The American novel and its film adaptation
Little, Austin Chandler
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A longstanding division in the field of adaptation theory has separated the great American novel and its film adaptation based on the difference of the two mediums. I argue that the tendency to separate the two is unproductive due to film being the evolution of the novel just as the novel was the product of natural progression in literature in the 18th century with the rise of Ian Watt’s formal realism. The point of contention raised by many adaptation theorists is that due to the restrictions of the film medium a novels fidelity will be lost in its reimagining. The concept of fidelity that it’s used to make this argument is outdated, and I propose the use of my Double Feature Fidelity Theory in order to truly understand what makes a film adaption successful or not. My theory transposes Ian Watt’s concept of formal realism on the first layer of fidelity and Walter Benjamin’s concept of the aura on the newly added second layer of fidelity. I then go on to apply my theory to two contemporary film adaptations of the famous American novels, As I lay Dying by William Faulkner and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, to demonstrate the need for the field of adaptation theory to rethink their understanding of fidelity.