Tuesday, September 6, 2016

History, Film Adaptation, and Freedom

This is not a blog-post per se but a full blown piece.  It is one that I truly believe in at this point, which is why I want to share it.  I recorded the talk also on https://soundcloud.com/laurence-raw/history-adaptation-and-freedom-2016

Let me say in advance that this piece represents a personal recollection of my encounters with historical adaptation over the years, based on my engagements with the topic ever since I co-edited the collection Adapting History with Defne Ersin Tutan in 2013.  My apologies, therefore, in advance, if people have heard some of it before.  In 2005 I published an article on the ways in which T. E. Lawrence had been represented in David Lean’s famous epic (1962), as well as Lütfi Ö. Akad’s Yeşilçam work İngiliz Kemal Lavrens’e Karşı (İngiliz Kemal versus Lawrence) (1952).  The article shows how Lean rehearses familiar stereotypes of “the terrible Turk” by means of Jose Ferrer’s performance as the Turkish Bey, especially in the torture sequence where he presides over Lawrence’s (Peter O’Toole’s) humiliation.  Lean contrasts that representation with a largely attractive portrait of Lawrence working in cahoots with Omar Sharif’s Sherif Ali.  Akad reverses this opposition by recasting Lawrence (Muzaffer Tema) as a black-haired, smooth-talking villain contrasted with the hero İngiliz Kemal (Ayhan Işık) based on a real-life spy who worked during the Turkish War of Independence (1919-22), Ahmet Esat Tomruk, who infiltrated Allied garrisons and passed on military secrets to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s liberationist forces (Raw 257).  My conclusions were recently challenged by Sinan Akıllı, whose meticulous analysis of British government documents, coupled with a closer look at the Lean film suggest a more favorable interpretation: Lawrence was not especially prejudiced against the Turks as he understood that Atatürk was a potential ally of King Feisal (played by Alec Guinness in the Lean film), and hence inclined to support the Arab cause.  By contrast İngiliz Kemal Lavrens’e Karşı’s one-sided portrayal of Lawrence might have been moderated slightly if his own account of his adventures, Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1922), had been published at the time of the film’s release.[1]  However carefully Lean portrays Lawrence in the film (and I am not sure I agree with Akıllı, as I will discuss later), it is evident that both film versions are predicated on binary oppositions – east vs. west, Ottomans vs. Allies, indifference vs. colonialism – that shut down rather than encourage cross-cultural analysis.  The need for mutual understanding seems more imperative now than it might have done half a century ago, when Lawrence of Arabia was released in theaters in the months leading up to the Cuba Missile Crisis.  Akbar Ahmed has recently observed that few Americans, especially those in the corridors of power, really understand how Muslim societies work: “The consequences for Americans were […] hundreds of thousands of American lives lost [during the “War on Terror”], fundamental values and human rights compromised at home and abroad, the global image battered, and entire nations thrown into upheaval” (368-9).  The best means to resolve conflict is through negotiation, a cause not helped by the release (or re-release) of historical epics such as Lawrence or Kubrick’s Spartacus (1960), described by Ahmed as potentially disastrous in the way it “saw the periphery as uncivilized and primitive; [while] the periphery viewed the center as corrupt and effete” (328).  The latest remake of Ben Hur establishes a similar opposition between the good Christians and the uncivilized Romans and their tendency towards barbarism.
While it might be unrealistic for mainstream filmmakers to change a profitable formula – especially for the blockbuster – perhaps there are possibilities to rethink the processes of adapting and responding to the past as represented onscreen.  We need to deconstruct the notion of binary oppositions, a way of thinking that has become well-entrenched that we fail to acknowledge its ideological roots, as witnessed in Edmund Wilson’s claim (made as long ago as 1940) that history concerns living people who are rational, creative, and striving after beauty and order (197), or in Bernard Lewis’s more recent assertion that westerners cannot understand the Islamic preoccupation with God and eternity (230).  The process of adapting history and considering its effect on the individual psyche depends on vagueness – a willingness to set aside preconception and approach a text on its own terms as a retelling of the past designed to make us reflect on ourselves and our relationship to that past.  In making such decisions, I argue that we also have to set aside the claims made by genre theory; while this move might seem contentious (the purpose of most interventions on the subject consists of an attempt to make sense of often disparate material), I believe that genre produces unwarranted expectations; if a given text fails to meet them, then it loses its perceived value as an object of our attention.  I will try to illustrate this point by referring to recent work in adaptation studies by Timothy Corrigan and Claire Monk.  I call for a more open-ended interpretation of history on film that depends on setting aside preconceptions and approaching a narrative as a text no more or less valuable than other forms of reconstruction: the “facts” that supposedly characterize such texts are mostly ideologically positioned.  For the purposes of this article I claim that everyone – writers, historians, critics, audiences – should be empowered to construct their own histories with their own understanding of what constitutes “factual” or “non-factual” information from the evidence presented in front of them and subsequently evaluate their conclusions through adaptation.  An engagement with the past represents an endless search for meaning, based on the Bergsonian notion that while our bodies inhabit the present, our imaginations extend in all directions.  The past helps us to reflect on ourselves; we might not find the answers we are looking for, but our perspectives widen through historical reflection.
By contrast notions such as “reason” and “logic” are frequently ideologically positioned: consider Wilson’s view of history as something that transcends Marxism and Communism, both of which promote “The taking-over by the state of the means of production and the dictatorship in the interests of the proletariat,” that “never guarantee the happiness of anybody but the dictatorship themselves” (483).  The best way to achieve happiness is through “the light of one’s imagination and with the help of one’s common sense [….] To accomplish such a task will require an unsleeping adaptive exercise of reason and instinct combined” (484).  In response we might ask what Wilson understands by reasonable adaptive practice, especially in societies dominated by ruling oligarchies?  James Baldwin offered a rather jaundiced answer to this question in a polemical open letter dated 19 November 1970:

