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Chaucer and Adaptation - Session 4 of New Chaucer Society 2010 Congress
full name / name of organization:
Dana Symons (session organizer)
Scholars’ increased interest in studying the translation, popularization, and adaptation of Chaucer’s works has parallels in Chaucer’s growing visibility in popular culture in the last ten years, from the 1998 animated Canterbury Tales television series and the 2003 BBC adaptations of six tales to the appearance of Geoffrey Chaucer as a character in the 2001 movie A Knight’s Tale. Chaucer’s works, particularly The Canterbury Tales, have undergone myriad other adaptations, including fifteenth-century additions, John Dryden’s “translations” and other often bowdlerized eighteenth-century modernizations, and Pasolini’s twentieth-century X-rated movie version, to name but a few. Linda Hutcheon’s book A Theory of Adaptation (2006) shows that current interest in adaptation goes beyond medieval studies and suggests that our preoccupations with Chaucer as both adapter and adapted author might benefit from recent theoretical work in media and cultural studies. Instead of dismissing adaptations as derivative or inadequate, Hutcheon argues for their importance as works in their own right and for the centrality of adaptation to storytelling. Although Chaucer habitually transformed older stories to create his own meaning and raise questions about textual authority, his influence as an icon of high culture has meant that adaptations of his works have in their turn suffered under the critical eye. What might we learn from taking such adaptations seriously, as Hutcheon suggests, even when they seem to violate our expectations as readers of Chaucer’s “originals”?
Graduate students are encouraged to apply; NCS has a policy of including at least one graduate student in each panel.