The products of intertextuality: The value of student adaptations in a literature course

Misty Krueger

University of Maine at Farmington, Farmington, Maine, United States

[0.1] Abstract—The essay explores a pedagogy of adaptation that focuses on examining intertextuality and engaging students in textual production through the creation of an adaptation. The paper discusses the success of assigning an adaptation project in an upper-level, third-year literature course taught at a small university. It examines student adaptations of writings by William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Samuel Richardson, Henry Fielding, Mary Shelley, and Ben H. Winters and of existing film adaptations of Sense and Sensibility and Frankenstein. I link student projects to critical concepts such as re-vision and multimodality, and disciplines such as literary studies and the digital humanities. I also analyze how the projects reflect students' interests in popular culture and fandom.

[0.2] Keywords—Jane Austen; Digital media; Fandom; Multiderivativeness; Multimodality; Pamela; Parody; Pedagogy; Re-vision; Samuel Richardson; Sense and Sensibility; Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters; William Shakespeare; Social media

Krueger, Misty. 2015. "The Products of Intertextuality: The Value of Student Adaptations in a Literature Course." Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 20.

1. Inspiration and intertextuality

[1.1] For years I thought about teaching a course on adaptation, and in 2013 I designed a course specifically on adaptations of 17th- through 19th-century British literature. I hoped that students would appreciate reading adaptations of writings by some of my favorite authors: William Shakespeare, Aphra Behn, Samuel Richardson, Jane Austen, and Mary Shelley. The true inspirations for this course were not these writers, however. Upon reading Chuck Dixon and Brett Booth's 2009 graphic novel adaptation of Dean Koontz's novel Frankenstein: Prodigal Son and then Jane Austen and Ben H. Winters's coauthored 2009 Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, I imagined teaching a class that would both be fun for me and the students, and show students how and why writers, illustrators, and filmmakers modernize works of early British literature. I wanted students to study "adaptations as adaptations," as Linda Hutcheon says in A Theory of Adaptation, "not only as autonomous works" (2006, xiv). In creating this class at a small public liberal arts university, I anticipated that my students, who were English, creative writing, and education majors, would benefit from studying texts as stand-alone artifacts, then as derivatives, and finally reconsidering sourcetexts (note 1) through their derivatives. On the whole, I aimed to teach students that adaptation served an important function in Restoration and 18th-century British literature, and that intertextuality, the way that texts refer to one another, is at the heart of literary history and will continue to influence the inception of future works (note 2).

[1.2] In the essay that follows I share the benefits of requiring students in an upper-level, third-year undergraduate British literature class to take part in this intertextual cycle and create adaptations instead of a final research paper. (Prerequisites for this class included a writing course, a literary interpretation and analysis course, a survey of British literature, and a Shakespeare course. Sixteen students were enrolled, and all consented to having their work discussed in this essay.) I asked students to choose at least one primary text from the syllabus, adapt it in any medium, and write an introduction to their adaptation that provided an overview of the project and situated their work in the context of scholarly work on the sourcetext, its author, or their mode of adapting it. Students were instructed to consider their goals in adapting a text, and their projects were to make clear intertextual references to the "original" work (note 3). Projects would be presented to the class at the end of the semester. Over a month before the project's due date, I required students to pitch their project ideas to me, outline their projects' goals, and consider their timeline, as well as any concerns they had about the assignment or their project. To ensure that I could easily, and as objectively as possible, grade these assignments, I created two rubrics that allowed me to assess the presentations of the adaptations and how well the projects fulfilled the assignment. In this essay I share excerpts from these projects and explain how I see adaptations intersecting with 21st-century modes of communication and approaches to pedagogy.

[1.3] By participating in what Dennis Cutchins, Laurence Raw, and James M. Welsh have called "adaptation exercises" (2010, xvi) my students engaged firsthand with both the process and the product of adaptation (Hutcheon 2006, 7–8). Students first handled what Gérard Genette calls a palimpsest or hypotext—"an earlier text that [the adaptation] imitates or transforms"—and then created a hypertext, a work that "graft[s] itself onto a hypotext" (Prince 1997, ix) (note 4). Students entered the domain of intertextuality when they understood that narratives—even those written by literary giants—are not closed, but open to manipulation and reiteration. Equally important, students embraced what Adrienne Rich calls re-vision, in which the hyphen signifies that the creator of the derivative work plays an important part in the process. Rather than merely revising the language or plot of a work, students were responsible for participating in re-vision: a new way of seeing and transforming literature to fit one's interests and purposes. As I explained to my students, re-vision is not entirely separate from appropriation. Appropriation implies a personal or political agenda; appropriations purposefully manipulate a sourcetext in order to reflect the reader-cum-author's own culture. Students began the course by studying this process in Restoration dramatic adaptations of Shakespeare, wherein dramatists appropriated sourcetexts in order to surreptitiously critique government or mock social conventions. I gave them excerpts from Jean I. Marsden's "Rewritten Women: Shakespearean Heroines in the Restoration" and Nancy Klein Maguire's "Nahum Tate's King Lear: 'the King's blest restoration,'" both from Marsden's 1991 edited volume The Appropriation of Shakespeare.

