Volume 44, Number 2
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To me, adaptation studies have always suggested expansive possibilities. Our authors define “adaptation” in numerous different ways—as appropriation, reinvention, rewriting, evolution, translation, extension, compilation, intertext, paratext, social commentary, historical artifact, intermedial or transmedial moment, and pedagogical tool. However we understand the field, adaptation studies open conversations: every article I have edited for Literature/Film Quarterly develops a conversation of at least one text and film. Even the traditional “fidelity-based” studies of relationships among original sourcetexts and films potentially open up possibilities since they teach us about how individual critics can view specific examples. Adaptation studies chart changes in perspective, appreciation, implication, and resonance. Since I began working on Literature/Film Quarterly with my coeditor Dave Johnson, I have been astonished by how much the articles of our journal have widened my understanding of many texts and films I thought I already knew. I remember Rudyard Alcocer’s analysis of the circular motif in Nicolás Echevarría’s Cabeza de Vaca (1990) in relation to constructions of Spanish American identity. I think of how Stella Hockenhull connected the “painterly images” in Powell and Pressburger’s Gone to Earth (1950) with the primal magic and dark mystery in John Minton’s British landscapes. I watch My Neighbor Totoro (1988) inspired by Raz Greenberg’s explanation of the film as it blends Japanese and Western elements, foregrounding the tension between and resolution of Japanese concepts of Giri (acceptable social norms of behavior) and Ninjo (the individual’s feelings and desires). I have taught Gurinder Chadha’s Bride and Prejudice (2004) with reference to Cheryl A. Wilson’s analysis of the film as a self-conscious, cross-cultural homage to Jane Austen, a Bollywood comedy of manners driven by song and dance.
Since we began working on Literature/Film Quarterly together in 2004, Dave Johnson and I have actively focused on increasing the diversity of the journal’s contents, building on the international reputation that its founders Jim Welsh and Tom Erskine had already established. We have seen a great surge in submissions from around the world over the past decade, along with having maintained subscriptions in over thirty countries. I am proud of how we have maintained the journal’s outreach despite increasingly challenging conditions for continuing publication in print. Dave is now preparing to step down as coeditor, and though I welcome the future collaboration with my new Assistant Editor Andrew Scahill, I pause to tip my hat to him. Thank you Dave—I will always treasure what we built together.
The time is ripe for Literature/Film Quarterly itself to adapt. With the tremendous help of our Copy Editor and Business Manager Brenda Grodzicki, we have done well to stay in print so long. Now that Brenda is getting ready to retire (and how we shall miss her!), this is the best moment to move online. And so this journal devoted to the ever-widening field of adaptation studies will reach further than ever before: when we launch LFQ-online in 2017 we will be a completely free, open-access publication. For those of you who wish to access our archives I am delighted to tell you that we have just signed a contract with the JSTOR database: most previous issues of Literature/Film Quarterly will therefore be fully accessible and searchable in over 9,000 tertiary institutions. We also plan to make select past issues available on our new website. Please visit www.salisbury.edu/lfq
for updates on this transition in the fall.
This issue also reflects a more personal transition for me as a scholar. When I began working on LFQ I did so as a new tenure-track employee with a PhD thesis on adaptations of Shakespeare. Jim Welsh established our journal’s tradition of having an annual Shakespeare issue in April, in commemoration of the playwright’s birthday. Several of this issue’s articles reflect this tradition. Benjamin Hilb analyzes Chimes at Midnight (1965) as an adaptation of conflicted memory, as an intermedial moment, as a multitudinous history, as a compilation (not only of Shakespearean texts but of Welles’s own), as a confluence of narrative modes, as deeply self-reflexive cinema, as an adaptation of theater, and as a series of mini-contests between the aural and the visual that parallels conflicts among the characters. When Jim Welsh died, I wrote of him as the Falstaff of Salisbury. As chance would have it, we received Hilb’s article at the right time for this issue so, for me, it is as if Welsh is making his final appearance in print.
Antony Johae scrutinizes Baz Luhrmann’s William Shakespeare’s Romeo+Juliet (1996), detailing some of its familiar themes of drug culture, gangland violence, the inadequacy of the police, and the possible corruption of the Church. By chance, Johae quotes one of the very first articles I ever published, and one of the stepping stones to my work here at Salisbury University and LFQ. He offers a surprising new take on the sinister connotations of the water motif in the film, connecting it to entrapment, and the lovers being submerged under influences beyond their control. This reignites my awareness of the rich symbolic density of Luhrmann’s film, an adaptation that endures in attracting serious attention from students and scholars 20 years after its initial release.
J. Asia Rowe sheds light on Tim Blake Nelson’s O (2001) in relation to Dimitri Buchowetzki’s silent Othello (1922), the latter being featured as an extra in the 2002 re-released edition of O. She finds parallels between the adaptations as social commentaries and as they self-consciously invite audiences to position themselves “within” their processes of making meaning, especially through the silent film’s emphasis on crowds as potential stand-ins for us and the recent film’s stylistic shifts that highlight the medium of film itself. She also takes those critics who have dismissed O as mere “teen Shakesploi” to task, arguing that it self-consciously invites an active reading.
