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What’s Past is Prologue: A Revolutionary Approach to Adaptations Studies

  • Author(s): Woltmann, Suzy
  • Advisor(s): Wesling, Meg
  • et al.
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In this dissertation, I argue that adaptations studies can intersect with more traditional forms of literary theory, and that transformative adaptations are themselves a form of literary criticism. Using a revolutionary approach that interweaves different literary theories – African-American, psychoanalytic, queer, postcolonial, and postmodern – I make an intervention in contemporary scholarship (headed by Linda Hutcheon, Thomas Leitch, Julie Sanders, Cristina Bacchilega, Jack Zipes, and others) about adaptations studies to demonstrate its unlimited intertextual potentialities. Adaptations disrupt canonical hierarchies and create new forms of subjectivity that make possible different forms of empowerment and mastery than is present in their source texts. The transformative process takes place when an author changes a text by adapting it; however, it also occurs between texts, and from author to reader. Transformative indicates the ongoing process of these adaptations. Through revisionism, they affect the fundamental nature of their source text(s) and open authoritative narratives to questioning. The texts addressed in this dissertation are Alice Randall’s The Wind Done Gone; Jorge Luis Borges’ “The House of Asterion”; John Gardner’s Grendel; Malinda Lo’s Ash; Aime Cesaire’s A Tempest; Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea; Jamaica Kincaid’s Annie John; and an assortment of parallel novels. These texts enact the transformative process through the rhetorical tools of collaborative originality, intertextual queering, and perspective plurality. They demonstrate the significance of intertextuality and the capabilities of literature as a form of empowerment. Reading the shifting meanings of these texts as adaptations shows the ideological transformations each undergoes and how they encourage an interactive readership. Adaptations that rewrite their source texts in a transformative way create a discursive web that allows for revolutionary approaches to literature and literary analysis.

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This item is under embargo until June 22, 2022.