The American triumph – in which the American tragedy has always been implicit – was to make Black people despise themselves [….] The will of the people, in America, has always been […] sacred, and sacredly cultivated: the better to be used by a carnivorous economy […] But most white Americans dare not admit this […] and this fact contains mortal danger for the Blacks and tragedy for the nation (Baldwin).

 On this view history has been identified with whiteness, with the dominant majority perceived as solely capable of making decisions in the public interest.  While circumstances have considerably changed since then, it seems that ideological positions remain very similar except that the demonized other is now “the Islamic world” and “the terrorist” rather than African Americans.  Ahmed cites the example of the 2011 historical drama Cowboys and Aliens, ostensibly set in the Old West of the late nineteenth century, where a group of Americans are attacked without provocation by aliens who use unknown methods to capture humankind and torture them without provocation (5).  The binarist narrative is here updated to fuel fears of global Islamification.  Apparently evolutionary change has been more sluggish than we might like to assume: Arthur Koestler’s observations, written the year after Wilson’s, still ring true today: “Man is sluggish and had to be led […] he has to be driven through the desert […] by imaginary terrors and imaginary consolations [….] We know that virtue does not matter to history, and that crimes remain unpunished” (99).  I suggest that binary oppositions represent one of those “imaginary terrors” that have a powerful effect on the way we view the past through the present, while actively preventing us from psychological adaptation. 
We not only need to rethink the ideological purpose of binary oppositions, but to consider afresh one of the strategies that continue to dominate film and adaptation studies – genre theory, an issue recently addressed by Timothy Corrigan in the second edition of Film and Literature: An Introduction and Reader (2012).  In the introduction he shows how genre thinking was reshaped by the advent of film’s potential to “supplement or replace” established literary forms and thereby “expand or alter the older social values associated with literature” (21).  New film-specific genres emerged such as the backstage musical, attesting to “the highly creative blend of two regularly contending forces in film history – one emphasizing the external conflictual forces associated with traditional drama and the other exploring character psychology in which internal forces drive a narrative forward” (23-4).  On this view genre theory becomes a flexible model that readily accommodates technological as well as creative advances, while readily embracing contradiction – it is possible, for instance, to see character psychology integrating seamlessly with incident-driven narratives in a melodrama.  Yet Corrigan’s position seems to have shifted by the end of the volume, when in a formulation pitched at newcomers to adaptation studies, he characterizes genres as mechanisms participating in “recognizable conventions and formulas that seem to transcend individual literary or cinematic examples of that genre; on the other hand, genres continually evolve in terms of specific historical periods and practices” (432).  Corrigan refers to conventions being “recognizable,” but recognizable to whom?  And is it always true that genre divisions transcend individual literary and cinematic productions?  Would epoch-making historical adaptations such as Citizen Kane (1941), or more recently Inglorious Basterds (2009) fit that framework?  Do such works deliberately position themselves outside the constraints of genre classification or reshape them?  And what about our responses to a genre film; do we simply depend on previously acquired knowledge, or do we develop the creative potential to respond in new and suggestive ways?  Isn’t the tension between past understanding and present reinterpretation of genres the means to produce new knowledge for the future? 
Such questions might seem pedantic – especially if we are interested in looking at the ways in which film approaches history in a general sense; but there is still a serious point to make about genre theory’s capacity to limit as well as promote pluralist interpretations of the past.  Citizen Kane is not only a criticism of a notorious newspaper baron’s megalomania, but it provides fascinating insight into the twenty-five-year-old director’s best and worst character traits both in front of and behind the camera.[2]  Moreover we must not overlook the film’s transhistorical appeal; a young Donald Trump discussed it as one of his most life-enhancing favorites on post released on YouTube in 2008 (“Donald Trump on Citizen Kane”).[3]  Welles’s film continues to offer salutary lessons on the limitations as well as the benefits of megalomania.
