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Novel Ways of Seeing: Victorian Novels, Animated Adaptations, and the Disoriented Reader/Viewer


This project uses reader and viewer disorientation as a means of historically linking 19th century literary texts to their modern-day animated adaptations. Building on the premise that animated adaptations (as opposed to live action adaptations) recursively reinscribe those difficult-to-identify social and cultural tensions spilling out of their source literary texts, this project aims to move beyond the fidelity aesthetic in favor of a more historical framework to shape our understanding of how these texts disorient their audiences. The introduction explains the concept of disorientation as appropriated in this project and stakes a claim for animated adaptations as central to better understanding 19th century texts as well as modern-day adaptations in terms of disorientation. The first chapter pairs Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol alongside Director Robert Zemeckis's A Christmas Carol with Victorian technologies (such as the railroad and the telegraph) and the cinematic technology of motion capture to demonstrate how technological disorientation becomes figured as unnatural speed and bodily movements in both texts. The second chapter examines Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Books and Disney's The Jungle Book alongside photography and 2-D hand drawn animation to show how ideological identity differences and exclusion in terms of animated framing disorient both reader and viewer. Finally, the third and final chapter explores the idea of animation in terms of life-giving force and stop-motion cinematic technique using Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Director Tim Burton's Frankenweenie to demonstrate how both form and content work together to disorient the audience. Ultimately, this project aims to move away from the idea that cinematic adaptations reflect only their historical moments of inception; rather, they extend 19th century disorientation by redeploying it through both narrative and animated technique.

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