restricted access Rethinking Adaptation: Intersections of Children's Literature and Studies of Transformation
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Rethinking Adaptation:
Intersections of Children's Literature and Studies of Transformation
Lefebvre, Benjamin, ed. Textual Transformations in Children's Literature: Adaptations, Translations, Reconsiderations. New York: Routledge, 2013. 223 pp. $125.00 hc. ISBN 978-0-415-50971-8. Print.

The expanding field of adaptation studies finds plenty to work with when it directs its attention towards children's literature, as it does in the lively volume, Textual Transformations in Children's Literature: Adaptations, Translations, Reconsiderations. Adaptation scholars today work with a broad definition of adaptation. The long-standing preoccupation with novels-into-films debates that lasted through most of the twentieth century, and that emerged in systematized and theorized ways from the 1950s to the 1980s and 1990s, has shifted. Discussions and debates have been re-situated within broad cultural contexts, in the awareness that adaptation is more ubiquitous than previously thought, and repays wide-ranging investigation even as it crosses multiple registers and spheres.

In this volume from Routledge's ongoing series on Children's Literature and Culture, editor Benjamin Lefebvre has seen an opportunity to turn the attention of adaptation studies toward the fertile ground of children's literature, an international field long filled with classics that have led to adaptations reaching into many forms of cultural expression for a variety of complex reasons. In his introduction, "Reconsidering Textual Transformation in Children's Literature," Lefebvre points out that "textual transformations have for a long time been the norm rather than the exception, and the industries that support adaptations, [End Page 164] abridgments, and censored editions of children's texts are driven at once by financial, artistic, and ideological considerations" (2). It is a field that invites, for example, investigations into the mood of a culture, or into negotiations of power, opportunism, and aesthetics within a particular cultural context. In this widening landscape, even questions of fidelity—though no longer an end in themselves—stimulate investigations of the imperatives and opportunities that shape a work. The child itself provides a great opportunity to explore the dynamic in which adaptations are implicated, in which art and production mirror and push, resist and challenge, society. The outside front cover of this hard-bound book hints at the possibilities with its playful collage of four postage stamps (from the UK, the USA, and Canada). Each, with its visual rendering and design, responds in a particular way to a specific fictional work: Winnie-the-Pooh, Little House on the Prairie, and (represented by two stamps) Anne of Green Gables.

With this collection, Lefebvre deftly puts on display adaptation studies as a field marked by methodological fluidity and openness. Its boundaries are porous, with new opportunities beckoning from beyond once-fixed horizons. It expands, as Lefebvre says in his introduction, to take in abridgements, translations, parodies, and mash-ups "that occur internationally in the field of children's literature and culture" (2). It quickly extends also, as we see in this volume (for example, in Maria Nikolajeva's essay on classic examples of multivolume fiction for children, in which she explains the importance of distinguishing between "series fiction," such as the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew stories, and "sequels," such as the Harry Potter books) to sequels, prequels, interquels, midquels, sidequels, paraquels, and pseudoquels.

Assumptions about textual hierarchies that once patrolled relationships between original texts—such as the classics of the formerly stable canon—and their related successor texts, whether sequels or adaptations or translations, have been disturbed in an era when cultural studies has intervened in our cultural habits. A traditional commitment to seeking fixed meanings in a once-sacrosanct text has lost its singular traction, and has given way to an emphasis on associative and interrogatory play among texts. Indeed, the idea of "text" is wide open, and cultural artifacts and events from a host of sites in a postmodern mélange now invite the attention of adaptation scholars. With the earlier obsessions with fidelity at least partly displaced by explorations of the pleasures of infidelity, an adaptation might still cite a precursor text; nevertheless, in negotiating its own meanings and audiences, it has let go of a compulsion to replicate that text. Of course, there is room for...