06 SES 09, Digital Storytelling
It has been argued that the advent of new media and technologies have changed not just what the younger generation ‘know’, but their ‘ways of knowing’ (Kress 2005; Ito et al. 2010; New London Group 1996]. Educational content and processes have attempted to address such changes in a variety of ways; one of the most common of these is the use of adapted texts in school classrooms. Teachers are making increasing use of films, comic books, computer games and other media in order to appeal to the evolving literacies of young people without altering core curricular content. While ‘adaptation’ itself can be understood broadly and adapted texts are employed across subject disciplines, this paper focuses on the literary adaptation, and on Shakespeare and the comic book in particular. Researchers working in the area of textual studies have considered the ideological context for adaptations and their relationships to audience (Hutcheon 2006; Sanders 2006). Work in media studies – on ‘remediation’ and ‘convergence culture’ – also goes some way to helping us understand the broader cultural contexts in which texts are produced and consumed (Jenkins 1992, 2006; Gershon 2010). However, there has been no research on either the production or reception of the adapted text within educational contexts. This paper addresses this gap through an empirical research project which looks at the production process behind a popular series of comic book adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays. This series, first commissioned in 2007, has now been translated into eleven different languages and comes with a set of online educational resources for use in school classrooms. In focusing on the adaptation process itself, the paper asks questions such as: what assumptions are being made about the readers through the textual practice of adaptation? How are issues of power and trust played out, especially with regards to ‘Shakespeare’ and ‘comic books’? What are the ‘educational’ assumptions behind the representational choices made?
The paper takes both a sociological, and philosophical, approach to the concept of adaptation. It employs Simone Murray’s recent work on the cultural economy of the adaptation industry (2012) as a broad framework. In so doing, it attempts to connect the relationship between producer and consumer, publisher and adapter, text and reader to shed light on both the adaptation process, and its potential educational implications. Murray, moving away from the textual analysis approach of much work on adaptation, takes Bourdieu’s concept of the ‘cultural field’ and explores how commercial and cultural values play out amongst the different agents involved in the adaptation of literary texts. Her work enables an exploration of the way in which culture is packaged for young people and how different kinds of ‘profit’ (cultural, educational, symbolic and economic) circulate through such processes. This paper, however, goes further than Murray’s broad sociological analysis. By looking closely at the accounts of adapters (comic artists and textual scholars) themselves, the paper also employs the category of ‘trust’. It employs the work of Hawley (2012), O’Neill (2002) and Eco (1994) as a means to illuminate the actual and implied relationships between adapters, text, reader, publisher and teacher in both ‘real’ and ‘fictional’ worlds.
Eco, U. 1996. Six walks in the fictional woods. Boston. Harvard University Press. Gershon, I. 2010. Break up 2.0: disconnecting over new media. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Hawley, K. 2012. ‘Trust, Distrust and Commitment.’ NOÛS, DOI: 10.1111/nous.12000 Hutcheon, L. 2006. A theory of adaptation. New York: Routledge. Ito, M., & et al. 2010. Hanging out, messing around and geeking out: Kids living and learning with new media. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. Jenkins, H. 1992. Textual poachers: Television fans and participatory culture. New York: Routledge. Jenkins, H. 2006. Convergence culture: Where old and new media collide. New York: New York University Press. Kress, G. 2005. Gains and losses: New forms of texts, knowledge, and learning. Computers and Composition, 22, 5-22. Murray, S. 2012. The adaptation industry. New York: Routledge. O’Neill. O. 2002. A question of trust. BBC Reith Lectures. Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/print/radio4/reith2002/ Sanders, J. 2006. Adaptation and appropriation. London: Routledge.
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