Key Terms for Adaptation Studies

Some helpful terms and phrases commonly found within this field.

As with any particular field, adaptation studies has its own language and terminology to talk, or, rather, write in most cases, about adaptations. The problem is that it doesn’t seem like the scholars have come to agree on any specific set of terms and definitions to use, so reading someone like Linda Hutcheon, one of the prominent figureheads of this field, her definition of, say, transposition may not be the same as, say, Julie Sanders, another prominent figure in adaptation studies who challenges and constantly seems to contradict Hutcheon. Needless to say, it gets a bit complicated, so for the sake of your sanity and mine and for the sake of this project, I’m going to list a couple of general key terms and their definitions that will be used throughout this exploration.

Adaptation – the work that is inspired by or derived from some other source.
↳ An example of an adaptation is the popular movie, 10 Things I Hate About You. It’s the result of the writers of the script being inspired by Shakespeare.

Original source/text – pretty self-explanatory, it’s the source or text that an adaptation is based off of
↳ An example would be, to continue with the previous example, Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew is the original text that the movie 10 Things I Hate About You is based on.

Intertextuality – the relationship found between various texts.

Palimpsest & Palimpsestuous – a layered type of writing where hints of the original writings & stories are seen coming through in the adaptation.
↳ This was inspired by palimpsests which were old manuscripts that were reused for newer writings. The original text, no matter how much they tried to erase it, almost always managed to come through the newer writing, hence its use in adaptation studies.

Transposition – something that’s been changed; something that’s gone from one form and has been worked and transformed into another.

Fidelity Critique – the argument that something’s value is only measured by how faithful it is to its original source(s).

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