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TitleBooks in Motion: Adaptation, Intertextuality, Authorship
ISBN 139789042019577
CategoryArts - Film
File Size2.6 MB
Total Pages290
Document Text Contents
Page 146

John Huston’s vs. James Joyce’s The Dead

Manuel Barbeito Varela

This chapter deals with some of the main differences, including
technical devices and thematic changes of emphasis, between James
Joyce’s short story ‘The Dead’ (1914) and John Huston’s film (1987),
and shows the ways in which the latter invites its audience to contem-
plate death, thus performing a cultural feat by going against the grain
of the current widespread tendency to make death invisible. Huston’s
treatment of the Western myth of passionate love, the attention paid
to historical issues in the film, the camera’s relationship with the
protagonist, and the carving out of a temporal dimension to which the
audience belongs within the time of the film’s action, all contribute to
engaging us in Gabriel’s final meditation on death as the horizon of
an ordinary life which contrasts sharply with the intensity of the
passionate lovers’ ecstasy.

Adaptation as Creative Re-enactment

Starting with a comparison between the relationship estab-
lished by the camera with Gabriel in John Huston’s The Dead (1987)
and by the narrator with the same protagonist in James Joyce’s short
story, composed in 1907 and published in 1914, this chapter examines
some of the most important differences between these two texts and
the strategies the film deploys in order to involve its contemporary
audience in the situation that the protagonist faces at the end of the
film—a situation created by the contrast between the great Western
myth of passionate love, which ends in the lovers’ death in their
prime, and a life that faces death after the coming of age. The differ-
ences between short story and film and the strategies used in the latter
are decisive as regards the interpretation of each text at the historical
moment of its creation, one at the beginning of the twentieth century
and of Joyce’s career, the other—Huston’s last film—at the end of the
same century. This chapter emphasises the greater historical realism of

Page 289


Karen Diehl holds an MA in Comparative Literature and a PhD on
film adaptations of Marcel Proust from the Department of European
History and Civilisation at the European University Institute in
Florence, Italy. She is now part of the research project ‘Immagini
dell’Europa 1989-2006: per una storia culturale dell’Europa a traverso
il cinema’ at the University of Turin, Italy.

Lindiwe Dovey is currently a post-doctoral research scholar at Trinity
College, Cambridge. She holds a PhD on African cinema and litera-
ture from Cambridge University. She founded and runs the annual
Cambridge African Film Festival and Symposium on African Cine-
mas, and also works as a freelance specialist and African film pro-
grammer. She has made two short film adaptations, Nina (2000) and
Perfect Darkness (2001), which have screened at international
festivals, and has published fiction, poetry, film reviews, and aca-
demic essays.

José Angel García Landa holds an MA from Brown University and a
PhD from the University of Zaragoza, where he teaches Shakespeare
and literary criticism. He is currently editing an online Bibliography of
Literary Theory, Criticism and Philology. He is the author of Acción,
relato, discurso: Estructura de la ficción narrativa (1998) and has co-
edited Narratology (1996) and Gender, I-deology: Essays on Theory,
Fiction and Film (1996).

Thomas Leitch is Professor of English and Director of Film Studies
at the University of Delaware. His most recent books are Crime Films
(2002), Perry Mason (2005) and the forthcoming Literature vs.
Literacy: Why Adaptation Study Matters.

Gemma López lectures in English literature at the University of
Barcelona. Her research interests include English novels of the
twentieth century, post-structuralist theory and gender studies. She is
currently writing on the textualisation(s) of desire and identity.

Page 290


Sara Martín teaches nineteenth- and twentieth-century English
literature at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Her main
research interests apart from film adaptations are Gothic fictions and
the representation of masculinity in films and novels since the early
nineteenth century.

Margaret McCarthy is associate professor of German at Davidson
College, where she teaches twentieth-century German literature and
film. She has published essays on Ingeborg Bachmann, Luc Besson,
G. W. Pabst, Wim Wenders, and Doris Dörrie. She co-edited Light
Motives: German Popular Film in Perspective (2003).

Pedro Javier Pardo García is Senior Lecturer in English Literature
at the University of Salamanca. His main field of specialisation is
comparative literature. His research interests include the Cervantean
tradition in English, French and American literature, and popular
narrative genres in literature and film.

John Style is Senior lecturer in modern and contemporary British
literature at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Tarragona, Spain. He is
the author of various articles on Martin Amis and Julian Barnes, and is
currently researching musical/literary connections during the Modern-
ist period.

Belén Vidal is the author of Textures of the Image: Rewriting the
American Novel in the Contemporary Film Adaptation (2002). She
has published in Screen and Archivos de la Filmoteca on film theory
and images of the past in contemporary costume drama. She is lecturer
in Film Studies at the University of St Andrews, Scotland.

Imelda Whelehan is Professor of English and Women’s Studies at De
Montfort University and has published on feminist thought, literary
adaptations and women’s popular fiction. Her most recent book, The
Feminist Bestseller, will be published at the end of 2005.

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