Access the full text.
Sign up today, get DeepDyve free for 14 days.
Abstract Recognizing that a work of art is an adaptation changes the perception of it entirely and makes it possible to perceive it as an adaptation. Adaptations are a very specific kind of art experience in physiological, cultural, and medial respects: the palimpsestuous structure of presence and absence requires modes of processing involving feedback loops of memory and perception, cultural mechanisms involved in the processes of selective perception and medial underpinnings of the presentation of adaptations influencing and defining ways of perceiving them. There is a multitude of approaches to the very under-researched topic of adaptation and perception which is outlined here with a view to inspiring further research. perception, physiology, embodied cognition, media convergence, psychology Adaptation and perception are intimately linked: the very act of adapting a given work is changing its perception and the recognition of an adaptation transforms its reception by activating memory loops and causing a switch to a comparative mode of perception. The aesthetic pleasure of perceiving adaptations as such depends on specific modes of processing sensual and semiotic data. These include a physiological, a cultural, and a medial dimension. Regarding the physical—including sensory and neuro-computational—conditions of perception as embodied cognition opens vistas of research into the perceptual underpinnings of adaptation. Equally important for the understanding of adaptation and perception is the consideration of cultural contexts which shape the selective processes involved in perception. The technical (and economic) conditions that facilitate participatory culture and underlie the media machine of adaptation activities, the adaptation industry (Murray), also impact the way adaptations are perceived and can be perceived. More generally, in terms of an evolutionary theory of culture, one could argue that the survival of the ‘fittest’ in literature and culture is driven by a work’s capacity to be adaptable and successfully adapted (Bortolotti and Hutcheon). The extent to which these adaptations respond to and further shape changing modes of perception, how they connect to perception modes demanded by the source-text, and whether they might provide insights into mechanisms of the ‘adapted mind’ (Barkow, Cosmides, and Toby), however, has not yet been explored. This is where the current volume sets in: the present issue aims to explore new approaches in adaptation studies which further analyse the fundamental connection of adaptation and perception. The contributions to this volume present only a few of the possible debates and have been selected to illustrate the scope and variety of research touching on this constellation. One of the key issues at the core of the connection between adaptation and perception relates to the stimuli and cognitive mechanisms that are involved in the recognition of an adaptation as adaptation. As George Berkeley claimed in his Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (1710), existence depends on being perceived (esse est percipi). While Berkeley’s subjective idealism might be one of the most conspicuous notions about human perception and knowledge, it is obviously only one approach, in a long history of philosophical debate, on the question of what perception is. The debate about the nature of perception and ‘being’ goes back to the beginnings of philosophy in the Western world and continues to raise new questions. The robust processing of sense data has made the human species all too successful in its evolutionary struggle for survival. When we talk about perception, we refer to the initial phase of the processing of data, which enter the mind through our sensory channels. Our ways of processing incoming data are highly efficient. For our purposes, one of the most relevant theories involving perception is the theory of cognition as being governed by principles of prediction. In his Surfing Uncertainty (2016), Andy Clark investigates in particular the mutual dependence of perception and action in the context of embodiment. As he claims, perception and action are the two pillars of the cognitive system: they ‘emerge as two sides of a single computational coin. Rooted in multilevel prediction-error minimizing routines, perception and action are locked in complex circular causal flow’ (296). One of the key problems of perception is that our senses are easily betrayed and highly selective, so we cannot rely on them. The selection of stimuli, which is crucial for further processing information, is deeply shaped by human action and dependent on individual development and education. Adaptations might draw on this capacity of our senses to be easily deceived in that they might activate memories of previous works to trigger specific expectations that might initially lead us astray and ultimately contribute to the effect and success of an adaptation. The triggers that