Adaptations and Transformations Literature SAC: A How To Guide

May 12, 2016

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Imagine a friend tells you eerie accounts of her witnessing a ghostly presence in her home. You scoff and condescendingly humour her. But as her stories begin to manifest itself in her gaunt appearance, you alarmingly notice how she truly believes in the apparitions she recounts. You begin to doubt her sanity, you begin to doubt the certainty with which you dismissed her supernatural visions and now, you begin to doubt yourself. THE SUSPENSE BUILDS.

But let’s say this friend filmed the ghostly apparitions and showed them to you. Sure – the evidence of this ghost is frighteningly scary. But the suspense that was built in the doubt, uncertainty and ambiguity of your friend’s tale is now lost. The ghosts caught in film acts as another eyewitness and another medium to validate your friend’s narrative. Your friend is no longer the only person who sees these ghosts, shattering all doubt within you of the ghost’s existence. THE SUSPENSE – is gone.

Notice how the form and genre of the spoken word in the first example was meaningful in its the effect on the reader? But when the form changed to a film, the meaningful suspense and ambiguity that was unique and crucial in the original text, changed, and was no longer as pronounced. Yes – the film itself may be terrifying. But the very doubt and suspense around not knowing if your friend was a lunatic for seeing ghosts or if she was telling the truth all contributes to the meaning derived from the form of the ‘text’ in an unreliable first person narrative. This is the crux of adaptations and transformations, and what you need to identify and analyse – how the meaning is changed/altered when the form of the text is changed.

Here are 7 lucky tips for how to tackle the SAC:

  1. Identify the unique conventions in the construction of the original text – characterisation, genre, tone, style, structure, point of view/narration (or any devices employed in constructing the text e.g. cinematic devices in a film such as camera angles, framing, lighting, costumes, interior/exterior settings, sound)
  2. Now do step 1 with the adapted/transformed text
  3. How do the two text forms differ? How are they the same? However, be sure you do not simply compare and contrast. The most crucial step is what meaning can be derived from the similarities and differences? How does the meaning change?
  4. Note additions and omissions (and even silences) – do they change how readers/viewers perceive the narrative and alter your opinions and perceptions of the text?
  5. Historical context and setting – what significance does the context have on the narrative? Has the adaptation/transformation been re-contextualised? Does that alter the meaning of the original text?
  6. How does the change in form impact you as the reader/viewer? Analyse your own reactions and feelings towards each text form. Do you sympathise with a character more in the original text? How are we positioned to feel this way? Why do you lack the same level of sympathy for the adapted/transformed text?
  7. Incorporate pertinent quotations from both forms of text to substantiate and support your ideas and key points.

Final questions to ponder

Most importantly is to share your original interpretation of what meaning and significance you can extract from the text, and how you believe it changes once the form alters.

What makes the text in its original form interesting or unique?

Is that quality captured in its adaptation/transformation?

As always with Literature, this task is designed for you to critically analyse and actively engage with the text, understanding its nuances inside and out in order to decipher its meaning. Be individual in comparing and contrasting the two texts – avoid the obvious similarities/differences everyone in your class will also notice. It is the insightful analysis of the subtleties of how meaning is altered that will help you stand out!

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