Translation, Adaptation, and Transformation 

Edited by Jennifer Shepherd and Jessica Gildersleeve

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CC BY 4.0
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MHRA Working Papers in the Humanities 3

Modern Humanities Research Association

3 January 2009

Open Access with doi: 10.59860/wph.i47b8c6




Translation, Adaptation, and Transformation
Jennifer Shepherd, Jessica Gildersleeve
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Language and Identity in Vittorio Alfieri’s Vita
Elena Borelli

In this essay I read Vittorio Alfieri’s autobiography, his Vita, with a focus on his linguistic transition from his original French/Piedmontese bilingualism to Tuscan monolingualism, which he narrates there. I address the traditional depiction of Alfieri as a ‘man of Italy’, which his linguistic choice seems to reinforce. Specifically, I argue that he acquired Tuscan as a foreign language and he viewed it as being prestigious precisely because it was foreign. Moreover, I read his Tuscanization in the context of Alfieri’s own views on languages and the role they play in the construction of his identity. My reading of his Vita is supported by the historical context in which it was written, namely that of eighteenth-century Piedmont, and by Elio Gioanola’s psychoanalytical interpretation of Alfieri’s dichotomous self. I suggest that Alfieri’s adoption of Tuscan was not a return to his true origins but rather reflected his desire to construct a new identity for himself. Tuscan is the language of the ‘other’, that is, the illustrious literary canon to which he strives to belong. Furthermore, the transition reflects Alfieri’s peculiar duality between his negative ‘self’ and the positively perceived ‘other’. Alfieri’s linguistic journey as described in his Vita represents both his conquest of ‘otherness’ and the acquisition of a monolingual identity.


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

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.


Language and Liminality in the Italian Section of Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho
Ian McHugh

This paper looks at systems of language (linguistic and filmic) in the twelve-minute Italian section of Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho (1993), a short but notable interlude to the narrative, which serves as a liminal space through which the two central characters pass, to different ends. The paper employs poststructuralist theory, psychoanalysis, and film theory to develop a reading of this liminality as subject to an economy of inclusive and exclusive systems of meaning. It describes the constitution of this liminal space through the gaps and fissures between these parallel systems, and suggests that a successful negotiation of these systems appears to allow a transition across the liminal space, whereas an unsuccessful transition effects a displacement. The film’s two central characters offer contrasting views of such successful and unsuccessful transitions. The character of Scott actively seeks displacement and achieves effortless transitions across systems of meaning. In contrast, the character of Mike (who suffers from narcolepsy, which impacts upon his subjectivity) desperately searches for a fixed status and suffers perpetual displacement. This paper draws on a chapter from my doctoral thesis, which looks at representations of liminal states of consciousness and presupposes radical shifts in subjectivity in proximity to the sites of sleeping and waking, with ramifications for identity and the perception of reality.


The Unembodied Self in Luís de Sttau Monteiro’s Um Homem não Chora
Rhian Atkin

This paper aims to investigate the personal crisis experienced by the protagonist of Luís de Sttau Monteiro’s 1960 novel, Um Homem não Chora [A Man Doesn’t Cry]. The unnamed protagonist of the novel struggles to participate in society and develops a secondary persona which allows him to separate his private and public selves. R. D. Laing’s descriptions of the technique of unembodiment are used as the starting point for a close examination of the behaviour of Sttau Monteiro’s unnamed protagonist and its consequences, and a consideration of how this device is used within the novel to allude to the socio-political context of Portugal under the Estado Novo, particularly during the late 1950s, when personal and political freedoms were often heavily restricted. The paper forms part of a wider AHRC-funded PhD project focusing on how Lisbon has been used in literature as a site for crisis throughout the twentieth century, and how the nature of crisis alters in accordance with, and perhaps because of, the changing nature of the social and political structure of the country.


Bibliography entry:

Shepherd, Jennifer, and Jessica Gildersleeve (eds), Translation, Adaptation, and Transformation (= MHRA Working Papers in the Humanities, 3 (2009)) <> [accessed 20 June 2024]

First footnote reference: 35 Translation, Adaptation, and Transformation, ed. by Jennifer Shepherd and Jessica Gildersleeve (= MHRA Working Papers in the Humanities, 3 (2009)) <> [accessed 20 June 2024], p. 21.

Subsequent footnote reference: 37 Shepherd and Gildersleeve, p. 47.

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Bibliography entry:

Shepherd, Jennifer, and Jessica Gildersleeve (eds). 2009. Translation, Adaptation, and Transformation (= MHRA Working Papers in the Humanities, 3) <> [accessed 20 June 2024]

Example citation: ‘A quotation occurring on page 21 of this work’ (Shepherd and Gildersleeve 2009: 21).

Example footnote reference: 35 Shepherd and Gildersleeve 2009: 21.

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