2. A pedagogy of adaptation

[2.1] I have seen firsthand the positive results of a pedagogy that asks students to shift from merely reading to writing adaptations. A model of "adaptation as interpretation" (Draxler 2011) connects creative writing with the practices of literary analysis, including close reading, critical thinking, and contextual and cultural analysis. An adaptation assignment draws on both students' knowledge (of sourcetexts, genres, and contexts) and their imaginative faculties. This kind of assignment can produce classwork in which students feel personally invested. Such work represents students' personal interests and creativity in a way that literary analyses or research papers alone do not.

[2.2] As well as having benefits for the individual student, a pedagogy of adaptation relies on the power of the collective. Adaptation exercises foster a classroom community that is built upon what Hutcheon labels a "knowing audience"—a group that has read the same texts together and knows them very well (2006, 21). In the adaptation class, this audience became a cohort of writers who also read and evaluated each other's work. As in fan communities, the student adapters shared in the joys of extending much-loved narratives and characters, and their readers (professor and classmates) had the knowledge necessary to understand the nuances of the moves made by the adapters.

[2.3] Creating adaptations in a course on British literature of the late 17th through early 19th centuries also brought student-writers into closer connection with the authors and works they studied. As Draxler notes in her essay on integrating "eighteenth-century methods in the twenty-first-century classroom," the writing of adaptations "allows students to bring literature from earlier periods into a contemporary context" while also "bring[ing] students back to an earlier cultural moment, a moment that valued the creativity of collaboration, the inventiveness of imitation, and the originality of adaptation as a valuable form of literary creation and interpretation" (2011, 338). As Draxler suggests, adaptation exercises reach back to the past while drawing heavily upon the students' present, thus bridging the gap between two time periods.

3. The products of 21st-century adaptation: Multimodality

[3.1] In examining my students' adaptations, I recognized the value of this pedagogy in 21st-century university curricula on literary studies, composition studies, digital humanities, and even fan studies. Scholars of composition studies, for example, have described turn-of-the-century students as "multiliterate" readers who regularly engage with narratives on many platforms, including print, video, and online venues, such as social media; these multiliterate students are also "multimodal" writers who move beyond "linear, print-based writing-to-learn approaches," as Jody Shipka asserts, and "experiment with…hybrid, or diverse, forms of discourse" (2011, 1) (note 5). The same can be said of my students. The adaptation assignment required all of the projects to be multimodal, for students combined multiple, hybrid discourses to create their projects and then situate them in a critical context. As challenging as this task might sound, they moved seamlessly between these two modes. Students thoughtfully reflected on their work and were excited about the opportunity to work with texts from the course while drawing on their own interests. I attribute much of the success of these projects to their excitement.

[3.2] Students engaged in autoethnography (note 6). They were asked to explain in their introductions how they had devised their ideas and completed the projects. These introductions are multigeneric because they also include a contextual analysis of the adaptation through the incorporation of secondary-source material. Tyler, for example, describes his project as "a political/ethical response to Samuel Richardson's Pamela"—thus, an appropriation of Richardson's 1740 novel, Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded. Tyler uses Bianca Del Villano's 2012 essay on 18th-century adaptations, authorship, and identity to help contextualize what he calls "transformations," including his own, as "critical responses." He also quotes Draxler to make a case for "re-contextualizing and re-writing for the understanding of modern audiences" (2011, 326). Tyler writes, "I've re-written and re-appropriated Richardson's text, and rendered it for film, according to the twenty-first-century audience and culture. By using modern references to contextualize my adaptation, I've enabled modern audiences to connect with the uncomfortableness of Pamela's situation." He describes how he looked back to the 18th century and forward to his own time, and he understands his place in this intertextual transmission.

[3.3] Because the projects combine a critical introduction with another genre, they are multimodal. Their genres and media include fiction, screenplay, poetry, Web site, video, music, and drawing. Some students used multiple media. Marie, for instance, composed poetry and fiction in the voice of Marianne Dashwood as she appears in Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. She emulated the style of early 19th-century verse, while also integrating elements of the 21st-century monster plot. Marie's poem "A Romp with Tentacles" reflects a scene from Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters where Marianne is attacked by an octopus and rescued by Willoughby, and "The End of Marissa Bellwether" recalls an earlier scene where Marissa, a character momentarily added to the story so that she can be eaten by a giant jellyfish, dies on the beach. Marie's project also includes journal entries written by Marianne, in which Marie channels Marianne's private, hypersensible emotions.

[3.4] Amelia's project, "Sense and Sensibility in High School," uses fiction and color drawings to modernize Austen's characters and setting. It tells the story of students' experiences over the school year and summer break. As shown in figure 1, Austen's early 19th-century characters get 21st-century updates. Amelia changes their names, such as from Elinor to Ellie and from Colonel Brandon to Brandon Colonel (giving him a last name indicative of his rank in Austen's novel and thereby making the intertextual reference).

