Natasha Long, student, Master of the Arts in Humanities, University of Chicago
ARTV 24103 grew out of a class with the specific aim of creating a collaborative piece for this exhibition. Back in September , Catherine instructed us each to choose a source (anything!) and from there we began brainstorming ways to approach the issue of adaptation.
We discussed things like fidelity to the source, the context of adaptation and the (in)compatibility of different forms and media. With nine very different sources, we explored them independently and together and I think we all found our own connection to the topic. My source was Pride and Prejudice and I became interested in how the adaptation of a text can become more significant than the original text.
I think Jane Austen and her characters have become so iconic that Elizabeth and Darcy are no longer mere printed words but fictional celebrities. When I started dating my boyfriend, he bought me flowers and made jokes about being Mr. Darcy which seemed very cute from a Literature student, but I later discovered that he had never actually read the book and for some reason this shook my whole notion of romance. It seems that Austen’s books have been adapted and re-adapted so many times that Pride and Prejudice is now more than a novel, it’s a cultural reference.
This is all very well, but as a cultural reference it seems to explicitly contradict many of today’s cultural values. When I reread the novel for this piece, I realized just how absurd it is that Elizabeth ends up with Mr. Darcy and wanted to explore why, in the modern day of the feisty, liberated woman, we still cling to Pride and Prejudice as the perfect love story.
To structure the piece, we collected the elements (characters, objects, themes, etc) that interested us from all of the sources and each wrote a script around the ones we felt most drawn to. What resulted were seven independent scripts that nonetheless wove in and out of each other. The final piece, with the separate scripts stitched together serves as yet another stage of adaptation from individual to collaborative art. Some of the original sources are more prominent than others, some have been worked beyond all recognition and this variety seems to represent the differing opinions about the ethics and practice of adaptation.