Different Voices? Film and Text or Film as Text: Considering the Process of Film Adaptation from the Perspective of Discourse

Justine Kemlo

MHRA Working Papers in the Humanities (2009), pp. 13-24, doi:10.59860/wph.a69a14a

 Open access under:
CC BY 4.0
CC BY 4.0 logo

A contribution to: Translation, Adaptation, and Transformation

Edited by Jennifer Shepherd and Jessica Gildersleeve

MHRA Working Papers in the Humanities 3

Modern Humanities Research Association


Abstract.  Adaptation has always held an ambiguous creative position, caught between an original work of art and its subjective re-shaping in another, sometimes vividly different, form. Understanding the phenomenon of adaptation through the analysis of its objects when the ‘matters of expression’ (Hjelmslev’s term) in which they are articulated differ is a problematic, yet underemphasized, issue. In order to fathom the mechanisms of the procedure of adaptation and thus comprehend and possibly redefine the balance of power between the elements present, one must find a methodological framework that supports and allows correlations and therefore contrast. It is only in this fashion that conclusive findings on the nature of adaptation as a process can be gained from observation of adaptations as products. It is my contention that discursive theories, despite obvious but ultimately superficial hindrances such as the variation in semiotic systems, are an adequate model for this type of exploration. The multimodal systemic-functional framework that I eventually propose as most appropriate will first be contrasted against previous approaches (especially traditional theories of discourse analysis and semiotic film theories). This will provide a methodological backdrop against which this framework may be appraised while simultaneously specifying its terms. The focus of the investigation conducted here is to reconsider the definitions of discourse and text, to contemplate whether and where film would fit within these definitions and how it could be used to study adaptation.

Full text.  This contribution is published as Open Access and can be downloaded as a PDF, or viewed as a PDF in your web browser, here:

Link to full text as PDF