List of characters with detailed descriptions from Amelia's Sense and Sensibility in High School (2014). Elinor Dashwood. Ellie loves science and soccer. She likes to get her aggression out through soccer. She is incredibly smart ands gotten A's her entire life except the B in English. She thinks English is frivolous because it isn't taught based on grammar but rather the stories of the past. She is in love with Eddie and has been since their first class in freshman year. He won her heart when he corrected the teacher for a mathematical mistake.

Figure 1. Sample from Amelia's "Sense and Sensibility in High School" (2014) character list, including descriptions of the characters. [View larger image.]

[3.5] As shown in figure 2, Amelia also includes floor plans for Barton Cottage and Norland, showing their different sizes as well as the effects of resituating the story in New England (each house has a mud room, for instance).

Detailed drawing of floor plan for Sense and Sensibility in High School (2014).

Figure 2. "Sense and Sensibility in High School" (2014) Barton Cottage floor plan showing details such as a mud room. [View larger image.]

[3.6] The adaptation provides sketches of characters dressed in 21st-century attire, as shown in figures 3–5. Mary, aka Marianne, wears a cropped top and jeans and Will Willoughby wears a fraternity shirt. Brandon wears plaid, but not a flannel waistcoat (a detail that a knowing audience of Sense and Sensibility readers greatly appreciates).

Drawing of Mary wearing a cropped top with jeans, from Sense and Sensibility in High School (2014).

Figure 3. "Sense and Sensibility in High School" (2014) drawing of Mary wearing a cropped top with jeans. [View larger image.]

Drawing of Will wearing a T-shirt displaying fraternity letters, from Sense and Sensibility in High School (2014)

Figure 4. "Sense and Sensibility in High School" (2014) drawing of Will wearing a T-shirt displaying fraternity letters. [View larger image.]

Drawing of Brandon wearing a plaid button-up shirt and glasses, from Sense and Sensibility in High School (2014)

Figure 5. "Sense and Sensibility in High School" (2014) drawing of Brandon wearing a plaid button-up shirt and glasses. [View larger image.]

[3.7] Marie's and Amelia's projects are excellent examples of multimodality because they rely on multiple creative methods to connect with their knowing audience. They give their readers at least two ways of envisioning Austen's (or Austen's and Winters's) work in terms of 21st-century intertextuality.

4. The products of 21st-century adaptation: Digital and social media

[4.1] As someone interested in connecting literature students with the digital humanities (note 7), I hoped that students would take advantage of an assignment that permitted them to work with the digital modes that they frequently encounter as readers, viewers, and listeners. I was pleased to find them using multimedia, and a third of the projects included digital media by mixing prose with social media, Web sites, or live-action video.

[4.2] Austen's 1811 novel Sense and Sensibility was a popular choice for projects. Three students chose to modernize it digitally. Meghan captured the melodrama of a Sense and Sensibility love triangle in high school through a series of short animated videos created in GoAnimate. Their animation style, dialogue, and computerized voices can entertain a contemporary audience who love Austen's characters and might also enjoy cartoons.


Video 1. Meghan's GoAnimate Sense and Sensibility, episode 3 (2014), showing Marianne and Elinor in a high school discussing Willoughby, as well as Marianne's emotional reaction to Elinor's advice.

Video 2. Meghan's GoAnimate Sense and Sensibility, episode 6 (2014), showing Willoughby breaking up with Marianne at the high school, Elinor comforting Marianne at home while she cries, and Brandon's plan to check on Marianne.

[4.3] While each episode might seem to be fun and games on the surface, the awkward voices and pauses, as well as Marianne's excessive animated tears, also capture the uneasiness and sensibility found in Austen's 1811 tale. Through the newer medium, Meghan finds a way to present the titular theme of Austen's book while also lightening the book's serious tone through dry humor.

[4.4] Two other students appropriated online social media to contemporize Sense and Sensibility. Elizabeth created fake Facebook profiles (note 8) for Marianne and Elinor replete with status updates, wall posts, and selfie photos; Nicole created temporary OKCupid dating profiles for Marianne, Willoughby, and Brandon. Like the GoAnimate videos, these projects focused on humor and visual representations of the characters. Although they clearly altered Austen's discourse, the adaptations retained Austen's plot points and characters' personalities. Both projects incorporated phrases or passages from Sense and Sensibility, thereby explicitly linking the hypertexts with the novel. The Facebook project even showed intertextual references to two sources—Austen's novel and the 1995 film written by Emma Thompson and directed by Ang Lee. While the project's overarching idea is derived from Austen's novel, it includes still shots from the film to help viewers connect with familiar faces. The class had read excerpts from Deborah Kaplan's "Mass Marketing Jane Austen" (2001), so we had already discussed the impact of casting famous actors and actresses in adaptations. See figure 6 for an example that includes images of Kate Winslet as Marianne.

Elizabeth's Facebook page for Marianne (2014) showing photos from Sense and Sensibility (1995).

Figure 6. Elizabeth's Facebook page for Marianne (2014), showing photos of Marianne from the Sense and Sensibility (1995) film. [View larger image.]