ensure the recognition of an adaptation as adaptation (beside the obvious ones, including same or similar titles), however, still need to be further investigated, especially as perception is always partial and highly contingent on individual perspectives and a variety of different processes: ‘No two individuals have the same experience of the environment, none are neurologically wired in the same way, no two stimuli are perceived as identical’ (Chesterman 45). Understanding perception, therefore, is key to understanding natural but also cultural evolution and, in our context, it is key to understanding adaptation. Even if one does not wholly subscribe to Berkeley’s notion, his maxim esse est percipi points to the kernel of adaptation and perception: if the recipient does not realize that s/he is dealing with an adaptation, s/he will not be able to recognize and thus perceive the adaptation as adaptation. The film or game, book or play will be viewed as an ‘autonomous’ work and the vibrant repercussions triggered by the relationship between the adaptation and the work to which it is referring will be missed. The adaptation as such cannot be activated, is not recognized, and thus, in this specific instance, does not exist. In terms of the pervasiveness of adaptation as an imaginative process (Hutcheon 177), this missing of the adaptation side of a work of art obviously becomes a massive loss. While perception has a physiological basis in the workings of the visual, auditory and sensual systems, it refers to much more than the effect of a stimulus on these systems, as sensual perception arises in a feedback loop with mental processes involving learning, memory, expectation, and attention. Perception entails the unconscious selection and suppression of sensory data which depends on what we have previously seen, heard, smelled, felt and with what these sensory data have been previously associated. Due to individual differences in perception, based on knowledge, expectations, or cognitive capacities, perception itself is always in flow. There is no ‘stasis and similarity’ (Cattrysse 155) in perception. Instead, the latter is always selective, perspectivised, and essentially incomplete: ‘one can never read a book or watch a film twice in identical ways, for while reading or watching, both we and the book or the film have changed’ (ibid.). Many literary works have reflected upon the complex mechanisms of perception. Marcel Proust’s A la Recherche du Temps Perdu (1908), for instance, has famously made use of the mechanism of association which Gustav Theodor Fechner, the founder of empirical aesthetics, regarded as one of the fundamental principles of perception. As Fechner argues in his Vorschule der Aesthetik (1876, 108), all sensual data is connected to our memory like a word to its meaning. This association, according to Fechner, has to be learnt just like a language, and changes throughout the course of the life of an individual, shaped by new experiences. The perception of cultural artifacts is thus dependent on both physiological constraints and personal development, based on life-long learning and experience. This explains why the perception of adaptations changes over a life time of reading, listening and viewing. As there is no stable relationship of ‘originality’ and ‘derivation’, the act of perception in recognizing an adaptation as adaptation is never the same. Adaptations might not only provide further insight into perceptual processes (and their pitfalls): they might also make visible what has bypassed our perception or tricked us into perceiving what does not exist. Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2005) is a case in point. The title, which might have an autobiographical source (Solomon), is—without this context—misleading to the extent that the event at the heart of this acclaimed novel, it is not as loud and close as the title suggests. While the photographs of the ‘falling men’, around which the narrative revolves, are amongst the most gruesome (and thus also most ‘present’ and fascinating [cf. Baumbach esp. 224–30]) images connected with the terror attacks on September 11, 2001, they are amongst the most repressed: ethically problematic, they represent a (collective) trauma, something desired to become un-seen though deeply ingrained in our consciousness. At the same time, they may allow a necessary confrontation with trauma which rather resides in images than in narration (Codde 249). In his novel, Foer uses a number of photos and other graphic devices to add to the narrative. Each of these devices has a different function and the most outstanding ones are the final fifteen photographs of the falling man that the narrator of the novel montages into a flipbook. By means of adaptation, these traumatic images are turned into a visual illusion, which tricks readers into perceiving motion where there is stasis and thus surpasses the limits of the photograph, which freezes these gruesome images in time. This effect is achieved by combining