The gideon trilogy adaptation as a narrative tool in creative practice: reflections on the nature of adaptation and a comparison



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Department of English and Comparative Literature

Goldsmiths College

University of London



THE GIDEON TRILOGY

ADAPTATION AS A NARRATIVE TOOL IN CREATIVE PRACTICE:

REFLECTIONS ON THE NATURE OF ADAPTATION AND A COMPARISON

OF NARRATIVE TECHNIQUES IN THE NOVEL AND THE SCREENPLAY

Linda Buckley-Archer

Submitted for the Degree of

Doctor of Philosophy

of the University of London

2011

Declaration:


The work presented in this thesis is the candidate’s own.

Signed: ……………………………………………………….


Abstract


The creative element of this practice-based thesis comprises extracts from a fictional work for children, The Gideon Trilogy. A time-travelling fantasy set in England and America, the novels straddle the late eighteenth- and twenty-first centuries and feature a large cast of child and adult characters. Extracts have been selected either to demonstrate the character development of the Tar Man (an eighteenth-century henchman and eponymous protagonist) or to give a sense of how I have ‘choreographed’ different locations, times and sets of characters within the narrative framework.

The critical commentary has two aims. First, it interrogates difference and congruence in narrative techniques in the novel and the screenplay. I reflect, in broad terms, on the nature of adaptation and on the historical relationship between film and the novel. I argue that predominantly negative attitudes to novel-to-screen adaptations have defined the discipline’s preoccupation with authenticity and fidelity to the source text. Drawing on theoretical debates surrounding how narrative functions in prose fiction and cinema, and supporting my arguments with analyses of novels and screenplays, I discuss the creation of narrative viewpoint and the function and usage of character and dialogue in these two forms. Second, using my own work as a test case, I discuss the outcomes of developing a narrative in two media, using sequential and parallel adaptation, and ask if adaptation might be used as a developmental tool in the creation of narratives.


Acknowledgements


I should like to express my profound thanks to the poet Maura Dooley and Professor Blake Morrison for all their advice, insights and timely encouragement during the preparation of this thesis. It has been a privilege and a pleasure to work with them. I am also indebted to Professor Chris Baldick, Professor Alan Downie and Dr Michael Simpson of the Department of English and Comparative Literature for their generous assistance during my studies at Goldsmiths College. Finally I would like to gratefully acknowledge the support of the Arts and Humanities Research Council whose award opened up a course of study to me that has enriched my writing practice and has taught me invaluable lessons of a personal, academic and professional nature.

Table of Contents



2

Declaration: 2

Abstract 3

Acknowledgements 4

SECTION ONE: CREATIVE TEXTS 12

The Tar Man 13

Chapter One: Oxford Street 14

Chapter Two: The Fall of Snowflakes 21

Chapter Three: Anjali 26

Chapter Five: Altered Skylines 32

Chapter Eight: Inspector Wheeler’s Chinese Takeaway 34

Chapter Twelve: Ghost from the Future 39

Chapter Twenty-One: Dust and Ashes 49

Chapter Twenty-Six: Time Quake 58

Lord Luxon 71

Chapter One: Manhattan 72

Chapter Two: A Spent Rose 74

Chapter Three: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing 82

Chapter Four: St Bartholomew’s Fair 90

Chapter Five: High Treason 102

Chapter Twenty-One: The Tipping Point 117

Chapter Twenty-Three: Tempest House 125

Chapter Twenty-Four: That Bothersome Little Colony 143

Chapter Twenty-Five: The Luxon Wall 149

Chapter Twenty-Six: A Perfect Day 165

Chapter Twenty-Seven: Mr Carmichael’s Homework 169

Chapter Twenty-Eight: Derbyshire 178

SECTION TWO: CRITICAL COMMENTARY 182

INTRODUCTION 184

Remark made during a lecture (Richard Hoggart Lecture Series) at Goldsmiths College, on 10th December, 2008. 188

Remark made during a lecture (Richard Hoggart Lecture Series) at Goldsmiths College, on 10th December, 2008. 188

CHAPTER ONE 192

CHAPTER TWO 206

CHAPTER THREE 224

The dramatist Willy Russell made a comment on similar lines during a script meeting at the BBC in 2006. He argued that: Character is Attitude. The detailed biography, for example, of a homeless girl protagonist was not of interest in terms of the drama, but the fact that she would steal a chip from a child’s plate in a café was. 232

The dramatist Willy Russell made a comment on similar lines during a script meeting at the BBC in 2006. He argued that: Character is Attitude. The detailed biography, for example, of a homeless girl protagonist was not of interest in terms of the drama, but the fact that she would steal a chip from a child’s plate in a café was. 232

CHAPTER FOUR 242

In some ways the question seemed to me a literary version of the Schrödinger's cat paradox (the cat can be deemed alive and dead while it remains in the box). Although the question belongs to a theoretical debate which I am ill qualified to explore, neither have I come across a convincing description or explanation (Cohen’s ‘lowest common denominator’ is too imprecise) of that transformative moment when the germ of a story takes on a specific form. The argument hinges, I would suggest, on whether you judge, for example, that the screenplay can only be deemed a screenplay when you can read the words on the page in script format. If, on the other hand, you take the view that story is first embedded in form in the writer’s mind, the process becomes difficult to quantify. 249