[4.5] Elizabeth capitalized on her casting choices. Because our class had read the novel and watched the film, students could actually see that she had adapted two works.

[4.6] These projects helped me better understand that digital adaptation affords a subtly nuanced way of thinking about intertextuality, specifically in terms of what Paul Booth calls in Digital Fandom "narratives that cross technologies of distribution channels" (2010, 58). The result, though, is not a fragmentation of texts through transpositional or transtextual movement (note 9) from one medium to another, but a celebration of a sourcetext, in this case Austen's work, through "new media" (Booth 2010, 3), such as a dating Web site or Facebook, that are updatable and open to user feedback. Austen's characters' shift from a print to an open digital medium might even show us what Gevirtz (2010) calls "an enhancement of cultural status for both texts," as people interested in Austen go to the Web and enjoy derivates that speak to their interests in contemporary media beyond film. (Gevirtz also offers a discussion of fidelity and a list of sources on Austen and film.)

5. The products of 21st-century adaptation: Multiderivativeness and parody

[5.1] The Facebook project is not the only one to draw on multimedia and multiple sourcetexts. Half of the projects are what I am calling multiderivative. Rather than simply appropriating a single hypotext, some students adapted two or more works, and their extracurricular interests and work experiences shaped their choices. For instance, Gia, who works as a waitress at a popular Maine ski resort, decided to set her adaptation of Sense and Sensibility in the resort's restaurant. Most students, though, looked to readings, films, TV, and music external to our course for inspiration.

[5.2] Two students who adapted Samuel Richardson's novel Pamela created parodies inspired by one of our course readings, Henry Fielding's 1741 parodic adaptation, Shamela. One of these two was additionally inspired by George Orwell's 1945 Animal Farm, which was not discussed in the class. The result is an interesting mash-up; the title page, shown in figure 7, imitates the formatting of Richardson's original title page.

Title page of 2014 Hamela in imitation of original 1749 Pamela. Pamela or Pork Rewarded in a SERIES of Familiar Letters FROM A Some Young Humble Pig, To her PARENTS. In order to cultivate the Principles of Virtue and Farm Economics in the Minds of the Youth of All Farm Animals. A Narrative which has its Foundation in PARODY and BACON; and at the same time that is agreeable satiates, by a variety of curious and affecting Incidents, is entirely divested of all those Images, which is too many Pieces calculated for Amusement, only tend to blowat the minds they should nourish.

Figure 7. Thelonius's Hamela or Pork Rewarded (2014) title page, written in imitation of Pamela's 1740 title page, including the lessons about what readers can learn from reading the text.[View larger image.]

[5.3] This project revealed even more derivativeness than its author, Thelonius, may have intended. He chose to change Pamela's human would-be rapist, Mr. B, into a dog, or what could be a kind of fairy tale–like Big Bad Wolf, and his teenaged maid, Pamela, into a pig. This parody, like other course projects, is multimodal, for it includes illustrations to help the reader visually connect with the derivate. One illustration, drawn by Thelonius's friend Janelle, shows the poor little pig crying as the dog barks cruelly at her, much as Mr. B yells profanities at Pamela in Richardson's novel.

Image of Mr. B, a dog, barking at a frightened Hamela, a pig.

Figure 8. Hamela's (2014) image of Mr. B, a dog, barking at a frightened Hamela, a pig. [View larger image.]

[5.4] This image, among others, of a frightened little pig tugged at my heartstrings. Intertextually, the appeal to pathos bears an analog to the novel's 18th-century context, too, in which readers worried for Pamela's safety and cried over the novel (Chartiers 2009, 460).

[5.5] In addition to literature, many of the projects responded to nonliterary sources from popular culture—including Disney films, YouTube series, TV programs, and mainstream music—that were not addressed in the course. Students' decisions to respond to such sources demonstrate their instinctual abilities to draw parallels between course texts and their previous reading, viewing, and listening, and to forge new intertextual relationships between these works. For example, Tyler's video project, "Sassy Gay Friend: Pamela," adapts Pamela, Shamela, and Second City Network's YouTube series Sassy Gay Friend ( The YouTube series itself is a product of re-vision, for it uses "the 'camp gay' trope," as Tyler puts it, to offer famous literary characters, such as Shakespeare's, some frank advice about the errors of their ways. Tyler explains that he chose Sassy Gay Friend as a vehicle of appropriation because he wanted to appeal to a 21st-century audience. He believes that "modern audiences find ["the 'camp gay' trope"] endearing" and "can apprehend the particulars of these [18th-century] characters via their own cultural and intertextual connections." Tyler, like Thelonius, called upon collaborators to help him make the video, an indication of how this kind of project benefits from a supportive peer community. The video and script, which Tyler posted on YouTube, shows the sassy gay friend (played by Tyler) criticizing Pamela (played by his friend Molly) for considering suicide. The episode takes an important scene from Pamela in which her soul, rather than merely her body, is in jeopardy and uses humor to appeal to modern readers, who are often frustrated with Pamela's dither:

Video 3. Tyler's Sassy Gay Friend: Pamela (2014), which shows the Sassy Gay Friend, played by Tyler, lecturing Pamela, played by Molly, for considering suicide.

