Wednesday, October 2, 2019

On the Origin of Adaptations: Rethinking Fidelity Discourse and Success -- Biologically :: Article Review, Bortolotti, Hutcheon

The article, "On the Origin of Adaptations: Rethinking Fidelity Discourse and 'Success' -- Biologically," written by Gary R. Bortolotti and Linda Hutcheon criticizes the habit of using fidelity as the defining characteristic in deciding if an adaptation is a success or a failure. Bortolotti and Hutcheon posit a new system of evaluation by borrowing from the discipline of evolutionary biology. Namely, the success of an adaptation is to be judged by it's efficiency in perpetuating narrative. In evolutionary terms adaptations are predicated on survival of the fittest -the strongest narratives are the ones that adapt to their environments and replicate: by changing for different mediums, time periods, and societies they better insure the chances that the narrative will survive. The article begins with the claim from the movie Adaptation that, "adaptation is a profound process, which means you try and figure out how to thrive in the world" (443). While the authors acknowledge that the context of the film might give the impression of this being an ironic statement, in truth the opposite is true: adaptation really is pivotal to the continued survival of a narrative. The manifest problem with adaptation theory, according to Bortolotti and Hutcheon is the tendency of critics to judge adaptations as good or bad based upon the level of fidelity they maintain with the source text. Altering a source text is not a bad thing -- it is necessary. Bortolotti and Hutcheon both describe transformation of source texts as, "a common and persistent way that humans have always told and retold stories" (444). Critic Thomas Leitch agrees with this judgment and states, "every text offers itself as an invitation to be re-written" (16). But if re-writing a source text is a necessary and beneficial thing then what system of judgment should be used to replace the fidelity criterion? Bortolotti and Hutcheon suggest embracing the scientific framework of post-Darwin biology to judge adaptations. Biologically changing or mutating is necessary for a the survival of a species: creatures who cannot adapt to new environments or circumstances will die out. As stated in the article both stories and organisms share the common need to, "replicate and change" (446). The question arises, then, on how much change can be made before a story is no longer an adaptation. When does it become its own story rather than the re-telling of a source text. Critics Hutcheon and Bortolotti claim that adaptations may change many things and still maintain their status as an adaptation as long the core narrative remains in tact.

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