In some ways the question seemed to me a literary version of the Schrödinger's cat paradox (the cat can be deemed alive and dead while it remains in the box). Although the question belongs to a theoretical debate which I am ill qualified to explore, neither have I come across a convincing description or explanation (Cohen’s ‘lowest common denominator’ is too imprecise) of that transformative moment when the germ of a story takes on a specific form. The argument hinges, I would suggest, on whether you judge, for example, that the screenplay can only be deemed a screenplay when you can read the words on the page in script format. If, on the other hand, you take the view that story is first embedded in form in the writer’s mind, the process becomes difficult to quantify. 249

The scene portrays the Tar Man, Kate and Dr Dyer arriving on Hampstead Heath after their journey across the centuries and subsequently shows the Tar Man stealing a horse from a mounted policeman. 254

The scene portrays the Tar Man, Kate and Dr Dyer arriving on Hampstead Heath after their journey across the centuries and subsequently shows the Tar Man stealing a horse from a mounted policeman. 254

See also Tierno (2002). 255

See also Tierno (2002). 255

Francois Jost, a film and adaptation scholar, asserts that: “The notion of the ‘camera eye,’ often used by critics to evoke a neutral and objective description, is now revealed as a dangerous and baseless metaphor […] The semiotic materials of film and novel are not the same, and one cannot mechanically transfer concepts forged in one domain to another domain. But is also useless to try to solve these problems through imprecise metaphors.” (François Jost 79) 257

Francois Jost, a film and adaptation scholar, asserts that: “The notion of the ‘camera eye,’ often used by critics to evoke a neutral and objective description, is now revealed as a dangerous and baseless metaphor […] The semiotic materials of film and novel are not the same, and one cannot mechanically transfer concepts forged in one domain to another domain. But is also useless to try to solve these problems through imprecise metaphors.” (François Jost 79) 257

CONCLUSION 262

“One of the most pervasive aberrations is to imagine that one is a universal reader, shorn of gender, class or that weight of connotations that establish us as we are.” (Ibid. 22) 264

“One of the most pervasive aberrations is to imagine that one is a universal reader, shorn of gender, class or that weight of connotations that establish us as we are.” (Ibid. 22) 264

Recent instances of evolving forms are the novel which interacts with the internet and the ‘fan vidlet’. An example of the former is Tony Di Terlizzi’s The Search for WondLa (2010): by holding up a page from the book to a webcam, readers will see an interactive map appear on the screen of their computer. The ‘fan vidlet’ pirates songs and images and reconfigures them into a different narrative. Dramatist Robert Lepage, too, demonstrates the blurring of boundaries and the evolution of form: “The audience's understanding of narrative structure is very influenced by television and film. If theatre wants to survive and evolve, you have to take that in. I'm not saying it has to become cinematic, but there are ways to use shortcuts to tell stories and the audience has enough cinematic references to understand these shortcuts. It's a rich vocabulary and I always wonder why some people want to go back to the one set, one period, one time-unit way of telling the story when there are ways of bouncing around and creating something more sculptural. It's not that I'm trying to imitate film but I am trying to learn from it.' (Fisher) 264

Recent instances of evolving forms are the novel which interacts with the internet and the ‘fan vidlet’. An example of the former is Tony Di Terlizzi’s The Search for WondLa (2010): by holding up a page from the book to a webcam, readers will see an interactive map appear on the screen of their computer. The ‘fan vidlet’ pirates songs and images and reconfigures them into a different narrative. Dramatist Robert Lepage, too, demonstrates the blurring of boundaries and the evolution of form: “The audience's understanding of narrative structure is very influenced by television and film. If theatre wants to survive and evolve, you have to take that in. I'm not saying it has to become cinematic, but there are ways to use shortcuts to tell stories and the audience has enough cinematic references to understand these shortcuts. It's a rich vocabulary and I always wonder why some people want to go back to the one set, one period, one time-unit way of telling the story when there are ways of bouncing around and creating something more sculptural. It's not that I'm trying to imitate film but I am trying to learn from it.' (Fisher) 264

BIBLIOGRAPHY 270

APPENDICES 275

Academic woman 277

Academic man 277

THE TAR MAN 277

CHILD 278

Dr pirretti 278

Rich elderly lady 278

DR PIRRETTI 278

RICH ELDERLY LADY 278

man's voice 279

A Mother's voice 279

American student 279

A man's voice 279

JOYCE 279

Dr pIRRETTI 280

(v/o) 280

RICH ELDERLY LADY 280

Male guard 280

RICH ELDERLY LADY 280

Guard 281

MALE GUARD 281

GUARD 282

ThE TAR MAN 282

THE TAR MAN 282

MAID 284


MAID 284

LORD LUXON 284

LORD LUXON 285

WILLIAM 285

LORD LUXON 285

PORTER 285

LORD LUXON 285

PORTER 285

LORD LUXON 285

WILLIAM 286

PORTER 286

WILLIAM 286

PORTER 286

WILLIAM 286

PORTER 286

WILLIAM 286

PORTER 286

LORD LUXON 287

MRS STACEY 287

ALICE 287

LORD LUXON 287

MRS STACEY 288

LORD LUXON 288

MRS STACEY 288

ALICE 288

MRS STACEY 288

LORD LUXON 288

ALICE 289

LORD LUXON 289

ALICE 289

LORD LUXON 289

ALICE 289

LORD LUXON 289

LORD LUXON 289

ALICE 289

LORD LUXON 289

ALICE 290

LORD LUXON 290

LORD LUXON 290

ALICE 290

LORD LUXON 290

ALICE 290

LORD LUXON 290

ALICE 290

LORD LUXON 290




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