“Why? What do you think happened to her?” Activating Arya Stark.

Authors: Berger, R.

Conference: Adventures in Textuality: Adaptation in the 21st Century.

Dates: 3-4 April 2013


At a recent event in the city of Bath, UK, Game of Thrones creator George R. R. Martin - after reading a short extract from the next instalment of his series - was asked a question regarding the whereabouts of one of his key characters. His response reveals much about adaptation in the 21st century.

This paper develops the idea of the ‘active adaptation’ - that is an adaptation where the source material is still in the recent memory of its audience. There are often significant time lags between the publication of a novel and its subsequent adaptation, sometimes many decades. This time lag between source and adaptation has shortened in recent years, as the translation between source and target has moved from asynchronous to synchronous adaptation. Coupled with this is the fact that contemporary authors are living in an era dominated by visual media, and adaptors are working in an industry obsessed with prequels, sequels, remakes and re-imaginings.

An adaptation is always ‘active’ for the adaptor, but for audiences it is more often ‘inactive’. Audiences may think they ‘know’ a work, but this familiarity is also mediated by other adaptations and versions. Fidelity positions have flourished in the gaps which exist between ‘active’ and ‘inactive’ adaptations.

By focusing on the recent TV series Game of Thrones, and the involvement and activity of its creator, this paper will argue that a new mode of adaptation has emerged - one which directly assumes that the audience is familiar with previous versions, and which therefore implicates the author of the source text. The ‘active’ adaptation then both celebrates and exploits an audience’s prior knowledge of novels, films and television shows.

Source: Manual

Preferred by: Richard Berger