[5.6] Here intertextuality meets pop culture and digital media as this project adapts an 18th-century novel, an 18th-century burlesque derivative of it, and a popular 21st-century literary parody Web series.

[5.7] Tyler was not the only student to recognize the power of lampoon. In another parody, Alison created a hybrid video-musical-infomercial adaptation of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. One inspiration for this project is the soundtrack of Disney's 2013 animated film Frozen. Alison's close reading of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters's characters prompted her to consider how they might share their feelings in song, as Disney's characters famously do. In her project, "Frozen Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters," Alison composed her own lyrics, solicited students to help her film herself singing songs and setting up the infomercial, and then added the lyrics on screen to appeal to viewers who might want to sing along. The song "Build a Boat," for example, is sung in the voice of Lady Middleton, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters's aboriginal abductee, who eventually escapes by submarine from her imperialist European husband. This adaptation of the award-winning tune "Let It Go" is accompanied by versions of two other songs from Frozen's soundtrack: "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" and "Fixer Upper." Marianne's song to Elinor entitled "Do You Really Wanna Marry Edward?" clearly ties into Winters's questioning, in Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, of Edward's vapid personality in Austen's novel, and Mrs. Jennings's song to Marianne, "Fishy Fixer Upper," tries to convince the teenager that old Colonel Brandon's fishy face should not prevent her from marrying him. In Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters the character actually has tentacles on his face, a fact that is visually and verbally repeated time and again in the 2009 book. Video 4 shows Alison in action:

Video 4. Alison's Frozen Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (2014), a parody of an infomercial, Disney's Frozen soundtrack (2013), and Jane Austen and Ben H. Winters's Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (2009).

[5.8] Alison's project won the award for class favorite because of its effectiveness in making intertextual references to narratives known by the audience and its appeal to humor. The students and I were amazed at how well Alison drew on her strengths in songwriting, singing, and digital manipulation to create an adaptation that borrowed from Disney—a company well known for adapting its own tales—and cleverly highlighted some of the social issues, such as the subjugation of women, underlying Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.

[5.9] Film and television inspired three other projects. Angelisa's screenplay adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, called "Sense of Spells," turns the three Dashwood sisters into witches. Like the three sisters in the Warner Bros. TV show Charmed, Angelisa's characters, Mara, Ellia, and Maggie, have to battle warlocks who want to take their powers from them. Angelisa creates a world of magic to transform the emotional anxieties and social pressures present in Austen's work. While the sisters in Austen's novel have to learn how to balance sense and sensibility, the sisters in the screenplay have to control their emotions in order to control their magic and protect themselves.

[5.10] Another multiderivative screenplay project offers a trailer for a film called Vampela. This adaptation not only combines Pamela with Bram Stoker's Dracula and the genre of action/adventure film, but also takes inspiration from the trailers I showed the class for the 1931 Frankenstein and 1935 Bride of Frankenstein movies. Eric's project imagines Vampela—an alternate version of Pamela—fighting to protect her virtue from the vampire Mr. D—a Dracula-esque version of Mr. B. In adapting some of the bombastic language of the movie trailers, Eric creates a black screen that fades into the words "THE MOST EPIC STORY EVER TOLD." The trailer represents more than humor and parody; Eric played with the seriousness of Pamela and the sensationalism of vampire movies. This project impressively combined course texts that few individuals would intuitively think to put together.

[5.11] The course aimed to show students how movies adapt novels and how film adaptations modify other film adaptations, thus giving them another exercise in intertextuality. I asked students to watch excerpts from the 1930s Frankenstein films so that they could analyze the ways in which the 20th-century cinematic conception of the monster altered Mary Shelley's early 19th-century creature. I also wanted them to see how the 1935 Bride of Frankenstein adapted the 1931 Frankenstein, and how a host of later films adapted those movies. One of these later adaptations is Steve Oedekerk's 2002 short film Frankenthumb, which dresses up human thumbs and parodies the 1931 film. One of my students, Nick, was fascinated by this trail of adaptations, especially Frankenthumb, and imagined what other sources might affect another 21st-century Frankenstein derivative. Nick was influenced by Mary Shelley's novel, the 1930s films, Frankenthumb, and a plethora of seemingly unrelated works that he cleverly integrated as sources for his project. His novella, The Tale of Frankenfett, is perhaps one of the best student examples of multiderivativeness, for, as Nick explained to me, he tried to make as many references as possible to a range of texts, including film, television, and music. This project is the stuff of intertextuality.