Perhaps paradoxically, genre theory can also limit pluralist responses, even though researchers try their best to avoid such pitfalls.   Claire Monk’s recently published qualitative and quantitative research into the preferences of heritage films in the United Kingdom demonstrates their appeal to a variety of filmgoers including middle-aged females and gay males (35).  Some of her respondents enjoy the feminist content; others find the texts “expressly anti-feminist”; while a few did not interpret them in terms of gender and sexuality (35).  While Monk’s research reveals an encouraging diversity of response, her conclusions have been circumscribed by her initial choice of films for the respondents to look at, thereby giving her the ultimate power to determine the limits of the heritage film genre.  Such powers underpinning most academic endeavors were described by Michel Foucault in 1972-73 as “adaptive controls as on the new nationalities of power, new human sciences [….] [that] anatomize modern power together with the human sciences and modern forms that render it possible” (qtd. in Garland 4).  I would suggest that establishing the limits of genre classification represents one of those “adaptive controls” and thereby prioritize certain interpretations over others.
In the late 1970s I took an introductory course in historiography at high school, based on E. H. Carr’s What is History (1961), where we reflected critically on the status of facts as a component part of historical narratives.  Just because a given historian claimed that their research might be more “truthful” than that of their rivals did not mean that they had access to privileged information.  Carr’s point was exuberantly vindicated in 1983 when the historian Hugh Trevor-Roper pronounced that a series of sixty volumes of journals purportedly written by Adolf Hitler were indeed the genuine article; further forensic examination proved the claim to be false.  This salutary lesson told us a lot about the ways in which historians – especially those of high status – like to position themselves in contemporary cultures as authority-figures, issuing adaptive controls in the Foucauldian sense on their readers’ interpretive potential.  One such control is the need for “objectivity” in history-writing, insulated from skepticisms beyond the empirical and incapable of entertaining any notions of responsible relativism or ethical intrusion.  The historian accepts the reality of the absent past and yet still claims they know it for what it was – not just then, but now, today, still talking to us.  This form of transhistoricism tells us a lot about the way historians are viewed in contemporary cultures as somehow privileged, with access to the kind of information denied to other narrative-writers.  Alun Munslow likens many historians from a variety of fields to “herd animals” remaining determined to defend their epistemic beliefs against “a dangerous moral relativism that must entail the denial of facts and their ethical message” (107).
 Perhaps the herd instinct also influences filmmakers and critics trying to talk about the ways in which history is transformed into cinematic form.  At the beginning of this piece I invoked Sinan Akıllı’s claim that David Lean is far more even-handed in his interpretation of T. E. Lawrence than mine; taking Munslow’s comments into account, I would argue that such issues are fundamentally insignificant.  What matters more is to look at the means by which screenwriter Robert Bolt (from an initial script by Michael Wilson) selected a series of adaptive controls to render Lawrence acceptable to Anglo-American audiences by drawing heavily on Seven Pillars of Wisdom – whose authenticity as an historical record has been repeatedly subject to question since its first appearance in 1922.[4]  By choosing to cast the blond-haired, blue-eyed Peter O’Toole in the leading role, Lean increases that sense of control (Noël Coward famously remarked after the film’s London premiere in 1962: “If you [O’Toole] had been prettier, the film would have been called ‘Florence of Arabia’” (qtd. in Lyttelton)).
By advocating this approach to historical adaptation, I place myself squarely among that group of scholars accused by right-wing journalist Paul Johnson of making “the flight of reason” – abandoning collective definitions of what represents “good” and “bad” history and dedicating myself instead to personal reminiscence, thereby “throw[ing] off some of the constraints” that should shape judgement (321).  On this view, issues such as genre classification or factual accuracy are the main determinants of what constitutes “good” adaptation.  Johnson is particularly hard on polemicists such as Noam Chomsky, whom he believes have abandoned their field of expertise in favor of making arrogant claims that “their special knowledge gives them valuable insights” into contemporary life (329).  