a photograph of a ‘falling man’ taken by Lyle Owerko and a photo of one of the towers of the World Trade Centre. The original photo taken by Owerko shows a man falling in front of the WTC. In the montage the body is placed into the void next to the building. This montage is then repeated 13 times and the body is placed in each consecutive image a little higher next to the building and one picture is left without the falling body: the final page of the series, which is also the last page of the novel, only shows this empty space next to the tower: the body has disappeared. Viewed one after the other, the complete series of 15 pages (with one image each) show the body not falling down, but rising up towards the top of the building. This sequence works like a flip book—with a twist: when these pages are flipped in the direction of reading an English text, i.e. from left to right, the body seems to be moving upwards. When it is flipped in the reading direction of Arabic (or Hebrew) the body appears to be falling. Technically, this flip book is an adaptation in a double sense. The first adaptation is created by the cutting of Owerko’s photo of the falling man, which serves as the source image, and its combination with a black-and-white image of one of the WTC towers. Foer, however, goes one step further: he adapts the adaptation by challenging our habits of perception and inserting the images in an order which makes the body rise or fall depending on the flipping of the pages, on the action and perception of the readers. The flip book, therefore, also serves as a meta-narrative comment on the use of the many static pictures in the novel. The flipping of these pages turns these pictures into a mini-movie just like reading a narrative, page by page, constitutes a story. This double adaptation only makes sense if the perceptual conditions of a flip book (a film reel) are met. At the same time, the perceptual quality of the black-and-white reproduction of the Owerko photo is at stake when Oskar unsuccessfully tries to enlarge the picture in order to identify his father. These visual images are not only an essential part of the narrative, whose meaning rests on the combination of visual and verbal stimuli: they also, as adaptations, challenge our conventional modes, our habits of perception and, by tricking our senses, provide insight into the ways in which perception (and its manipulation) operates. The success of this adaptation, the recognition of its twists and thus also the insights into perceptual processes triggered by the flipbook, however, are contingent on the readers’ cultural and historical knowledge, namely on their awareness of the events of 9/11 and the traumatic images that Foer’s flipbook is based on. Considering that the perception of an adaptation as adaptation is crucial to the (aesthetic) appreciation of adaptations, it is surprising that the connection between adaptation and perception has received only very little attention to date. There are some notable exceptions, which point to the need of approaches in this direction, including Thomas van Pary’s call for combining adaptation studies with ‘cognitive reception analysis’ (van Parys 409), which would allow insight into audience’s preferences for one specific adaptation. Kamilla Elliott also suggests a cognitive approach which recognizes that ‘[v]erbalizing and visualizing […] prove to be connected rather than opposed cognitive processes’ (Elliott 222). Other recent approaches define adaptation as ‘any phenomenon that ‘functions’ as an adaptation in one particular space-time context’ (Cattrysse 52) and offer a first “poetics of adaptation”, based on “the pleasure of the intertext” (Tarquinio), all implying a focus on the perceptual conditions of seeing adaptations as adaptations. Connecting to approaches in adaptive literary studies, adaptations can be regarded as the products of evolutionary storytelling in that they represent a ‘special cognitive play of art [which] allows humans to extend and refine key cognitive competences’ (Boyd 190). How exactly the different ‘interactional’, ‘institutional’, ‘intertextual’, and ‘existential’ frames and schemas as well as the ‘set of personal and collective experience that operate as references’ (Casetti 84) are activated by these essentially overdetermined ‘texts’, how they shape, challenge, or interact with the perception of adaptations, and to what extent they can also help train readers’ and audiences’ cognitive capacities and their (media) literacy still needs to be explored in more detail. Marie-Laure Ryan has already argued that ‘the narrative success of games lies in their ability to exploit the most fundamental of the forces that move a plot forward: the solving of problems’ (2014, 349). It has to be further investigated, however, to what extent adaptations through readers’, audiences’ or gamers’ intense cognitive involvement might help refine problem-solving capacities and promote greater cognitive flexibility, which intensifies awareness for