[5.12] The nods to other texts in Frankenfett are sometimes obvious and at other times subtle, what Nick calls in his introduction "tiny little easter eggs." As a reader, I was on the hunt for these colorful gems, and I found many. To start, the novella's title (and protagonist's name) is a mash-up of Frankenstein and Star Wars's Boba Fett. Frankenfett proposes that Victor Frankenstein (who gets to keep his name in this adaptation) decided to name his son after "the greatest sci-fi film canon ever, despite the fact that the prequels were largely boring and silly," as Nick puts it. Here we might imagine the energy of fan critics, as demonstrated in Alexandre Philippe's documentary The People vs. George Lucas (2010). The name of Mary Shelley's narrator, Walton, is changed to Wilson in homage to Mr. Wilson, a character in the comic Dennis the Menace. Nick also mentions the title character from the children's series Captain Kangaroo and Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Music from the 1970s through the 1990s has a presence in the text. Nick makes obvious references to KoRn, Limp Biskit, Sonic Youth, Siouxie and the Banshees, and Bauhaus. One character says, "Bela Lugosi's dead," which is the title of a Bauhaus song as well as a reference to the actor and thus to his films. Similarly, a casual reference to a brand of alcohol called "Old Windmill" evokes the scene of the burning windmill in the 1931 movie. In a nod to 1935's Bride of Frankenstein and 1974's Foxy Brown, Pam Grier is offered up as a model for the would-be bride of Frankenfett. Literature is incorporated into the novella as Nick refers to Alex from A Clockwork Orange and uses a cockney dialect in honor of this character. In a salacious allusion to pornography, Frankenfett finds and reads Hustler instead of Paradise Lost, as Shelley's creature famously does. The Tale of Frankenfett truly embodies the aims of the adaptation course because it shows that Nick closely read the literature we studied and carefully viewed the films we watched, but even more because its primary objective is to play with the genres and modes we studied, such as parody, satire, and humor, while celebrating the power of multiple intertextual references. Nick's project is a library all on its own.

6. The products of 21st-century adaptation: Fandom

[6.1] A pedagogy of adaptation can and should include fan fiction in its framework. A cousin to adaptation, fan fic certainly is a part of 17th- to 19th-century literary history, and scholars have labeled some of the texts I taught in my course, such as Shamela, as fan fic (Judge 2009; see also Simonova 2012). When I created my adaptation assignment I neither considered how heavily fandom would affect students' decisions, nor anticipated that their projects would incorporate elements of fan fic. Nevertheless, at least a third of my students professed strong fannish or cultist (note 10) identifications with an author or primary source, either in class or in the written introductions to their projects. Drawing on the connection between Austen and fan fic can be productive in a university setting, as Amanda Gilroy has noted in "Our Austen: Fan Fiction in the Classroom" (2010). In my class I found a loyal fan base for Austen, who certainly has been the source for many adaptations and much "Janeite" fan fic. Web sites such as the Republic of Pemberley,,, and Wattpad host Austen fan fic, and recent scholarship has addressed the long tradition of online fandom of Austen and her characters (Yaffe 2013; Mirmohamadi 2014; see also Van Steenhuyse 2011 and Pugh 2005). As Mirmohamadi notes, online Austen fandom reflects evolving notions of literacy, sociability, and writing communities in a digital age. As Yaffe puts it, "the heart of the Austen operation is the computer" (2013, 121).

[6.2] Regardless of the medium used or the work adapted, my students' adaptations reveal some of the tropes of fan fic. Their projects offer AUs, fixes, tags, crossovers, badfic, het, slash, and BDSM, and we could call the creators of the video projects vidders (note 11). Alternate universes certainly dominate their adaptations, as do narrative interventions: some students felt the need to rethink scenes or add scenes to plots. Other students complied with a sourcetext's heterosexual romance, but at least one added a homoerotic subtext that hints at subversive behavior. After the semester ended I realized that my students could also be considered adapters and fan writers. As Henry Jenkins writes in Textual Poachers, fan writers participate in "strategies of interpretation, appropriation, and reconstruction" (1992, 162); creators of adaptations do the same. The combination of a creative product and a reflection on the process of adaptation also invites us to see the student-adapter as an acafan, a person "who co-opts fan cultures into his or her academic project" (Busse and Hellekson 2006, 32, note 4). Like the adaptation of 17th-century works in the 21st, this connection between the academic-student and the fan-student brings together two seemingly disparate worlds. It establishes, however, that students can embrace fandom while also developing academic identities.

[6.3] One such student is Marie, who identified her poetry and fiction project on Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters as fan fic. A fan of everything Austen, Marie had read Austen's novels, seen the film adaptations, and even read Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters of her own volition long before the course began. She writes, "Though the topic of my poetry comes from Jane Austen, the way in which I wrote the topic allowed me to broaden subjects that Jane Austen had touched on but not really developed, and it allowed me to focus on those things in a way that I as a reader would have liked to see them developed." Marie explains that her project allowed her to "connect with the story through [her] own way." She situates herself as a fan reader and fan writer as she imagines what more of the Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters world readers might want and how she could provide it in a tag or missing scene.

