The Routledge Companion to Adaptation, edited by Dennis Cutchins, Katja Krebs and Eckart Voights.
Wayne Booth’s The Company We Keep develops a metaphor of friendship to consider the various ways we read and evaluate texts. I remembered Booth’s metaphor while reading through portions of The Routledge Companion to Adaptation because its title suggests that it wants to be a helpful partner in the process of understanding the current state of adaptation theory. It’s appropriate to have multiple companions on this journey because, as Dennis Cutchins explains, “Adaptation studies centers itself not on texts, but on the varied relationships that exist between texts” (2). Adaptations depend on relationships; they would not exist without them. Cutchins emphasizes this point first by drawing on Mikhail Bakhtin’s insight that “texts only have meaning in relationship to other texts” and second by citing a student’s point that adaptation studies “looks at texts through the lens of other texts” instead simply leaning on the assumptions of established schools of thought (3).
As companions go, The Routledge Companion to Adaptation is a welcome friend because it understands the complexities of the journey, including its detours into interdisciplinarity and its challenges to traditional approaches to history, text, and context. Further, the study of adaptation theory requires a broad approach to culture and consumption, not to mention a sensitivity to the human need for hearing stories again and again and again. Professor Cutchins has long been an essential guide to understanding adaptation theory. He has edited other volumes on the topic and he served as the chair for the Popular Culture Association’s Adaptation Area. In The Routledge Companion to Adaptation, he has once again gathered together a talented group of scholars to help readers understand the most important questions. The book is divided into five thematic parts, all of which offer several essays that explore new approaches to adaptation or that shed new light on old questions.
I was especially interested in essays that attempted to make sense of bad adaptations. One of those, “Notoriously bad: early film-to-video game adaptations (1982-1994)” by Riccardo Fassone, considers the strange world of video games based on major motion pictures such as E. T., Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars, and Halloween. I played some of those games as a child and enjoyed following the author’s account not only of his research but also his double history of the games, their “production, . . . reception and use,” and the films they were based on (108). I also enjoyed Kamilla Elliott’s “The Theory of Badaptation” because it gave me new ways of thinking about the notorious problem of approaching adaptations that do not seem to work—or that should never have been attempted.
My comments only capture the smallest portion of what readers may discover by reading this book. It is a welcome addition to adaptation theory and makes good on its promise to be a helpful friend.
-Professor Carl Sederholm