interconnectivity and intertextual ‘maps’. In addition to these calls for (re-)considering the role of perception in adaptation studies, this special issue was prompted by recent approaches in cognitive poetics and empirical aesthetics, which focus on the mechanisms of perception and aesthetic strategies of literature and art (cf. Burke/Troscianko) as well as changing modes of production, perception, and consumer engagement after the digital turn. New developments in media-technology as well as in media culture have fundamentally changed our modes of perception and participation, leading to the dissolution of formerly clearly defined roles of producers and recipients or consumers. This had a deep effect on hierarchies of production and consumption and led to different perceptions of the products as well as the processes of adaptation. The act of adaptation as such has shifted from being perceived as a socially, intellectually, and emotionally privileged undertaking by a talented individual to collective and also anonymous forms of participation: following these developments in convergence and participatory culture (Nicklas/Voigts 2013), the notion of the passive consumer has been replaced by the ‘produser’ or ‘prosumer’, respectively, which point to the intersection of producers and consumers first registered in Henry Jenkins’ definition of convergence culture (Jenkins). Technological changes have not only facilitated media convergence: they have also fundamentally changed the role that receptive processes such as reading, watching, and listening, have played, and will continue to play, in processes of adaptation. The ability to adapt a text, a film, or a piece of music by means of digital devices, for instance, blurs the line between purely receptive and purely productive modes of interaction and enables new modes of participatory adaptation. Furthermore, increasingly decentred modes of reception, distribution, and production enabled through social media provide a fertile ground for the dissemination of creative readings and writings (Hassler-Forest/Nicklas). Within this new media matrix, content seems to flow more easily across multiple channels connecting multiple technological platforms. Replacing the traditional interfaces of page and screen, laptop computers, tablets, and smartphones enable innovative forms of participation and creativity by opening up new avenues for recording and producing media. All of these developments have had a profound impact on our everyday use of technological devices and on our patterns of behaviour and perception. New forms of media literacy have emerged, which alter our understanding of ‘inter-’ and ‘source-text’, adding to the already complex question posed towards the end of Hutcheon’s seminal A Theory of Adaptation: ‘What is not an adaptation?’ (170). The cardinal role of perception in these changing processes of adaptation, however, remains largely unexplored. This is all the more surprising as the appreciation of an aesthetics of adaptation, which is intimately connected to media convergence, would help reveal the underlying conditions of perception that have shaped and continue to shape adaptations in contemporary convergence culture. Adaptation has increasingly become the product of prosumption: both mash-ups and GIFs are fine examples of these slightly anarchic acts of casual adaptation pervading internet and communication cultures. The recent mash-up Starwars Uncut (2012), for instance, demonstrates the immense implications of this trend, which forces the studios and copyright holders to endorse acts of piracy and to embrace what could not be condoned. These changes to the policies and politics of adaptation have a profound impact on the perception of adaptations. In the digital era, adaptations provide novel ways of interaction, participation, and consumer engagement. At the same time, they open up new avenues for creative expression and foster the democratisation of content and production. Considering that consumers and prosumers alike have an impact on both the evolution and development of fictional works (e.g. fan fiction), the question arises to what extent these new developments shape and ultimately change our practices of story-telling and, on a broader scope, also our ways of worldmaking (Goodman) based on the assumption that ‘[n]arrative is a timeless and universal cognitive model by which we make sense of temporal existence and human action’ (Ryan 242). The democratisation of adaptation processes, prompted by the digital turn, leads to a proliferation of adaptations and new (serialised) forms of adaptations, which might further complicate our perception of ‘adaptation’, which—not unlike the novel, which Virginia Woolf famously referred to as ‘cannibal’ (Woolf 224)—might contain several sub-forms of adaptations, for which we yet lack a term. This special issue of Adaptation, rooted in comparative adaptation studies, aims to explore and assess perceptual underpinnings and perceptual changes involved in the reception