Literary Adaptation

“All adaptations express or address a desire to return to an ‘original’ textual encounter; as such, adaptations are perhaps symptomatic of a cultural compulsion to repeat.” Rachel Caroll (Adaptation in Contemporary Culture)

I’m sure throughout our lifetimes, everyone has read an adaptation of something, or watched an adaptation of something. Adaptation of literature is such a massive thing. It can be from novel to film, from novel to theatre, even from novel to novel, myth to something else.

Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Jane Eyre. These days everything has an adaptation.

For many of us, this can be a good thing or a bad thing. Sometimes that film adaptation just isn’t want you thought it was going to be. I’ve experienced that, too.

Rachel Caroll’s statement in her introduction to her book is interesting to me. Perhaps for some of us, when we finish reading that amazing novel we think ‘gosh, I’d love to see a film of that’. I know I’ve done it in the past.

It’s strange, because when I was studying on my undergrad in English literature, there seemed to be a general rule of ‘film versions of books are crap’, and I always found it a little odd. A lot of people would judge the film based on the fact that it was being adapted for screen, as if changing the way to appreciated the plot changes how well the plot is delivered.

If we use film adaptations as our base here, then the film is limited to a directors interpretation of the written word. We have this one person’s view on what the book should be like, whereas a novel can hold thousands of different interpretations based on the reader.

So what compels us to watch a film version of a book? Or even a comic book? For example, Marvel Cinematic Universe has become such a large industry over the last few years, and this is based on the adaptation of their comic book predecessors. What compels people to watch these films of the comic books?

What compelled people to watch the film adaptations of Harry Potter? What compels people to watch the TV adaptation of Game of Thrones? The Handmaid’s Tale?

Personally, I enjoy watching film adaptations of novels, I like seeing things from a different perspective. But, I also understand that some of them are not the best they can be.

What do you think about adaptations? Do you enjoy the films of your favourite books?

Do you have a favourite adaptation of a book? It doesn’t have to be a film! Have you seen an interesting theatre adaptation of a novel? A favourite musical?

Don’t forget to vote in our June Book Poll. There’s some really interesting choices this month!

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