Adaptation Before Cinema: Literary and Visual Convergence from Antiquity through the 19th Century

deadline for submissions: 
August 31, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Lissette Lopez Szwydky / University of Arkansas
contact email: 

Adaptation Before Cinema:

Literary and Visual Convergence from Antiquity through the 19th Century


Adaptation scholars regularly acknowledge that the practice of adapting and retelling stories is as old as storytelling itself. Yet the field of adaptation studies is dominated by scholars considering contemporary media forms, mainly film. Research in what, we argue, Colin MacCabe mis-labels the “pre-history” of adaptation evidences the fact that pre-cinematic forms and practices of adaptation offer the field productive insights about the act, product, production, and reception of adaptation as a transhistorical cultural phenomenon. Yet those explorations often take place outside the boundaries of adaptation studies. Such literary and cultural studies commonly run parallel to the theoretical and material concerns of adaptation studies, but the fields rarely intersect and the discourses rarely cross-pollinate.

This collection of essays will construct historical bridges between these discourses by foregrounding and providing a platform for innovative approaches to any aspect of adaptation, appropriation, or transmedia storytelling from Antiquity through the invention of cinema in the late nineteenth century. All forms and media prior to the advent of cinema are welcome. In keeping with current trends in adaptation studies that seek to move beyond the traditional 1:1 source/adaptation format, we are particularly interested in article-length essays that investigate any combination of thematic trends, material contexts, commercial practices, theoretical models, and transhistorical, cross-cultural, or comparative approaches, as well as essays that encompass a range of genres and pre-cinematic media, which may include (but are not limited to) theater, novelizations, painting and illustration, toys and games, or other forms of literary production and visual culture. Essays should demonstrate working knowledge of contemporary adaptation studies. The goal of this collection is to expand the primary scholarly audience of film and media scholars to literary scholars and cultural critics working across a range of historical periods, genres, forms, and media—and vice versa. We are especially interested in essays on the following topics:

-      Mythology as adaptation, transmediation, and/or world-building.

-      Multicultural folklore, oral traditions, fairy tales, and their variations.

-      Transcultural or cross-cultural adaptation.

-      Forms of adaptation in specific historical periods (i.e. medieval literature and culture; early modern drama, etc).

-      Chaucer, Milton, Shakespeare, or other canonical authors as adapted and/or adaptors/adapters.

-      Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century adaptations of earlier works across forms and media.

-      The rise of consumer and commercial culture.

-      Early forms of fandom and celebrity approached through adaptation studies.

-      Adaptation and art history, illustration studies, or print culture.

-      Adaptation in major aesthetic movements such as Romanticism or genres.

Send inquiries to Lissette Lopez Szwydky ( and Glenn Jellenik ( 500-word abstracts due by August 31, 2019 via email with the subject line “Adaptation Before Cinema CFP submission.”

Tentative schedule:

August 31, 2019: Abstracts due.

October 1, 2020: Authors contacted for inclusion in volume

May 31, 2020: First drafts full essays