and/or production of adaptations in media convergence. The articles, which cover a broad range of different aspects and a variety of genres, indicate the scope and potential of research at the nexus of adaptation and perception. They explore the relationships between play and film, novel and graphic novel, film and novel, computer games and novels, and analyse the new hybrid form of Live Theatre Broadcast. Besides their wide generic scope, they cover a great variety of methodology and historical material. Using theories from psychology, Robert Geal explores the paradox of adaptations, which is quite a typical effect, namely that the recipient experiences suspense despite being already aware of the outcome of the story. In his case study of Gnomeo and Juliet (2011), this effect is coupled with the contradiction between low-level automated modes of perception while consciously knowing that these modes are being deceived. Romeo and Juliet is a classic of adaptation culture in more than one way: it deals with an archetypal story of ‘star-crossed’ lovers which had been retold before Shakespeare’s version many times, making Shakespeare’s famous tragedy only one specimen in a long genealogy of similar love stories, and yet, at the same time, Romeo and Juliet becomes a starting point for a tradition in its own rights. The animated adaptation Gnomeo and Juliet with its setting in English suburban gardens is as such a meta-cinematic and ironical take on the cultural icon which has become the source for specific perceptual cultural conventions that inform patterns of automated perception. The meta-cinematic aspects of Geal’s probing of the perceptual implications of the anomalous foreknowledge and the deception of our senses that in an animated film we see things move which cannot move binds together these two effects. Chiao-I Tseng draws on concepts and methodologies from linguistics to analyse transmedial cohesion in order to facilitate quantitative empirical comparison of adaptations of City of Glass. This approach is one of the few attempts at empirical aesthetics in adaptation studies by looking at quantifiable structures that can be identified independently of the media in which the adaptation is performed. Mechanisms and methods of cohesion in narrative strategies can be described within the same framework independent of media-specificity. This permits a quantifiable comparative description despite transmediality. This sameness in difference functions also as a perception category. Cohesion of a narrative is perceived no matter how the narrative is presented, we make the same connections of static points to create the trajectory of the narrative. This approach may seem rather formalistic but it also gives an answer to the perennial question of adaptation studies: ‘What is adapted?’ David Richard’s study of Jane Campion’s In the Cut (2003) introduces a phenomenological approach to film which goes beyond visual perception in that it includes all the senses in an attempt to retrieve an embodied spectatorship for a more holistic approach to the experience of viewing an adaptation as an adaptation. This methodology of seeing the spectator of a film not as a spectator alone, i.e. as someone who sees only, but as someone whose whole senses are involved in the experience of meaningfully living the art experience of adaptation, is perfectly apt for a focus on perception. In his case study of In the Cut, Richard focuses particularly on the sense of touch. The highly subjective cinematography of Campion allows an internal focalization leading to what Richard calls ‘tactile orientation’ which is evoked by the filmic means. These synaesthetic effects are important to follow up in order to understand the holistic effect of the film on the perceptual processing in the recipient and open up the meaning potential in this phenomenological approach. Elisavet Ioannidou argues from a media studies’ point of view that playing hidden object games has a profound effect on the player’s perception through reconciling interaction and immersion in a kind of flow experience which is quite different from the immersive experience literature can offer. Ioannidou uses Ryan’s dictum that interaction with a text requires textual self-consciousness which destroys readerly immersion. As the computer games looked at here take their narrative elements from literary Victorian texts, this switch in the mode of reception makes for an interesting case of perceptive change through adaptation. The enactment of the past is also an attempt to rectify history and make the player experience the ‘historical reality’ in a multi-sensory way. Lauren Hitchman explores the very under-researched and rare live theatre broadcast as a newly emerging hybrid form, which changed the perceptive framework of audiences in marked ways. The auratic element of a live performance is part of the broadcast as well which is live and recorded at the same time. In this light, the concept of ‘liveness’ needs to be questioned as it is