ‘O Fortuna’ theme is subtly analyzed and considered here as a ‘territory background score’ in conflict with another ‘territory sound’, the ticking clock in the Edwardian house, a musical metaphor of the conflict between the child and the adult. Juxtaposing the sound territories with the colour schemes, Sophie Mantrant brings incontrovertible evidence to her case.

27The article by Maxime Leroy from the Université de Haute-Alsace (Mulhouse) purports to show how George du Maurier’s illustrations in his novel Peter Ibbetson (1891) inspired Henry Hathaway for his 1935 film adaptation. In the same way as Phiz’s illustrations for Dickens’s novels were copied for their film adaptations as far as shot composition is concerned with a view to being as faithful as possible to the original source—such as the 1935 David Copperfield directed by George Cukor and produced by David O. Selznick—Hathaway drew inspiration from du Maurier’s own illustrations for the composition of some of his shots. However, Leroy’s hypothesis is that in spite of some obvious visual correspondences, ‘a change of cultural paradigm occurred’. Indeed, the late nineteenth-century cultural and scientific references (Butler, Laycock, Barrett, Youmans, as well as the theories of the electrical body and ancestral memory) were replaced by more contemporary references such as Freud’s psychoanalytical framework and French surrealism. Here again, as in the two adaptations Raicu compares and contrasts, Leroy takes stock of the contexts of production and reception.

28The other team in the list of authors, Alison Lee and Frederick King from the University of Western Ontario, examine the television series Penny Dreadful in the way the contamination of one form of discourse by another causes the receiver to experience both. Through a reference to Richard Dawkins and his notion of memes as units of cultural transmission and their derived usage in the field of adaptation, Lee and King show how Josh Logan’s series, in its constant use of the concepts of parenthood and theatricality, bring attention to the adaptation’s relationship to an originary text. The authors superimpose linear and genetic models of adaptation in Sarah Cardwell’s Darwinian approach, or Dawkins’s meme concept, with David Greetham’s concept of contamination as a form of adaptation, and Frankenstein, Dorian Gray and Dracula as vehicles of cultural transmission leaking into Josh Logan’s Penny Dreadful series.

29It is another metaphor than contamination that upholds Laurent Mellet’s article. Professor Mellet from the Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès dedicates his article to a pre-Victorian canonical text, Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility (1811) and to a series of film and TV adaptations of the novel which include Ang Lee’s famous 1995 Emma Thompson-scripted version, which he confronts with the BBC adaptations of 1971, 1981 and 2008, so as to sketch an aesthetic of adaptation focusing on empiricism, explanation and consolation. The double-framing effects, the various gazes at work and the long take are here related to an empiricist philosophy. Then Mellet suggests quite convincingly that the BBC 2008 adaptation acts as an explanation and a development of the Thompson/Lee film. Finally, he concludes with the notion of consolation following the works of Michael Fœssel, adapting it to the relationships between the characters of Sense and Sensibility, most particularly in relation to Elinor. The mise en abyme of this very notion of consolation could bring us to the conclusion that what is necessarily and irredeemably lost in any film or TV adaptation of a novel has to find some quantum of consolation for this loss in the film version itself. Otherwise, avoiding the logic of comparison and its corollary issue of fidelity is impossible.

30As will be self-evident when reading the series of articles in this volume, the researchers involved in the project all tend to refer (explicitly or not) to Linda Hutcheon and to uphold her principle that ‘an adaptation is a derivation that is not derivative—a work that is second without being secondary. It is its own palimpsestic thing’ (Hutcheon 9).

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Andrew, J. Dudley. The Major Film Theories: An Introduction. London: OUP, 1976.

Cardwell, Sarah. Adaptation Revisited: Television and the Classic Novel. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2002.

Elliot, Kamilla. Rethinking the Novel/Film Debate. Cambridge: CUP, 2003.

Ellis, John. ‘The Literary Adaptation’. Screen 23 (May-June): 3–5.

Genette, Gérard. Palimpsestes: La littérature au second degré. Paris: Seuil, 1982.

Hutcheon, Linda. A Theory of Adaptation. 2006. 2nd revised edition. Oxon: Routledge, 2013.

Leitch, Thomas. Film Adaptation and Its Discontents: From Gone with the Wind to The Passsion of the Christ. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins UP, 2007.

McFarlane, Brian. Novel to Film: An Introduction to the Theory of Adaptation. Oxford: OUP, 1996.

Naremore, James, ed. Film Adaptation. London: The Athlone Press, 2000.

Seger, Linda. The Art of Adaptation: Turning Fact and Fiction into Film. New York: Henry Holt, 1992.

Stam, Robert and Alessandra Raengo. Literature and Film: A Guide to the Theory and Practice of Film Adaptation. Oxford: Blackwell, 2005.

Wiltshire, John. Recreating Jane Austen. Cambridge: CUP, 2001.

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1 The expression ‘adapted text’ is favoured by Linda Hutcheon, as her overall intention is literally to demythify the original and place it on an equal footing with the adaptation. The term ‘source’ conjures up images of a sacred origin, a place to go back to each time one needs to find purity.

2 Once again, I will use Hutcheon’s neutral term ‘knowing’ for people who have read the adapted text.

3 The list provided by Robert Stam is edifying: ‘infidelity’, ‘betrayal’, ‘deformation’, ‘violation’, ‘bastardization’, ‘vulgarization’, ‘desecration’ (Stam and Raengo 3).

4 ‘In the 18th century, the genre of the “Imitation” was particularly popular, its terms and conditions clearly understood. An Imitation was not, as its name might suggest, a copy but a version of a classical original into English which transposed events, characters and allusions into contemporary equivalents’ (Wiltshire 43). That’s why Bride and Prejudice or Clueless shouldn’t be debunked as degraded versions of Pride and Prejudice and Emma, but as ‘Imitations’.

5 Like Scrooge, the first talking adaptation of A Christmas Carol in Britain (Henry Edwards, 1935), Anderson’s film ‘opens with a book being checked out of a library—the book upon which the film implicitly claims to be based; […] scene changes in Anderson’s movie are marked by a shot of the Tenenbaums’ “book” opened to the next chapter, the first lines of which describe what we then see on screen’ (Hutcheon 5-6). The Coens’ film opens with a title indicating the so-called facts on which the film was based: ‘This is a true story. The events depicted in this film took place in Minnesota in 1987. At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred’ (qtd. in Leitch 281).

6 Kamilla Elliott’s typology: (1) The psychic concept, (2) the ventriloquist concept, (3) the genetic concept, (4) the de(re)composing concept, (5) the incarnational concept, and (6) the trumping concept.

7 Gérard Genette’s typology: (1) Intertextuality, (2) paratextuality, (3) metatextuality, (4) hypertextuality and (5) architextuality. The fourth mode is probably what stands as close to the process of film adaptation as can be.

8 Thomas Leitch’s typology: (1) Celebration, (2) adjustment, (3) neoclassic imitation, (4) revisions, (5) colonization, (6) metacommentary or deconstruction, (7) analogy, (8) parody and pastiche, (9) secondary, tertiary or quarternary imitations, (10) allusion. (Leitch 96-126).

9 Cf. the Odessa massacre in October 1905 (related in Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin, 1925) and the general strike that started in October 1905.

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Luc Bouvard, « Introduction »Cahiers victoriens et édouardiens [En ligne], 82 Automne | 2015, mis en ligne le 18 mai 2016, consulté le 28 juillet 2021. URL : ; DOI :

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Luc Bouvard

Université Paul Valéry – Montpellier III

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