Such moves render intellectuals potentially threatening rather than beneficial to society’s future: “Not only should they be kept away from the levers of power [….] people matter more than concepts and must come first” (342).[5]  I am neither close to the “levers of power” nor ever likely to be; but I believe that adapting history has to lose its preoccupation with truth and objectivity and acknowledge its status as an art-form that asserts, argues, represents and suggests from an authorial as well as a film-going standpoint (Munslow 108).  We need to acknowledge our intellectual sluggishness in accepting mainstream binary oppositions and/or generic classifications that reinforce rather than challenge existing ideological orthodoxies, a maneuver described most recently by Sarah Wise as willfully “history-blind,” that substitutes “phoney, generic versions” of historical questions that demand urgent renegotiation (30).[6]  The task facing us is not to identify facile connections between past significance and present meaning – that we might term “relevance” – but to investigate how history enables us to rediscover who we are, where we are, what we have done wrong and what we have got right, and hopefully draw on such experiences that can reformulate our narratives for the future.[7]  What we see on screen can trigger powerful revaluations of individual subject positions (Manguel 9). 
Let me return to Lawrence of Arabia once more to elaborate my point.  As it stands Lean, Bolt and Wilson’s completed film offers a vision of the past based on at least three complex historical narratives: Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Wilson’s and Bolt’s screenplay treatments, and Lean’s casting decisions based on the production requirements of making an epic in the early Sixties.  The adaptation studies specialist has to sift through these narratives and reflect on how they were brought together into the finished product through a process of collaboration between different creative workers.  Our knowledge of binary oppositions and generic classifications assumes a peripheral role; we should concern ourselves with the process of evolution from storyboarding through rehearsal to filming and distribution.  We need to consider a multiplicity of layers that are essential to our understanding of historical adaptation. 
Yet it not only production histories we need to acknowledge; we also need to reflect on our own responses to the films as well.  I first saw the restored version of Lawrence (re-released in the United States in 1989) as recently as 1991, in the first showing in the Republic of Turkey, after a twenty-nine-year ban due to its alleged anti-Turkish content.  Watching the film in a dilapidated downtown theater was a fascinating experience, especially when Jose Ferrer appeared to be enjoying the experience of torturing Lawrence so much; how would a socially diverse local audience of families, learners, and buffs react to it?  Nothing actually happened; the audience applauded at the end of the 216-minute epic, including the overture, intermission, and exit music, and congratulated the local distributors.  The experience made me realize just how local politics had shifted over three decades: the film was now treated as a western classic, the product of Cold War attitudes destroyed by the recent collapse of the Soviet Union.  That night inspired me; I had only been working in the Republic for a year or so, and was still unsure of my role as an educator.  Perhaps my future work in teaching literatures of all cultures could bridge the cultural divide between “East” and “West” that still affected western-Turkish relations at that time. 
Looking back now, I realize that such assumptions might have been essentialist, but the experience of watching the film inspired critical reflection on the relationship between adapting history and my professional future.  I had to sift evaluate different forms of evidence to forge an interpretation, lifting open the secret chambers of the past in a fashion similar to what Virginia Woolf once described as discovering “tablets bearing sacred inscriptions, which if one could spell them out would teach everyone everything but [are] never offered openly, never made public” (qtd. in Gomes 56). The impossibility of objectivity assured that the truths would never be made apparent to me, but at least I had acquired new insight. 