symbolic capital and influences strongly the perception of a performance by becoming part of a hierarchy in which the un-reproduced live performance acquire a higher standing. So, the same performance triggers two different modes of perceptions and ontologies depending on where the audience experiences it: in the theatre or in the cinema. Hitchman argues for the very special status of the live broadcast which she also sees as a specific kind of adaptation. Though by no means exhaustive, these contributions point to the need to further explore the aesthetics of adaptation in the digital age, and to introduce new approaches in the field of cognitive adaptation studies by proposing first methodological and theoretical frameworks for future studies that will address the complex levels of participatory adaptation culture we have come to live by, and its effects on our different modes of perception. REFERENCES Adaptation : Adaptation, Transmedia Storytelling and Participatory Culture . Guest Editors Pascal Nicklas , and Eckart Voigts . Volume 6.2 ( 2013 ). Barkow , Jerome H. , Leda Cosmides , John Toby . The Adapted Mind: Evolutionary Psychology and the Generation of Culture . Oxford : Oxford UP , 1995 . Baumbach , Sibylle. Literature and Fascination . Basingstoke : Palgrave Macmillan , 2015 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Bortolotti , G.R. and Linda Hutcheon . “ On the Origin of Adaptations: Rethinking Fidelity Discourse and ‘Success’ – Biologically .” New Literary History 36 ( 2007 ): 443 – 458 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Boyd , Brian. On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition and Fiction . Cambridge, MA : Harvard University Press , 2009 . Burke , Michael and Emily T. Troscianko . Cognitive Literary Science: Dialogues between Literature and Cognition . Oxford/New York : Oxford University Press , 2017 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Casetti , Francesco . “ Adaptations and Mis-Adaptations: Film, Literature, and Social Discourses .” A Companion to Literature and Film . Eds. Robert Stam and Alessandra Raengo . London : Blackwell , 2004 : 81 – 91 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Cattrysse , Patrick. Descriptive Adaptation Studies: Epistemological and Methodological Issues . Antwerp : Garant , 2014 . Chesterman , Andrew. Contrastive Functional Analysis . Amsterdam/Philadelphia : John Benjamins Publishing , 1998 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Codde , Philippe . “ Philomela Revisited: Traumatic Iconicity in Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close .” Studies in American Fiction . 35 ( 2007 ): 241 – 254 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Elliott , Kamilla. Rethinking the Novel/Film Debate . Cambridge : Cambridge UP , 2003 . Foer , Jonathan Safran. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close . Boston, New York : Penguin , 2006 . Goodman , Nelson. Ways of Worldmaking . Indianapolis : Hackett Publishing , 1978 . Hassler-Forest , Dan and Pascal Nicklas (eds.). The Politics of Adaptation: Media Convergence and Ideology . Basingstoke : Palgrave Macmillan , 2015 . Hutcheon , Linda with Siobhan O’Flynn . A Theory of Adaptation . Second Edition . Oxon : Routledge , 2013 . Jenkins , Henry. Convergence Culture. Where Old and New Media Collide . New York : New York University Press , 2006 . Murray , Simone. The Adaptation Industry. The Cultural Economy of Contemporary Literary Adaptation . New York/London : Routledge , 2012 . Ryan , Marie-Laure. Narrative as Virtual Reality: Immersion and Interactivity in Literature and Electronic Media . Baltimore : Johns Hopkins UP , 2001 . Ryan , Marie-Laure . “ Will New Media Produce New Narratives ?” In: ibid . (ed.) Narrative Across Media: The Languages of Storytelling . Lincoln/London : University of Nebraska Press , 2004 : 337 – 359 . Ryan , Marie-Laure and Jan-Noel Thon . Storyworlds across Media: Toward a Media-Conscious Narratology . Lincoln/London : University of Nebraska Press , 2014 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Solomon , Deborah . “ The Rescue Artist ”. The New York Times Magazine 27 Feb. 2005 , no pages. Tarquinio , Meg. The Pleasure of the Intertext: Towards a Cognitive Poetics of Adaptation . Dissertation. Boston, Mass .: Northeastern University , 2017 . Van Parys , Thomas . “ Against Fidelity: Contemporary Adaptation Studies and the Example of Novelisation .” Adaptation Theories . Ed. Jillian St. Jacques . Maastricht : Jan van Eyck Academie Press , 2011 : 407 – 438 . Woolf , Virginia . “The Narrow Bridge of Art”  . In: Virginia Woolf. Collected Essays . Ed. Leonard Woolf . Vol. 2 . London : Hogarth Press , 1966 : 218 – 229 . © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: email@example.com This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/open_access/funder_policies/chorus/standard_publication_model)
Adaptation – Oxford University Press
Published: Aug 1, 2018
Access the full text.
Sign up today, get DeepDyve free for 14 days.