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Theorizing Adaptation$
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Kamilla Elliott

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780197511176

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780197511176.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 19 June 2021

Theorizing Adaptation in the Sixteenth to Nineteenth Centuries

Theorizing Adaptation in the Sixteenth to Nineteenth Centuries

(p.33) 2 Theorizing Adaptation in the Sixteenth to Nineteenth Centuries
Theorizing Adaptation

Kamilla Elliott

Oxford University Press

Chapter 2 documents that, in contrast to more recent theories that have rendered adaptation a bad theoretical object, prior to the late eighteenth century, adaptation was theorized as a good theoretical object, fostering an innovative, progressive, national aesthetic culture and situating artists in a long lineage reaching back to classical Greece. Subsequently, late eighteenth-century Romantic theories of originality and theories of the arts as separate species militated against adaptation in the same way that theologies of original creation and scientific theories of separate species would militate against theories of biological adaptation in the late nineteenth century. Even so, some nineteenth-century theorists continued to valorize adaptation equivocally as a means of civilizing the lower classes and foreign cultures, even as its aesthetic deficiencies offended the higher ranked, fiercely nationalist arbiters of civilization and culture. Copyright laws, which did not apply when a work changed medium until the early twentieth century in Britain and other nations, intensified the opprobrium cast upon adaptation in a rhetoric of theft at home and piracy abroad. Even so, some critics maintained that adaptation is original when created by an original genius; others valorized intermedial adaptation in a pseudo-religious discourse of realization of the word made flesh; yet others pitted sister arts theories against theories of the arts as separate species that cannot mate to produce adaptation, although both militated against the reproductive, generative capacities of adaptation. These discourses were not limited to academics and reviewers, but extended to the adaptation industry.

Keywords:   adaptation history, adaptation theory, sixteenth–nineteenth centuries, theatrical adaptation, copyright law, adaptation and fidelity, medium specificity, sisters arts, adaptation and class, adaptation and nation

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