Another example might illustrate the point further.  Although I was a regular filmgoer during my teenage years, I tended to go with friends and/or parents, where we would make an evening of it, so to speak, watching double bills at the local theater.  I never ventured into an arthouse cinema until I left school, when I visited the Curzon Cinema in Mayfair in 1979 to see James Ivory’s The Europeans, based on the novella first published in 1878.  I knew little or nothing about Henry James, but had seen Lee Remick on television in Jennie: Lady Randolph Churchill (1974) and remembered her stellar performance.  I remember being captivated by the way in which Ivory, Remick and the cast recreated a New England bourgeois society focused on outward show at the expense of their emotions.  I could readily empathize with their mental struggles, having spent much of my school years being actively told to repress my feelings, thereby upholding a long-held tradition – typical of boys’ private schools at that time – that to do otherwise was somehow “unmanly.”  I knew nothing about textual fidelity, genre issues nor historical accuracy (having spent my time studying nineteenth century British, not American history); but the film’s social exposé of late Victorian conventions, that still existed over century later, cast a visceral appeal that told myself something about myself and how nine years of education had shaped (or warped?) my personality.  The experience of watching The Europeans gave rise to a lifelong preoccupation with the often tempestuous relationship between private and public selves in Henry James’s work that continues to this day. 
Such encounters have helped me formulate a view of historical adaptation that moves outwards from the individual to the community – not just encompassing creative workers involved in the process of making historical films (or any other form of historical narrative) but accommodating filmgoers as well.  Our understanding of such texts evolves continually out of this interaction between such individuals.  For further evidence, I turn to an inspiring piece written in 2010 by screenwriter and educator Diane Lake about working with groups of learners on writing historical screenplays: one observed in her end-of-semester evaluation was that she was “not sure what I was actually expecting out of this class.  I had always wanted to write my own things, or write for an existing show, but I definitely learned the value of – and how hard it can be to write successful – adaptations” (92).  Such comments offer some fascinating perspectives on how we adapt to history.  I remember feeling much the same as this learner did when I took the historiographical course at high school for the first time: why was I being told to question objectivity, when hitherto I had been taught that it was the basic component of all historical narratives?  I always wanted to write my own history – not necessarily for publication – but to make sense of my own life; but school life had always dissuaded me from doing so.  Revealing one’s personal feelings might lead to accusations of weakness.  The experiences of watching The Europeans and Lawrence inspired me to do so, even though I realized (and continue to do so) that my cinematic impressions of both films would alter throughout my life.  
The complexities of such personal – as well as private – engagements with texts, whether cinematic or otherwise, make me understand just how difficult the process can be of representing history on film, especially in a collaborative medium where workers discuss “ideas about what they’d like to write, the worlds they’d like to create, and the people they’d like to bring to life on the page” (Lake 92).  Despite the practical difficulties involved – most notably in collecting reminiscences from filmgoers past and present, unless we actively embrace ethnographic approaches - I believe that adaptation studies has a theoretical duty to widen its methodological focus and rescue history from the possession of those embracing “reasonable” issues of historical accuracy and/or genre theory, and embrace more people-centered strategies valuing difference and individuality.  Jennifer Howard’s comments are apposite: “Such comfort [provided by the historical narrative] is fleeting: that is the order of things [….] maybe the past will return in some gentler form, weathered and wiser and gentler now, and ready to take us back” (“Sharing Links,” 24).  Memories of our cinema-going histories, as well as our present tastes can help us determine our future lives.  This kind of autobiography-centered approach has more in common with fan studies rather than adaptation studies, but I would contend that it is a valuable means to renegotiate our futures and our means of coming to terms with increasingly complex situations.
Based on the abstract I originally offered, I see that this paper has been placed in a section entitled “Transcultural Adaptations,” implying that there might be something different about the processes of adapting texts across cultures, rather than across media within the same territory.  Perhaps “transculturality” signifies something peripheral in comparison to “mainstream” Anglo-American processes of adaptation.  But perhaps I am just being mischievous: the process of transmission of historical material, across geographical, mediatic, disciplinary or any other boundaries is inherently enriching, an issue addressed as long ago as 1911 by Henri Bergson:

