Shaw and Adaptation [MLA 2014 in Chicago; JANUARY 9-12, 2014]

full name / name of organization: 
Modern Language Association

*Sponsored by the International Shaw Society*

Please send abstracts of 250 words and CVs as well as queries by March 15, 2013 to Lawrence Switzky (

Many audiences first encounter Bernard Shaw's plays through their transformations into other genres and media. Lerner and Loewe's My Fair Lady (1956) is perhaps the most famous adaptation of Shaw's Pygmalion (1912), though the current standard print edition of the play is also an adaptation, a hybrid of Shaw's Academy Award-winning screenplay for the 1938 film and his original and revised stage scripts.

This panel invites papers that discuss specific play-scripts by Shaw and their pliability—and resistance—to adaptation across genres and media. Literary theorist Linda Hutcheon has defined the allure of transmedial adaptation as "repetition without replication," the pleasure of recognition mixed with the pleasure of surprise. What features of Shavian drama remain recognizable in adaptations of Shaw's plays, and what is changed or rendered unfamiliar through acts of adaptation?

Contributors are also invited to submit papers on Shaw's own theories and practice of adaptation, particularly as they address his vision of evolutionary biology. Did Shaw endorse or refuse proposals to adapt his work based on his beliefs that some transformations of his plays would enable or disable their migration to a more favorable artistic or cultural environment? Did Shaw believe that his own work required directed mutation to guarantee its survival beyond the period of its historical production (as he often proposed regarding Shakespeare's plays)? How has Shaw himself become a meme: a unit of cultural transmission that inevitably changes even as it perpetuates himself, as in the flourishing of the discussion play in the drama of Tom Stoppard and the teleplays of Aaron Sorkin?

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