[6.4] Like Marie, other students claimed to have read Sense and Sensibility as adolescents and to have seen the 1995 film many times. As one might expect, these students' projects were Austen derivatives. The Sense and Sensibility projects that depicted a high school version of Austen's characters are examples of het and represent a subgenre of Austen adaptation as well as a subcategory of the AU genre—high school AU. The "Sense and Sensibility in High School," "Sense and Spells," and "Sense and Sensibility and Ski Resorts" projects transplant Austen's characters into a new space with different social norms, and they reiterate the importance of heterosexual relationships in the management of Austen's world. Like Austen's 19th-century novel, the Facebook and OKCupid Sense and Sensibility sites place romance at the forefront, but in them Austen's characters exist in the digital world of the 21st century and share their romantic endeavors publicly in this digital landscape. Thanks to Facebook and the dating Web site, Marianne gets to experience new kinds of social interactions. These projects are a reminder that fans "use the tools of new media to write and share fannish narratives," as Louisa Ellen Stein argues; such tools allow "new forms of fan creative expression [to] come into being" (2006, 247).

[6.5] In addition to Austen, my students also claimed to be fans of Shakespeare. My course began with Shakespearean adaptations, and one excited student revealed to me early in the semester that he wanted to create his own adaptation of The Tempest. Caleb created Lordless, an illustrated chapbook that includes hand-drawn images of Ariel and Caliban to complement the verbal narrative. While this project utilized the cultural context covered in our class discussions, including problems of rulership in early 17th-century England, colonialism, and the master/slave dialectic, the most interesting elements of Lordless align it with fan fic. Lordless imagines what happens on the island after Prospero, Miranda, and the Europeans leave, thus offering a fix or tag to the source. It focuses exclusively on Ariel and Caliban's relationship, and in some ways the text embeds elements of slash and BDSM as it portrays Caliban enjoying his enslavement of Ariel, who is grieving the loss of his temporary freedom from Prospero. This adaptation shows how applying narrative frameworks from outside of the hypotext can draw out textual elements, such as sexual tension and emotional oppression, that the sourcetext either does not handle directly or avoids altogether. As Caleb reimagines the play through the lens of homosexual or homosocial anxiety, his narrative can encourage readers to return to the play and rethink the established het dynamic that dominates the plots of early modern drama.

[6.6] The images shown in figures 9–11 are visual references to Ariel's enslavement in Shakespeare's play, Caliban and Ariel's troubled relationship, and a fascination with the body. Ariel's nude body is on display in a handful of drawings in Lordless, such as the one in figure 9.

Caleb's depiction of Ariel's nude body in Lordless (2014).

Figure 9. Caleb's depiction of Ariel's nude body in Lordless (2014). [View larger image.]

[6.7] This sensual image of Ariel—one replete with the curves of muscles and including the outline of genitalia—forces viewers to look at Ariel in a way that either recapitulates or redefines the male gaze. Because of this, our gaze binds Ariel, much like the tree that once contained Ariel in the play. As shown in figure 10, the cover of Lordless is graced by a tree that is reminiscent of the pine from which Prospero freed Ariel in The Tempest, only to make the sprite his servant.

Cover of Lordless (2014).

Figure 10. The cover of Lordless (2014), showing the tree that once imprisoned Ariel. [View larger image.]

[6.8] Unfortunately, as we close the book, we find Ariel imprisoned again. In figure 11, readers see a long shot of the island drawn in a series of heavy, chaotic lines, contrasting with an opening image of the island that is drawn with neat, clean lines. For me, the change in artistic energy reflects the turmoil of Ariel's state of mind.

Images of island at beginning and end of Lordless (2014).

Figure 11. Lordless's (2014) images of the island at the beginning and end of the book. At left, the opening image of the island illustrates a clear, sunny day; at right, the closing image shows the storm that is both real and in Ariel's mind. [View larger image.]

[6.9] In reflecting on Lordless as a transformative work, Caleb convinced me that his project is the product of fan fic written by an acafan. He writes,

[6.10] I definitely think of Lordless as a fan fiction. I am blatantly and unapologetically in love with the characters, and was all too delighted to work with them. While I do believe that my piece may have some small amount of academic merit being an experiment where rough character sketches interact in an environment void of distractions or interruptions, I am not sold on the idea that it is anything more than a guilty product of my overactive imagination. I like to think of it less as a transformation, and more as a magnification of sorts, where I have taken a facet of the original (-cough-) play and have blown it up into its own story. While interesting, many of the play's historic political references are, in my mind, out of vogue with current interests. More to the fore are the ideas of personhood and the concepts of personal ownership and intellectual slavery that a certain BDSM romance novel has sparked a public interest in (note 12). It was these things that I plucked from beneath Shakespeare's pen, and fed them into my own work through keyboard and scanner. Whether I accomplished this or not is beside the point.

[6.11] Caleb's thoughts about his work encapsulate the concepts that are at the heart of a pedagogy of adaptation. As he indicates, his purpose was not to imitate Shakespeare or fully capture the meanings of the "original" play. Rather, he shares his love for characters and storytelling; he has something more to express about these characters than the play allows. He makes clear intertextual references while adding something new to the sourcetext. The characters of Ariel and Caliban inhabit the same locale as they do in the 17th-century play, but their interactions are the product of the 21st century and even of novels of this century.

