Converting the Controversial: regulation as 'source text' in adaptation.

This source preferred by Richard Berger

Authors: Berger, R.

Start date: 19 March 2008

Publisher: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press

Place of Publication: New Jersey, USA

From D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover to Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho and Ian McEwan’s Atonement, via Vladimir Nabocov’s Lolita, the history of adaptation is littered with the transferral of controversial source materials into new forms. If adaptation is such a risky enterprise, why do adaptors select such provocative texts?

This paper explores the history of adapting controversial novels for both film and television, and examines the ways in which adaptors have treated the most transgressive elements of their source texts. In this way, these adaptations can therefore be read both as a commentary on, and a response to, the novels they are based on.

Finally, this paper attempts to broaden the scope of this argument, to encompass the regulatory frameworks of film and television in the US and the UK. In many instances, particularly with Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 adaptation of Lolita, the censorship rules of the time can have a major impact on the process of adaptation.

This paper posits that adaptation studies can no longer be just confined to source and target texts. Even more plural approaches that recognise a host of influences on all aspects of adaptation are too narrow. Instead, adaptation studies should now include an examination of the impact of institutional guidelines (such as the Hays Code), regulation and other cultural factors, which can act as significant source texts.

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