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Theorizing Adaptation

Research output: Book/Report/ProceedingsBook

Forthcoming
Publication date2020
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherOxford University Press
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Asking why adaptation has been seen as more problematic to theorize than other humanities subjects, and why it has been more theoretically problematic in the humanities than it has been in the sciences and social sciences, Theorizing Adaptation seeks to both explicate and redress “the problem of theorizing adaptation” through a metacritical history of theorizing adaptation from the late seventeenth century to the present, a metatheoretical theory of the relationship between theorization and adaptation in the humanities, and analysis of the rhetoric of theorizing adaptation. The history finds that adaptation was not always the bad theoretical object that it increasingly became from the late eighteenth century: in earlier centuries, adaptation was celebrated and valued as a means of aesthetic and cultural progress. Tracing the falling fortunes of adaptation under theorization, the history reveals that there have always been dissenting voices valorizing adaptation. Adaptation studies can learn from history not only how to theorize adaptation more positively, but also to consider “the problem of theorization” for adaptation. Metatheoretical analysis of what theorization and adaptation are and how they function in the humanities finds that they are rival, overlapping, inimical processes, each seeking to remake culture -- and each other -- in their images. It is not simply the case that adaptation has to adapt to theorization: rather, theorization needs to adapt to and through adaptation. The final section attends to the rhetoric of theorizing adaptation, analyzing how tiny pieces of rhetoric have constructed adaptation’s relationship to theorization, and turning to figurative rhetoric, or figuration, as a third process that has can mediate between adaptation and theorization and refigure their relationship. Moreover, particular rhetorical figures can redress particular problems in adaptation studies and open new ways to theorize adaptation studies.