7. Concluding thoughts

[7.1] While readers and viewers often focus on what adaptations do to "original" texts, we should consider what they can do for these works. "Rather than being displaced by the adaptation," Hutcheon reminds us, the adapted literary text "gets a new life" (Hutcheon 2007; see also Gilroy 2010). In my class, students gave Shakespeare's, Richardson's, Austen's, and Shelley's works new lives. Their projects bridge the gap between centuries of writing and, to adapt a 19th-century English bridal rhyme, make something old something new, and something borrowed something new, too.

[7.2] In creating adaptations, students established a firsthand connection between works of literature and their own creative practices. Because they were required to think about the relationships between texts—others' and their own—they were able to appreciate intertextuality. Producing adaptations helped them closely examine sourcetexts and contexts, consider intertextuality, think about ways of adapting texts to suit their own interests and current audiences, and create projects that were meaningful to them. This assignment encouraged a subtle, yet pertinent, interrogation of the longstanding bounds of canon and privileged students' contributions to a genre or literary corpus instead of merely asking them to analyze an author's text. The process of adaptation empowered student-readers to become creators of literature, film, and art, and, even better, to share this work with their peers and beyond the classroom.

8. Acknowledgments

[8.1] I thank my English 377 students for enthusiastically sharing their work with me. I also want to acknowledge three amazing projects that I did not analyze in this essay: Nate's screenplay adaptation of a section of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, Kaitlyn's novella adaptation of Frankenstein, titled The Undertaker's Child, and Russell's prose adaptation of Pamela. These works were omitted because of the structure of my argument, not any lack of merit on their part.

9. Notes

1. I combine the words "source" and "text" to form one compound word, as Julie Sanders does in Adaptation and Appropriation (2006, 26), because this orthography implies a conflation of the ideas signified by the words. The text is a source, and the source is a text.

2. Sanders's (2006) synthesis of adaptation studies helped frame much of my critical thinking about intertextuality. Sanders provides a short history of adaptation and intertextuality in her introduction, including the term's origin in the work of Julia Kristeva and the impact on adaptation studies of Roland Barthes's and Michel Foucault's theories of the "death of the author." She turns to T. S. Eliot's writings in claiming that adaptation relies on the "existence of a canon" while it also reformulates and contributes to a canon (2006, 8).

3. I used the term "original" with students because I expected them to be familiar with it on entering the class. Like Sanders (2006, 19), I use scare quotes to question the idea that a work can be original, a singular starting point void of other influences.

4. Genette introduces a host of terms in his exploration of textual relationships. While I use the Kristevan term intertextuality throughout this paper, Genette describes a similar theory using terms such as architextuality, transtextuality, metatextuality, hypertextuality, transformation, and imitation (1997, 1–7).

5. See the New London Group's 1996 "Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures" ( and Jody Shipka's 2011 Toward a Composition Made Whole. Multimodality draws on multiple methods of textual experience—via reading and writing—to accommodate 21st-century students who actively use multimedia and whose literacies are affected by different modes of representation: visual, verbal, oral, and others.

6. In their introduction to Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet, Kristina Busse and Karen Hellekson discuss the value of autoethnography as a part of writers' hybridity, an examination of oneself under the lenses of "fan and the academic-fan" and "a useful tool to situate writers in their scholarly and fannish contexts" (2006, 24).

7. "Digital humanities" refers to the study of authors, texts, and genres through a digital medium. It can draw on data mining and statistical data; it can refer to the ways we benefit from digital storehouses, such as open-access Web sites or databases; or it can simply speak to our interests in the digital publishing of texts, including HTML versions of early modern works and our own Web sites. The Center for Scholarly Communication & Digital Curation at Northwestern University offers a comprehensive Web site that explores the discipline:

8. She did not create actual Facebook profiles for the characters, because she did not want to misrepresent characters as real people. Instead, she used a template to imitate a Facebook profile. She talked about her project, however, as if the profiles actually existed, in a kind of alternate universe.

9. The term transpositional can be found in various studies of film adaptations. The introduction to A Pedagogy of Adaptation (Cutchins, Raw, and Welsh 2010) cites Geoffrey Wagner in defining transposition as a situation where "a novel is directly given on the screen, with the minimum of apparent interference" (xii). The word transtextual comes from Genette's Palimpsests (1997) and implies that information is transformed across texts or media.

10. In using the terms fannish and cultist, I draw on Nicholas Abercrombie and Brian Longhurst's descriptions in "Fans and Enthusiasts" (2014). Fans may show an affinity for a particular author, show, or other object, but they need not communicate with a community of like-minded admirers. Cultists are more active than fans in their dedication to the object of their affinity, and they communicate with others and sometimes—by creating and contributing work such as fiction and role plays—with groups. As Abercrombie and Longhurst explain, they are heavily specialized in their fandom.

11. Here I draw on Busse and Hellekson's catalog of terms in their introduction to Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet (2006, 5–32).

12. He likely alludes to E. L. James's Fifty Shades of Grey (2012).

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