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Creating Shakespeare

Graham Holderness

Though it may seem perverse – Shakespeare being synonymous with creativity itself – to speak of ‘creating’ that which is already so manifestly and abundantly created, Shakespeare criticism and scholarship is tending increasingly towards the view that every act of scholarly reproduction, critical interpretation, theatrical performance, stage and screen adaptation, or fictional appropriation produces a new and hitherto unconceived Shakespeare. This volume presents discursive evidence to support this hypothesis in relation to the fields of transcultural reproduction, screen adaptation, theatrical improvisation and fictional re-writing.

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Torben Grodal

Based on film examples and evolutionary psychology, this article discusses why viewers are fascinated not only with funny and pleasure-evoking films, but also with sad and disgust-evoking ones. This article argues that although the basic emotional mechanisms are made to avoid negative experiences and approach pleasant ones, a series of adaptations modify such mechanisms. Goal-setting in narratives implies that a certain amount of negative experiences are gratifying challenges, and comic mechanisms make it possible to deal with negative social emotions such as shame. Innate adaptations make negative events fascinating because of the clear survival value, as when children are fascinated by stories about loss of parental attachment. Furthermore, it seems that the interest in tragic stories ending in death is an innate adaptation to reaffirm social attachment by the shared ritual of sadness, often linked to acceptance of group living and a tribal identity.

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Victorian London Redux

Adapting the Gothic Metropolis

Chris Louttit

This article focuses on the reimagining of Victorian London central to two recent, high-profile television adaptations, NBC / Sky Living’s Dracula (2013–14) and Showtime / Sky Atlantic’s Penny Dreadful (2014–). Paying attention to the series themselves and paratextual forms such as posters and title sequences, the article argues that both productions are more interested in responding to the popular Victorian Gothic image of the city than in carefully reconstructing a straightforward facsimile of nineteenth-century London. It shows, in fact, that this adaptation of the Victorian cityscape is presented in heightened, performative terms. Dracula and Penny Dreadful’s self-conscious approach to their Victorian London settings is related, on a textual level, to the playfully anarchic response of these adaptations to their literary sources and characters. More generally, it reflects recent contextual developments affecting the practice of adapting nineteenth-century texts.

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Daniel Dayan

This text transposes, in the form of an article, the main themes tackled by the director Ygal Bursztyn in his book Face, Battlefield (Tel Aviv, Hakibbutz Hameuhad, 1990). Daniel Dayan thanks the author and the translator Sonia Hadida for their collaboration on this adaptation, reproduced with the kind permission of the review Hermes.

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Wrestling with Shylock

Contemporary British Jewish Theatre and Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice

Jeanette R. Malkin and Eckart Voigts

How does Shakespeare’s ambivalent character Shylock affect British theatre artists of Jewish heritage today? Since the 1970s, stage adaptations of The Merchant by British Jewish directors and actors have struggled to glean an interpretation that would make The Merchant relevant or palatable for a post-Shoah generation. This article has a double focus: we discuss the difference between the adaptations of the older generation – Arnold Wesker’s character rewriting in The Merchant (1976) and Charles Marowitz’s deconstruction in Variations on the Merchant of Venice (1977) – and the contemporary revision in Julia Pascal’s 2008 The Shylock Play. Secondly, we focus on the reaction of contemporary Jewish theatre artists in Britain to the centrality of Shylock as the canonical figure of the Jew in Britain. We asked a number of contemporary British Jewish theatre artists – from Tom Stoppard to Samantha Ellis – about their personal relationship to Shylock and we present a digest of their responses.

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Nagas as a ‘Society against Voting?’

Consensus-Building, Party-less Politics and a Culturalist Critique of Elections in Northeast India

Jelle J. P. Wouters

Interrogating the normative notion of ‘man the voter’, this article draws on ethnography among the Chakhesang Naga in Northeast India to communicate a cosmopolitan, culturalist critique – and an answer to this critique – of liberal democracy’s hallmark of party-based elections, individual autonomy and equal voting rights. While Nagas have been decorated as ‘traditional democrats’, their sense of the good political life is shaped by values of communal harmony, consensus-building and complimentary coexistence. However, these are threatened by practices and principles of liberal democracy, which led Phugwumi villagers to attempt a procedural adaptation of elections by substituting individual voting for consensus-building and the selection of a leader. I use this ethnographic case to provincialize the sprawling contemporary sense of ‘liberal universalism’, and to postulate that, in their political sociality, Nagas are a ‘society against voting’, an adaptation of Pierre Clastres’ (1977) Society against the State.

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Angel in the House, Devil in the City

Explorations of Gender in Dracula and Penny Dreadful

Lauren Rocha

Season 1 of the television series Penny Dreadful showcases a Victorian London where monsters are reimagined as part of mainstream society. Much of season 1’s plot centres around an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula, complete with a story arc involving a group of men attempting to save Mina Murray from a vampire master. At the end of Dracula, they are able to save Mina from Dracula’s influence and she is restored to a state of purity; however, in Penny Dreadful, Mina and the female characters remain unsaved. This article focuses on Penny Dreadful and the failed restoration of the gender order of Dracula’s society. It specifically emphasizes deeper gender issues present in the show’s adaptation of Victorian London, arguing that by allowing the main characters to be urban monsters, the show provides a non-human lens through which to examine societal constructs of gender in relation to selfhood.

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A Wolf’s Eye View of London

Dracula, Penny Dreadful, and the Logic of Repetition

Dragoș Manea

Dracula (NBC / Sky Living, 2013–14) and Penny Dreadful (Showtime / Sky Atlantic, 2014–) are two reimaginings of classic nineteenth-century novels that can help us better understand how adaptations function in a media landscape dominated by a logic of repetition and convergence, where sequels, reboots, and remakes have become the norm. While Dracula adapts Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel, with the eponymous character arriving in London posing as an American entrepreneur in order to defeat an evil secret society, Penny Dreadful offers viewers a mélange of classic nineteenth-century Gothic novels in the style of Moore and O’Neill’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (1999–). What distinguishes the two series is the way in which they employ instances of simultaneous adaptation and appropriation in their character building, to the extent that Dracula or Penny Dreadful’s Ethan Chandler can more easily be read as mergers of iconic characters, images, and types.

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Armelle Blin-Rolland

This article aims to compare the narrative techniques employed through the combination of text and image in Tardi's adaptations of Le Der des ders and Voyage au bout de la nuit . Le Der des ders is a classic format bande dessinée, and Voyage is a cross-media work where Tardi's uncaptioned illustrations are juxtaposed with Céline's text. We argue that both Le Der des ders and Voyage constitute successful adaptations in their use of the specificity of the media, respectively comic book and illustration. We will look at the narrative use of text and image in Le Der des ders in terms of complementarity, and in terms of fragmentation with regard to Voyage. In Le Der des ders, text and image form one narrative; in Voyage, on the other hand, there is a binary narrative: the text, and, juxtaposed with it, confronting it, its visual version.

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Peter Widdowson

Whenever I am faced with a film adaptation of a novel I know well, I play an impossible game which involves trying to imagine what someone would make of the film who knows nothing at all of the novel – nor, for good measure, of the author either. So: what would ‘someone’ have been thinking as they left the cinema after watching Michael Winterbottom’s 1996 version of Jude the Obscure – the film Jude, starring Christopher Ecclestone, Kate Winslet and Rachel Griffiths?