There is a history between film and literature which starts at eighteenth century at the dawn of industrialized revolution. With the advancement of new technologies such as iron press in 1798, literature reached many more people who read it (Davis, 7). Timothy Corrigan states that: Throughout this period, from roughly 1750-1825, Western culture grew increasingly fascinated by visual images and spectacles that drew on but transformational pictorial arts, as well as by the similarities and differences in images and words as separate means of communication (Davis, 7). This new wave of interest has led to reappraising of the older starting points. Today’s adaptations are considered to be rhetorically and aesthetically autonomous products that show their creators exclusive and unique perspectives.
This newly shaped technology-based culture of film caused debates over the superiority and inferiority of new and old ways of narration which were film and literature. Before advancement of the film and motion picture, literature had no equal counterpart to compete with. However, new discussion began to be heard in societies, which experienced the new form of story narration like film and these discussions continue to be heard even today. Industrial revolution in eighteenth century helped literature to reached more people, however nineteenth century provided a better milieu for literature and film to be seen as to be different but connected medias for narrating a story. Corrigan believes that by the advancement of photography industry with the invention of motion picture camera, images could reach the screen (Davis, 16). When filmic images reached public, people could see real life images like someone talking and walking or an animal pulling a cart or a machine like train moving. This newly found technology had at first great appeal to people who had not seen or experienced new form of entertainment which was film. Little by little, people got used to this technology and craved something new to capture their attention and touch them in special way. At this time filmmaker tried to have their audiences and they looked for literature as the great source for their films in order to remain in film business (David, 8).
Adaptations, that should be judged on their own merits as films, no doubt a bold claim to make at a time when, as George Bluestone (1957) himself points out, a film was still struggling for serious recognition as art (7). During literature and film fidelity debates, Geoffrey Wagner in The Novel and the Cinema (1975), for instance, is still trapped by unspoken reliance on the fidelity criterion and concomitant (formalist) focus on the literary source/filmed adaptation binary pair to the exclusion of inter-textual and contextual factors. Wagner draws three different modes of adaptation: transposition, commentary, and analogy. In transposition, ‘a novel is directly given on the screen, with the minimum of apparent interference’, commentary is, ‘where an original is taken and…altered in some respect’, while an analogy takes ‘a fiction as a point of departure’ and therefore ‘cannot be indicated as a violation of a literary original since the director has not attempted (or has only minimally attempted) to reproduce the original’ (227).
Clearly, Wagner is obsessively concerned with ‘defending’ adaptations of any sort from the charge of ‘infidelity’, while his attempts at actually applying his tripartite classification to specific adaptations have the perverse effect of foregrounding the severely limited theoretical and practical validity of any model that relies on the centrality of the literary source or ‘original’.
Kamilla Elliott in Rethinking the Novel/Film Debate (2003), concerned that “an adaptation can be successful only under the condition of being faithful to the original work” (37). Elliott’s theory against practice and uncovering the hidden agendas creates alternative critical techniques /modes that can be applied to the novel/film issue for future inquiry. In this process, she mounts a chief critique of novel theory and film history and theory, demonstrating how rivalries have shaped and falsified each discipline when measured separately. Criticism for adaptations often focuses on the standard to which the film matches or catches the spirit of the original work. If the film does not satisfy the critic’s understanding of the novel on the aesthetic and thematic levels, then the book is better, and the film is shed into a negative light.
In response to this concern with fidelity, Robert Stam in Literature through Film: realism, magic, and the art of adaptation (2005) argue: One can assert that the criticism is individual because the critic is essentially declaring the film as does not fit his/her individual interpretations of the book. Furthermore, the audience should be aware that the adaptation is the screenwriter’s attempt to re-tell the story and so the audience is entering into a selective interpretation, the screenwriter’s fantasy, that is separate from his/her own (14). According to Stam, there are numerous factors which have informed the traditional privileging of literature over film (and other media forms), including class prejudice, iconophobia (suspicion of the visual), logophilia (a belief in the primacy of the written word), and anti-corporeality (distaste for the ways in which the medium of cinema interlaces with the body of the spectator) (12).
Large novels, for example, have traditionally undergone a process of compression in order to fit into a two-hour film format, while short stories have required some measure of expansion. An older text may share a process of correction or amendment if it contains anachronistic elements such as racial stereotypes, or may be shifted into an entirely different setting for purposes of social or market relevance. The entertainment industry has started shifting what Thomas Leitch in Film Adaptation and its Discontents (2007) refers to: as an era of post-literary adaptation, in which non-literary and sometimes non-narrative roots are adapted into storylines for feature films and other forms of media. When content undergoes adaptation, it is subject to a variety of forces and factors, which are dictated by the nature of the source text, the reason for adapting the text, medium, market, and culture into which it is adapted (250).
