A Week of Discussing Adaptation and Intertextuality

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The English Department was busy with related events this week, starting the week off on Monday with an event in Lincoln Auditorium called “Roundtable Discussion of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” and on Wednesday afternoon, Dr. Misty Krueger’s lecture on “The Products of Intertextuality: The Value of Student Adaptations in a Literature Course.”

The Monday discussion was a great introduction to the theory of intertextuality and different forms of adaptation and how they function in the modern world. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, written by Seth Grahame-Smith, started as a fictional book adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel, Pride and Prejudice. This genre “mash-up”, as it’s been referred to, is a combination of Austen’s written word and Grahame-Smith’s added zombie and kung-fu elements to make the classical story plot very different than before.

The book Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was then adapted into graphic novel form, and then into a Hollywood production, which twisted the book’s plot further into a new story and script altogether. In the roundtable discussion, there was a wide variety of opinion on the film in general: What kind of film is this? Is it absurdity, or brilliant re-creation? What would Jane Austen herself think? Some thought the beauty of the entire theme in the novel was nonexistent with the addition of the zombie plot, but others thought the reimagination of P&P was simply modernizing the story to appeal to a new generation.

It was also discussed how much the film, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies borrows from other cinematic productions. The film had elements of other zombie films, notably The Land of the Dead which the character “Big Daddy” had similarities to Willoughby’s zombie character. We discussed the presence of martial arts and other Eastern references, which was much stronger in the book, but still present in the film. P&P&Z also borrowed from other P&P cinematic productions; the mini series in (1995) and film (2005). The film is adapting, first and foremost, Austen’s words, but also Grahame-Smith’s words, other cinematic productions, zombie films, and kung-fu: it’s a cornucopia of pastiche!

Overall, we decided that it’s difficult to label this adaption as being successful or unsuccessful, good or bad, because of the variation in opinion of the “fidelity” of Austen’s hypertext. Many argue that adaptation is open to anyone to re-create, but some believe crossing that line is criminal. This discussion only started the week’s theme of intertextuality and previewed Dr. Krueger’s lecture on her own experience and study in the area of adaptation.

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On Wednesday, UMF English Professor Dr. Misty Krueger presented her recent research on works of 17th-19th century adaptation and the creations of the ENG 377 Adaptation class she taught two years ago at UMF.

This was a class that I was a part of (I’m far left in the photo) and was able to contribute to. Other students who were able to come back for the event after graduating included Angelisa Beane, Amelia Coburn, Caleb Rea (who gave an excellent introduction of Dr. Misty Krueger), Alison Hutchins, Elizabeth Ferry, and Eric Barry.

Professor Krueger shared a presentation of the class’ objective and described the collective process of reading and analyzing Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, and then reading the adaptation, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, a mash-up novel very similar to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Ben. H Winters. We followed suit with Samuel Richardson’s Pamela and Henry Fielding’s Shamela, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein with Dean Koontz’s graphic novel Frankenstein: Prodigal Son. All of these texts and their adaptations inspired the class to create adaptation of their own in many mixed medias.

In Krueger’s analysis, she explained her research on the bounds of adaptation in her academic journal article saying, “A pedagogy of adaptation can and should include fan fiction in its framework. A cousin to adaptation, fan fic certainly is a part of 17th- to 19th-century literary history, and scholars have labeled some of the texts I taught in my course, such as Shamela, as fan fic.” The point of adaptation is crossing those boundaries and taking liberties with the original text. Fan fiction was a significant part of the class’ creations and is a mode of adaptation that can be taken very seriously.

In Krueger’s concluding thoughts of her article, and in her presentation, she remarked: “While readers and viewers often focus on what adaptations do to “original” texts, we should consider what they can do for these works. ‘Rather than being displaced by the adaptation,’ Hutcheon reminds us, the adapted literary text ‘gets a new life’ (Hutcheon 2007; see also Gilroy 2010).” It was great that in our class we were able to create a small, academic, and creative space to expand on these ideas, and in that environment we created adaptations of all medias and intertextuality. Two of the videos created in this class by Tyler Michaud and Alison Hutchins are able to be viewed below: Enjoy!

 

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