Along with being our annual nod to Shakespeare, this issue also features two significant articles focused on sound. Tessa MacLean analyzes how Baz Luhrmann’s musically statured adaptation of The Great Gatsby (2013) sonically suggests a utopian endorsement of the American Dream, ironically underscoring the romantic (though blinkered) dream of what defines Gatsby. Kate McQuiston studies the collaboration between director Robert Altman and composer John Williams on their 1973 adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye. In particular, she shows how Williams’s variations on a song communicate the elusivity of truth.
The elusivity of truth is an important pattern within adaptation studies more generally, especially if we think of the broad move away from linear text-to-film analyses in the past few decades. I am reminded of my own recent experience of a new adaptation in which my two loves of Shakespeare and sound came together most hauntingly—Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth (2015), starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. Although I saw this film formatted for a tiny airplane screen (perhaps the nastiest form of adaptation!), I felt as if the screen quite literally became bigger as I watched it. This was in a context where the image was in direct competition with objects and movement around it—viewing conditions are perhaps too often left out of analyses, and this was one of my most startling experiences of a film that seemed to expand beyond the limits of the frame. The mise-en-scène was as shocking as anything in Polanski’s Macbeth (1971), though I also saw raw beauty in the grey/green on-location shooting in Scotland and England. However, this film literally sounded different from any other adaptation of Macbeth, and not simply because the characters spoke with believable Scottish accents. The film features a mesmerizingly strange score by Jed Kurzel that stresses ghostly harmonics, anciently menacing modality, and threatening atonality. Melodies struggle to form with as much strain as human bodies struggle against the harsh landscapes of the film. Moreover, Fassbender and Cotillard seem to speak almost everything in a near-whisper, forcing us to strain our ears in the act of listening. This film is a bodily experience of Shakespeare that consistently stresses pain more than ecstasy: the protagonists are overtly sexual, but we also see men attack each other with terrifying brutality and children suffer in palpable ways. The film begins with an at-sea funeral for the Macbeths’ child, so that when Lady Macbeth speaks of knowing how “tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me” there is a newly immediate reality to her pain. This is an adaptation that borrows from many others—the physicality of its characterizations do owe a lot to Polanski’s Macbeth, just as the closing shot of a child running into a blood-red sunset seems like the frightening inverse of Julie Taymor’s hopeful sunrise for Young Lucius at the end of Titus (1999). But I also hear something new here, which reignites my fascination with cinematic adaptations of Shakespeare, bringing me full circle to the start of my work at LFQ.
I hope the reader will forgive the personal elements of this editorial. Laurence Raw movingly suggests how much can be gained by connecting personal experiences with approaches to adaptation—in a recent blog post, he writes about a colleague of his who has made profound changes to his life. Jillian St. Jacques (Oregon State University) has publically “spoken of ‘adaptation’ through the lens of his own autobiography as someone born into a homophobic family, who had lived life as a trans-sexual, and subsequently chosen to set aside that role and become a family man instead.” Following from this story, Raw reminds us how “we, as personalities, are shaped and reshaped by … texts as well as our encounters with others.” I know that I read and hear everything differently since I had my children—I hugged my daughter Charlotte a little more tightly after watching Kurzel’s
Macbeth, for instance, because the film stressed the vulnerability of youth, the perishability of the body, and the cycles of oppression that endure.
It has been my joy to work on LFQ in print since 2003, a constant part of my life through some of its biggest changes—immigration, becoming a mother, losing my father, and becoming American. I look forward to our new identity, our adaptation to becoming an open-access publication, with excitement. Please join us in the journey and the unending conversation.
Alcocer, Rudyard. “Going in Circles: Spanish American Identity and the Circular Motif in Nicolás Echevarría’s Cabeza de Vaca.” Literature/Film Quarterly 36:4 (2008): 250-58. Print.
Greenberg, Raz. “Giri and Ninjo: The Roots of Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro in Animated Adaptations of Classic Children’s Literature.” Literature/Film Quarterly 40:2 (2012): 96-108. Print.
Hockenhull, Stella. “Neo-Romantic Landscapes: Pictorial Aesthetics in Powell and Pressburger’s Gone to Earth.” Literature/Film Quarterly 36:4 (2008): 290-98. Print.
Raw, Laurence. “Adaptation and ADAPTATION: Foregrounding the Personal.” Adaptation and Translation: Blogspot. 13 Feb. 2016. Web. <http://laurenceraw.blogspot.com/2016/02/ adaptation-and-adaptation-foregrounding.html>.
Wilson, Cheryl A. “Bride and Prejudice: A Bollywood Comedy of Manners.” Literature/Film Quarterly 34:4 (2006): 323-31. Print.