My memory is there, which conveys something of the past into the present.  My mental state, as it advances on the road of time, is continually swelling with the duration which it accumulates; it goes on increasing-rolling upon itself, as a snowball in the snow [….] This amounts to saying that there is no essential difference between passing from one state to another and persisting in the same state.  If the state which ‘remains the same’ is more varied than we think, on the one hand the passing from one state to another resembles, more than we imagine, a single state being prolonged; the transition is continuous (1-2).

Life is here viewed as “a gentle slope,” not divided into identifiable categories of past, present, and future, but part of a continually moving zone “which comprises all we feel and think or will-all, in short, that we are at any given moment.  It is this entire zone which in reality makes up our state.  Now, states thus defined cannot be regarded as distinct elements.  They continue each other in an endless flow” (3).  Bergson’s thesis expresses the potential of adapting history, where we have the unaccustomed freedom to evolve and recreate narratives based on an “endless flow” of impressions and subsequently assess them through interaction with those around us.  Some try to deride this apparently “free-for-all” view of human psychology that sets aside questions of accuracy and truth and instead works towards creating “a blurry, unstable kind of narrative in which the details of everyday life become the fabric of fictionality, and real life begins to resemble an intricate weave of stories.  Theory meets fiction, autobiography meets criticism – and just about anything goes” (Elkin 25).  As Alun Munslow so trenchantly suggests, however, any historical narrative purporting to communicate “the truth” is inevitably culturally constructed.  I recently read an article on Nuri Gencossian’s translation of The Wisdom of the Prophets into Turkish (1952), where the author insisted on invisibility, based on the belief that he was not creating an original work of art but transmitting divine sources of knowledge directly to his readers.  Truth, or the real knowledge, was spiritual knowledge/ skill (marifet), originating directly from God through an angel, and only accessible to readers after a lengthy mystical apprenticeship.  Hence Gencossian’s readers had to become acclimatized to the mechanisms of this form of historical adaptation before appreciating it (Akbatur 64-5).  The topic of genre is another culturally fruitful area of adaptation research and its relationship to history: Gönül Dönmez-Colin highlights the vogue for melodrama during the earliest years of Turkish cinema from the Fifties to the late Seventies that provided numerous forms of catharsis for filmgoers, especially during times of extreme socio-political struggle (for example, during the crises of 1960, 1971, and 1980).  The happy endings, with virtue rewarded and vice punished, offered visions of social stability that instilled a sense of well-being into mass audiences.  After the 2000s more nationalistic films became extremely popular, with the focus of attention on issues such as the conflict in the East, the place of religion and secularism in the state, and the contested question of plural/ single identities – as witnessed, for instance, in the megahit Fetih 1453 (Conquest 1453) (2012) that retold the story of Turkish triumphs in Constantinople for modern filmgoers (148-9).[8]  Comparing such historical adaptations with equivalent epics produced in the Anglo-American context (especially Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven (2005) that focuses on similar material) can tell us a lot about different forms of constructed knowledge and how we respond to them.  Can we really believe that a society can embrace “pluralism” or “multiculturalism” as we might understand it in the West, when it has disseminated an ideological message of a monocultural Turkish identity since its creation nearly eighty years ago?  This is neither the time nor the place to analyze this question in any detail, but the fact that it relates explicitly to my day-to-day encounters of living in another country, and my interactions with family, friends and learners, emphasizes the importance of learning how to think critically as well as spiritually about the processes of adapting history and what its purposes might be for my future life.
I would like to end with a final reminiscence.  Following a recent research visit to the University of Swansea, I picked up a copy of Vernon Watkins’s essays on Dylan Thomas and other Poets’ Poetry.  I had always liked listening to Thomas’s work on disc or on radio, as the sound of words always seemed to exert more emotional and psychological appeal than the sense.  I felt myself transported into a pure world of the imagination, where my mind could range across boundaries unfettered by daily concerns – and thereby work to establish an unspoken communication between past, present and future experiences.  One of Watkins’s comments on the poetry-making process as applied both to Thomas and himself particularly struck me: “The response to the Past and the thrust of the Present act upon each other so intricately that the moment cannot be foreseen when the two are reconciled and bewilderment gives place to order.  That is why it seems to me that all generalisations […] are meaningless [….] All life is lived forward in time, and it sometimes seems to me that a poet is a person who has been made aware of the timeless, and recurrently recognizes it at unexpected moments” (166).  I would not claim to be a poet, even in embryo, but I would like to underline the basic purpose of adapting history – whether on film or elsewhere - as a willingness to acknowledge the timeless, based on the belief that distinctions between “literature,” “poetry” and “history” are as arbitrary as those separating past, present and future.  They all represent forms of knowledge designed to broaden our awareness, refine our life-narratives and subsequently help us make sense of our lives.  If we realize the importance of this process, and thereby place ourselves at the center of that adaptation-making process, then we can come to greater self-understanding.[9]

