Andrew W. Mellon Penn Faculty Fellow in the Humanities
2011—2012 Forum on Adaptations
Associate Professor of English, Comparative Literature, and Italian
iPhone Austen and xBox Dante: When Adaptation Becomes a Game
My project explores the degree to which computer gaming changes how we think about literary adaptation. Literary adaptation almost always presupposes the existence of some more genuine antecedent, so that a family resemblance exists between the original and its adaptation. Their relation, moreover, must be necessarily hierarchical, the adaptation standing on some fundamental level as a revision of an original. Yet, adaptations are by their nature transformative since they usually take shape in a medium or form different from the object adapted. One such new medium is the video gaming industry, whose adaptations of literary texts -- among them the iPhone's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2010) and xBox's Dante's Inferno (2010) -- abandon most of the assumptions just outlined. My project looks to the recent practice of adapting canonical texts into digital game format in order to ask two questions: (1) do such cultural objects force us to rethink adaptation?, and (2) does playing a specific subject position present a new mode of spectatorship?