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Rethinking the Adaptation/Theorization Debate

Project: Other


This project addresses a longstanding disconnect between adaptations and humanities theories. Hitherto, adaptation scholars have been blamed for the problem, with their critics confident that, if they would only adopt the correct theories, the problems of the field would be resolved. But no matter which theories have been applied, both before and after the theoretical turn, the disconnect has remained. There are several explanations for this. First and perhaps most obviously, adaptations threaten disciplinary boundaries and are made battlegrounds for interdisciplinary wars; moreover, theories developed in single disciplines are inadequate to theorize intermedial adaptation. Second, transtheoretical commitments to difference, abstraction, and ideological values oppose the similitude, concretism, conscious deliberation, and ideological promiscuity of adaptations. Third, and more systemically, adaptation, defined as change and changing, constitutes a resistant and inassimilable rival to theorization, which aims to fix with definitions, taxonomies, and principles or to discipline and punish with ideologies. Even radical theorization works to colonize, conform, and constrain materials to its tenets; adaptation is theoretically promiscuous; more pertinently, it often eludes theorization. Observing that the hierarchy between theory and practice remains the only hierarchy not subjected to theoretical dismantling, and how uneasily the one-sided emphasis on ‘theorizing adaptations’ sits in such a multi-disciplinary, multimedial field as adaptation studies, I subject the discourse to antimetabole (a looking glass rhetorical figure), calling for a reciprocal, inverse discourse and practice of ‘adapting theories’, in which theories adapt to and through adaptation. Figuration looms large in this study as a shared domain of both between theorization and adaptation, serving to reduce as well as to explicate theorization and adaptation’s antagonisms. The adaptation of theories is particularly pertinent in post-critical contexts where scholars perceive the theoretical turn in the humanities to be threatened, stale, or superannuated.
Effective start/end date1/02/11 → …

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