Akıllı, Sinan.  “Secrets Hidden in the Mirage: The Cinematic Constructions of Lawrence of Arabia in the Turkish Mind.”  Hacettepe Üniversitesi Türkıyat Araştırmaları Dergisi 24 (2014): 7-26.  Print.

Ahmed, Akbar.  The Thistle and the Drone: How America’s War on Terror became a Global War against Tribal Islam.  Noida: HarperCollins Publishers India, 2013.  Print.

Akbatur, Arzu.  “Exploring Tercüman as a Culture-Bound Concept in Islamic Mysticism.”  Tradition, Tension and Translation in Turkey.  Ed. Şehnaz Tahir Gürçağlar, Saliha Paker, and John Milton.  53-73.  Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2015.  Print. 

Baldwin, James.  “An Open Letter to my Sister, Angela Y. Davis” (19 Nov. 1970).  History as a Weapon.  2013.  Web. 29 Aug. 2016.

Ben Hur.  Dir. Timur Bekmambetov.  Perf. Jack Huston, Toby Kebbell, Rodrigo Santora.  Lightworkers Media, 2016.  Film.

Bergson, Henri.  “The Evolution of Life – Mechanism and Teleology.”  Trans. Arthur Mitchell.  Creative Evolution.  1-97.  New York: Henry Holt, 1911.  Print. 

“Bullet Supports Lawrence Tales.”  Guardian Weekly 15 Apr. 2016: 44.  Print.

Carr, E. H. What is History? 1961.  Harmondsworth: Pelican, 1967.  Print.

Chomsky, Noam.  Who Rules the World?  London: Hamish Hamilton, 2016.  Print.

Citizen Kane.  Dir. Orson Welles.  Perf. Welles, Joseph Cotton, Agnes Moorehead.  RKO, 1941.  Film.

Clarke, Norma.  “Wonder Women.”  TLS 31 July 2015: 10.  Print.

