A major issue in the humanities is finding ways to study the canon without neglecting nontraditional and contemporary texts. Studies in film and adaptations in addition to courses on contemporary literature are attempting to shed light on previously undervalued subjects. Yet, in our efforts to remember modern texts we are struggling to balance these courses with those on the literary giants of the past.
I would like to propose a discussion of the ways in which studies of adaptation could be used to view the works of figures like Shakespeare and Chaucer in a more modern light. Considerations of fan fiction, fan art, film and stage adaptation, and graphic novels would be central to this discussion. How do modernizations of canonical texts attempt to correct or otherwise revise the original? How can these texts be used in classrooms at all levels? Should fan fiction be viewed as a form of literary criticism and commentary? Are adaptations of canonical texts valuable in themselves or solely useful in comparison with the original work? These questions would be relevant discussion points for this session.
My own research on female characters in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Jackson’s film adaptations could be used as a jumping off point for this discussion. The lack of significant female characters in this series is a major point of criticism for Tolkien’s work. Modern adaptations of Tolkien’s work in a variety of forms, including film, fan fiction, and video games, shows how these flaws are addressed by contemporary readers and creators.
I would love to see this conversation even discuss social sites and their role in the way we view and interpret more traditional literature. Overall, a focus on visual and fan-based media in relation to traditional literature has a lot of possibilities for discussion.