Dear friends and readers,
Not only is “Intertextuality in Simon Raven’s The Pallisers and Other Trollope Films” published, but the volume in which it occurs, Victorian Literature and Film Adaptation, edd. Abigail Burnham Bloom and Mary Sanders Pollock, introd. Thomas Leitch has been reviewed by Kamilla Elliot in the online academic review journal, Review 19. While Elliot’s review justifiably critiques aspects of the volume, she signals out mine and one other, Gene M. Moore’s “Making Private Scenes Public: Conrad’s “Return” and Chereau’s Gabrielle (see my analysis in another blog), as superior, the best in the volume:
Welcoming theoretical and methodological variety, I find value in older approaches, especially when–as in the essays by Gene M. Moore and Ellen Moody–they rest on a substantial body of scholarship and research
Some of Elliot’s criticism of the volume derive from her strongly theoretical, post-modern point of view (see her Rethinking the Novel/Film Debate). I liked her suggestion that I should or could “step back from [my] meticulous microanalyses of screenplays to present a broader perspective of how screenplays mediate between literature and film?” I shall keep this kind of comment in mind when I return to my book, A Place of Refuge: A study of the Sense and Sensibility films (working title).
But I should say (and I think this an important point, fundamental even) that I disagree with her main perspective: insofar as the essays in Victorian Literature and Film Adaptation use a high amount of theoretical (packed) language and jump from general statement to general statement they lack content, and are insufficiently descriptive of their subject matter and convey less information and insight about their chosen films and books.
William Powell Firth (1891-1909), (monumental) The Railway Station (1862)
So, speaking plainly, for those interested in Victorian/Edwardian films, the volume contains 2 essays whose subject matter is Jane Austen films (arguably Victorian in the way the novels are treated); one on the generation of Jekyll and Hyde films (Leitch); one on Lubitsch’s Lady Windermere’s Fan (partly out of Wilde’s play); Dickens’s Christmas Carol; one on Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter, an adaptation of Russell Banks’s novel, using, as does Egoyan, Browning “The Pied Piper” as an intermediary text (a superbly insightful essay by Mary Sanders Pollock); one on Kubrick’s adaptation of Thackeray’s Barry Lyndon (another genuinely enlightening informative one by Louise McDonald); one on several versions of Dracula, one on the 1939 Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes films compared to recent analogous and free adaptations, and mine on Trollope whose original more accurate and grammatically sound title was “Trollope on Television: Intertextuality in the Pallisers and other Trollope films:” it focuses on Raven’s Pallisers (and two other of Raven’s mini-series as intermediary texts), but also covers Plater’s Barchester Chronicles, and uses aspects of Herbert Herbert’s Malachi’s Cove, and Andrew Davies’s The Way We Live Now and He Knew He Was Right, to suggest how centrally Raven’s perspective on Trollope has influenced those films made after his (recently in reaction against).
Elliot said she didn’t understand the three major divisions of the volume. The third follows its subtitle: “Teaching Books by Reading Movies.” The three essays tell of how the writers as teachers use film and they make concrete useful suggestions for those embarking on such teaching. Read the screenplay with the students (emphasize intermediary texts), concentrate on the beginnings and endings of films (often different from the originating book), multiple versions or films of the same story unmoors students front their tenacious adherence to the originating text as a primary standard. The second part (in which my essay appears) had essays which focus on the alteration of values in the content of book and films, but it is true that the third essay on the first part (on Dickens’s Christmas Carol) locates the persistence of the story in its content of the retrievable, rejuvenation, generosity, charitableness. The first part is supposed to be about filmic-techniques, tropes, typical procedures, the exploitation of at least generally favored paradigms and myth. Jean-Marie Lecomte’s on Lubitsch’s Lady Windermere’s Fan is about technique, and Thomas Leitch’s on the many Jekyll, Hydes on the necessity to develop some understood relationship between source or eponymous text, film, and intervening film and verbal texts.
John Malkovich as Hyde (1996 Mary Reilly, an adaptation of RLStevenson’s novel & Valerie Martin’s novels of the same name)
Julia Roberts as Mary Reilly (the film includes as intertexts Victorian painting, Orson Welles’s Moby Dick, Dracula films et alia
It’s hard to differentiate theme from form. My essay covers both aspects of film adaptation of texts found to be centrally meaningful since their first reception as books. I argue that the Pallisers was an important noticed sociological event (year-long) which fixed Trollope in the TV public mind as a paternalistic Tory (like his hero, the liberal whig politician Duke of Omnium), and that in these “Raven’s scripts shape Trollope’s novels into a filmic, disillusioned political vision, which justifies patriarchy in an ameriorated inegalitarian society, itself dependent on the self-erasure of women whose emotional and social support is needed to sustain it.” I also argue that Herbert’s and Davies’s films turn Trollope’s texts into critical exposures of Victorian systems of privilege, and replace Raven’s cynical Tory Trollope with a humane, liberal Trollope, partly in reaction to Raven’s characters (who differ considerably from Trollope’s). But to show this I compare texts from Trollope’s Phineas Redux with Pallisers 8:15 and 8:16:
Lady Glencora Palliser (Susan Hampshire, 8:15, see also Mid-point)
From the Duchess’s dinner-party (8:16)
and bring in Raven’s previous film adaptations (Edward VIII and Mrs Simpson, The Blackheath Poisonings). In moving onto the recent films have to take into considerable that recent film adaptations do not conceive the material as filmed stage plays, but sequences of juxtaposed stills, and I compare the wistful feminism of Susan Hampshire as Signora Neroni in Plater’s Barsetshire with Trollope’s desperate unscrupulous Signora.
Signora Neroni (Susan Hampshire), melancholy, disillusioned (1982 BBC Barchester Chronicles)
Intertexual texts for Davies are films as much as books. Davies’ hero, Paul Montague in The Way we Live Now, refuses to treat the heroines as of right the natural property of the older males; Davies’ depiction of the Jewish themes of Trollope’s book exposes the bigotry of the hypocritical upper class English in their anti-semitism by taking one of Trollope’s inset epistolary correspondences and turning it into dramatic scenes of great power.
Davies’s 2001 The Way We Live Now: Georgiana (Anne-Marie Duff) treats the noble if Jewish Breghert (Jim Carter) in the most insulting inhumane terms
My view is a close comparative analysis which does not privilege the eponymous book or previous incarnations of it in films but includes these and the screenplay, and whatever other source and intermediate texts a film-maker necessarily must form the basis of any understanding of a film and its sources. I suggest that theoretical language is more than a blight linguistically; it can be a substitute for the hard work of close reading and a thorough grounding in the history of the era the eponymous book was written in, the era the movie is made in, its genre and all the work the film-makers (including production design and actors) did in other films. Elliot complains in her review of several “thin” and under-researched essays. The person spent all his or her time (maybe not a lot) on reading and writing these sentences of sometimes impossible to decipher packed theory.
Donald Pleasaunce as Malachi and Veronica Quilligan as his grand-daughter, Mally (Herbert has in mind previous Cornish films’ motifs, 1974 Malachi’s Cove)
Well enough. I won’t summarize my colleagues work nor go more into the details of mine. Much is on the Net in even more “meticulous microanalysis” than is permitted in a published book.
I am chuffed and proud to see my work in the same volume as that of Thomas Leitch whose Film Adaptation and Its Discontents has long been one of the books I keep on my library table near my desk and who I corresponded with by email during the time of the book’s making, shared work with and was very generous to me.
Rev Gibson (David Tennant) trying to evade Arabella French (Fenella Woolgar) (from one of Marcus Stone’s original illustrations to Trollope’s HKHWR)
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