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With Pride, not Prejudice: on Dialogue in Film Adaptations of Literature

A 'Code & Culture' talk by Agata Hołobut and Jan Rybicki, Institute of English Studies, Jagiellonian University

When: June 25, 18:30 CEST (UTC+2)
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The study of film adaptations of literature has gone through a variety of approaches from the early evaluative reviews of the 1950s through comparative analyses of the 1970s to a more intertextual view of the phenomenon starting with the 1990s. Our research looks both into quantitative and qualitative discussion of film dialogue and its translations and into the part that words play in film portrayals of various historical eras. This is especially important in films that adapt (or translate) literature as much of the viewers’ expectations is based on their perception of the literary original; at the same time, modern perception of the novels’ and films’ historical settings also come into play.

Quantitative approaches allow a whole series of comparisons between the dialogues of novels and their film “translations” (and into translations of that dialogue into other languages), from simple percentages of direct usage of dialogue (and narrative) to stylometric analyses of word frequencies and other linguistic items. But quantitative analysis can also look at visual elements such as character screen time or camera angle; this can then be compared between various adaptations of the same text and between the adaptations and the literary text in search for similarities and differences of perspective.

We illustrate our research with examples from a variety of adaptations of literature, with particular focus on various Pride and Prejudice films (1940, 2005) and TV miniseries (1980, 1995). Based on selected scenes taken from the four productions we show how recycled, reworked and re-vamped fictionalised dialogue interacts with other elements of the film’s structure to create different interpretations of apparently identical literary characters.