Chapter One: IntroductionThe purpose of this thesis is to explore the field of literary adaptation within a literature/ film context with a view to answering the question of whether the critical stance taken against the adaptive process can withstand scrutiny in light of the operational practices at work within both industries. This introduction serves to provide an outline of this stance and identifies some of the most prominent reactions to adaptation. In order to provide some context and contrast, it is necessary to consider the driving forces behind these particular industries. Joe Moran, in his 1997 article The Role of Multimedia Conglomerates in American Trade Publishing, identifies that there is an enduring image of a company publishing literature as being a humble, honourable organisation that exists purely out of appreciation for the written word rather than out of a desire to turn over large profits. This is in sharp contrast to the opinion of Michael D. Eisner on the function and aims of Hollywood. James Stewart, in Disney Wars, records, how following the success of the film Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Eisner (then President of Paramount studios) sent an internal memo to his staff stating that: We have no obligation to make history. We have no obligation to make art. We have no obligation to make a statement. To make money is our only objective. In essence, Eisner was reminding his staff that they should not get ideas above their station as Hollywood had no ambition beyond making money and that whilst it was certainly capable of producing art, and did so naturally, this would only be an ‘offshoot’ of achieving the main purpose. This mission statement highlights that as far as Hollywood is concerned everything is only assigned worth according to its commodity value. However, one should not make the mistake of assuming that this approach is indicative of the whole film industry and recognise that there are some very specific techniques present within Hollywood films which separate them from other styles. For Warren Buckland(Close Encounter with Raiders of the Lost Ark…) this approach can be most readily identified in American styled films which make an aggressive attempt to push the uniquely visual aspects of film, such as special effects and stunts to the foreground and only have interest in presenting a plot as far as this creates a plausible means by which the film can include ever increasing amounts of visual cornucopia.For Buckland, therefore, Hollywood is a filmic model which embraces and celebrates the potential of physical space. Interestingly, Robert Stam, in his wide reaching introduction to Literature and Film: A Guide to the Theory and Practice of Film Adaptation draws on this visual nature to conjure up the sense of a war in which the acknowledgement of any potential for mutually beneficial co-existence between literature and film is deemed to be a weakening of the respective ‘weltanschauung’. He highlights how this ‘war’ is fought on assumptions which are strongly grounded into western civilization. Evoking Plato’s theory of forms and an historical distrust of the Newtonian belief in the absolute reality of the empirical world, Stam is able to demonstrate how film becomes a symbolic manifestation of Iconophobia and how this leads to the privileging of the written word in a converse embracement of Logophillia. Furthermore, these concepts have created a hierarchal positioning of the arts to such a degree that film is permanently denied artistic equality with literature because it is seen to stimulate the physical (and therefore lower) senses of the body as opposed to the ‘upper echelons’ of the mind and reason. Is it any wonder, therefore, that Stam recognises how much of the trepidation toward adaptation is because it is thought of like a leech which sucks the life out of a text in the process of turning it into an image? Taking all this material into consideration seems to imply that...
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