[Milton-L] Beowulf, Milton, Pullman, 'adaptations,' etc. etc.

jfleming at sfu.ca jfleming at sfu.ca
Mon Jan 21 20:58:14 EST 2008

It seems to me that Pullman's is a very significant and violent
(mis)appropriation of aspects of _PL_. I can't see that it's being
children's literature makes it less so.

"Version" may well be an unhelpful term. Perhaps "representation" or
"interpretation" is better. Also re-connecting us to the main text at issue,
and the hermeneutic pattern that makes it an issue. For isn't _PL_ a
representation of Genesis? And isn't the one supposed to do something to the
other -- illuminate it, perform it, or some such?

JD Fleming

On Mon, 21 Jan 2008 19:59:23 -0500 milton-l at lists.richmond.edu wrote:
> Dear Colleagues,
> I agree with most of Hannibal Hamlin's venting; the article in question 
> seemed to me little short of preposterous. However, I want to pursue a 
> somewhat different angle on this whole discussion.
> I have to admit that I am non-plussed when people talk about film 
> "versions" of literary works, and especially when they talk about a film 
> as an "improvement on the original"; as Hamlin says, this is simply 
> foolish. It is true that many a film starts off from, or even hews 
> closely to, a particular literary work. It does not follow, however, 
> that the film is a "version" of the literary work. Film is film and 
> literature is literature, and to confuse them is mischievous.
> I have great delight in good films which take off from books I have 
> enjoyed. And I too do fall into the trap of "comparing" the film to its 
> "original." But this is a trap; we shouldn't "compare" them. But 
> consider all those terms: Aren't they superficial at best? It's not 
> always easy to make the act of faith required to simply forget the 
> "original" and accord to a film its own integrity and art form.
> Recently, I saw John Huston's last film, "The Dead," for the third or 
> fourth time. I found myself deeply moved by it yet again. I know Joyce's 
> story well, I think, but I did not feel as I watched the film that I 
> needed to impose it on the screen in front of me. I was moved by the 
> film, particularly by the performance of Anjelica Huston, who plays 
> Gretta Conroy. Despite the title, the film had for me a powerful sense 
> of life and of love, a sense that pervades the party scenes, the aunts' 
> attitudes, Gabriel Conroy's controlled presence, even Firkin's soppy 
> performance that his aunts tolerate out of a tender affection. Most of 
> all, that sense is there at the end, as Gabriel, moved deeply by 
> Gretta's memories of Michael Furey, feels for her a profound sympathy 
> (in the root sense of that word) that is nothing short of love. Huston 
> conveys that sympathy extraordinarily well, I think, amid the 
> too-obvious falling snow he presumably felt compelled to emphasize in 
> his affection for Joyce's story.
> The point is a simple and yet an elusive one: Film and literature are 
> different art forms. To submit one of them to the trappings of the other 
> seems to me a violation of the integrity of each. Consider the film and 
> the book, each on its own terms. "Paradise Lost" needs no "improvement," 
> certainly, and much as I admire Pullman's novels, I don't see any need 
> to drag Milton into consideration. Incidentally, I also think that the 
> fact that Pullman's novels are "children's books," necessarily makes 
> them a whole different kind of literature. But that's not at issue here.
> Cheers,
> Mario A. DiCesare
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James Dougal Fleming
Department of English
Simon Fraser University
cell: 778-865-0926

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