Adaptation studies, in reverse, have largely eschewed questions of race and gender representation or restricted themselves to focusing only on such questions. Shelley Cobb’s (2008) textual analysis of the adaptation of Bridget Jones’ Diary (2001), for example, views at representations of gender and feminism; Elaine Roth (2008) considers racial representation in adaptations of Sherman Alexie’s short stories. Yet even these types of analyses of the representational politics of adaptation are in the minority in the field, in which the majority of scholars tends to produce formal analyses of the medium that minimize or ignore contextual factors. A limited number of scholars have also looked at feminist adaptations of not explicitly feminist texts (Weckerle (1999), Vidal (2005), Friedman (2009)). What, then, would feminist adaptation studies look like? In her discussion of the importance of context, Hutcheon notes that, scholars of adaptation must remember that any adaptation “always happens in a particular time and space in a society” (144). While this statement may initially look almost painfully simple, Hutcheon here points to the importance of historical and geographic specificity, as well as the relevance of the particular structures and institutions of a society, to the analysis of any adaptation.
Peter Dickinson in Screening Gender: Framing Genre (2007) analyzes Claude Jutra’s adaptations with his previous attempt and stitches the fabric with the same thread. She has focused on social issues as the trauma of marriage. She sees the adaptation through a psychological and paranoid perspective of the unknown-protagonist. Dickinson criticizes his almost all adaptive works, which are comprised of Hebert’s Kamouraska (1973) and Atwood’s Surfacing (1981). In the book of chapter two, she has done uncanny operations on adaptations including Surfacing (1981); she argues that ‘Jutra seems to be building his own paranoid gothic film a meta-commentary on ‘women relate to the gazes’ (61).
Jim Leach in Claude Jutra: Filmmaker (2009), points out about impossible shoot sequences that established between exteriority to interiority, past, and present, real, and imaginary, that can be done through the camera. He has pointed out the fact that, although Jutra has wildly acclaimed, there is surprisingly little critical literature exist about his work. He says about his film protagonists how camera draws attention through visuals, “The film proclaims the ability to show what she sees with her inner eye, but also implies that her memories may be distorted by the pressures and desires of the present (38).” Leach had noted that “he has made no secrets of his own attraction to the gothic elements in the novels and was equally excited about the non-linear and noirish manner”(25). Jutra admired the dream-like, have delusion atmosphere that encompassed Atwood’s use of subjective flashbacks within unknown protagonist’s interior monologue while using different expressions. He sought to reproduce such effects in his film. However, the film adaptation is viewed here as an autonomous work. According to Hutcheon, a successful adaptation balances “the comfort of ritual and recognition with the delight of surprise and novelty” (25), not only carrying the aura with it but also contributing to its continual expansion.
Considerations of race, gender, and sexuality should echo through any thorough study of adaptation because they are structural features of society; they organize cultural production and reception even as they echo throughout the texts themselves. In shift from being followers of norms to being an observer of society, Atwood argues that one needs to have a deeper understanding of gender notions. In case of Atwood’s female characters, the visual discourses which are created along with patriarchal lines, need to include more different interpretations. In Surfacing (1981), this idea is most noticeable because of the extensive change of perspective which narrator undergoes. From the perspective of gender identity, new ways of producing visual representations will include more possibilities for the female subject to express herself freely.
This project thus broadened to encompass not just a critical reassessment of a body of film text but also an exploration of the relationship between the text and its cinematic adaptation. Hutcheon informs us that a thorough analysis of adaptation demands a multi-faceted consideration of medium, producers, audiences, and contexts. The following chapter is dealing Linda Hutcheon’s theory of adaptations research with interpretations of multiple approaches which belongs among the modern and significant directions in the discipline from narrative to its context. It draws upon Jutra’s film adaptation while it emphasizes conventional patterns in the construction of visual culture which demonstrates the impact on the development of female selfhood from the perspective of the novel Surfacing (1972) by Margret Atwood. The idea that transpires throughout the thesis is that the ways we perceive visual information is conditioned by the surrounding cultural and social system and, by extension, new visual representations, so that different understandings and concepts of femininity could be incorporate. Thus, the idea of adapting text like Surfacing might not be to show detrimental to woman’s personal development but can also be other expressions of Atwood’s protagonist.