Corrigan, Timothy.  Film and Literature: An Introduction and Reader.  2nd ed.  Abingdon: Routledge, 2012.  Print.

Cowboys and Aliens.  Dir. Jon Favreau.  Perf. Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde.  Universal, 2011. Film.

Crosser, John.  “Bartholomew Fair: Stage History.”  The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Ben Jonson Online.  22 Nov. 2007.  Web. 3 Sep. 2016. 

“Donald Trump on Citizen Kane.” CineVegas Film Festival/ YouTube, 6 Mar. 2008.  Web. 3 Sep. 2016.

Dönmez-Colin, Gönül.  The Routledge Dictionary of Turkish Cinema.  Abingdon: Routledge, 2014.  Print.

The Europeans.  Dir. James Ivory.  Perf. Lee Remick, Tim Woodward, Robin Ellis.  Merchant-Ivory Productions, 1979.  Film.

Elkin, Lauren.  “Private Theory.”  TLS 27 Nov. 2015: 25.  Print.

Fetih 1453.  Dir. Faruk Aksoy.  Perf. Devrim Erin, İbrahim Çelikkol, Dilek Serbest.  Aksoy Film, 2012.  Film.

Foucault, Michel.  The Punitive Society: Lectures at the Collège de France 1972-1973.  Ed. Bernard Harcourt.  Trans. Graham Burchell.  Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.  Print.

Garland, David.  “Bars and Stripes.”  TLS 29 Jan. 2016: 3-4.  Print.

Gomes, Anil.  “Tips for Talk.”  TLS 21-28 Aug. 2015: 36.  Print.

Gülçur, Ala Sivaş.  “Historical Epic as a Genre in Popular Turkish Cinema.”  The Handbook of Research on the Impact of Culture and Society on the Environment Industry.  Ed. R. Gülay Öztürk.  264-77.  Hershey, PA: IGI Global International, 2014.  E-book.

Howard, Jennifer.  “Sharing Links.”  TLS 2 Oct. 2015: 24.  Print.

Hyde, Marina.  “What Citizen Trump Cannot Stand – The Story is of Melania, not Him.”  The Guardian, 2 Sep. 2016.  Web. 3 Sep. 2016.

İngiliz Kemal Lavrens’e Karşı.  Dir. Lütfi Ö. Akad.  Perf. Ayhan Işık, Muzaffer Tema, Gülistan Güzey.  Kemal Film, 1952.  Film.

Inglorious Basterds.  Dir. Quentin Tarantino.  Perf. Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Michael Fassbender.  Universal, 2009.  Film.

Jennie: Lady Randolph Churchill.  Dir. James Cellan Jones.  Perf. Lee Remick, Ronald Pickup, Rachel Kempson.  Thames Television, 1974.  Television.

Johnson, Paul.  Intellectuals.  New York: Harper & Row, 1988.  Print.

Kingdom of Heaven.  Dir. Ridley Scott.  Perf. Orlando Bloom, Eva Green, Liam Neeson.  Twentieth Century-Fox, 2005.  Film.

Koestler, Arthur.  Darkness at Noon.  Trans. Daphne Hardy.  New York: Modern Library, 1941.  Print.

Lake, Diane.  “Writing the Adaptation: Teaching an Upper-Division College Course for the Screenwriter.”  Redefining Adaptation Studies.  Ed. Dennis Cutchins, Laurence Raw, and James M. Welsh.  85-95.  Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2010.  Print.
Lawrence of Arabia.  Dir. David Lean.  Perf. Peter O’Toole, Omar Sharif, Jack Hawkins.  Horizon Pictures, 1962.  Film.

Lawrence, T. E. Bilgeliğin Yedi Sütunu [Seven Pillars of Wisdom].  Trans. Bilal Çolgeçen.  İstanbul: Cihiyazıları Yayınevi, 2014.  Print.

Lewis, Bernard, and Buntzie Ellis Churchill.  Notes on a Century: Reflections of a Middle East Historian.  2012.  London: Orion, 2013.  Print.

Lyttelton, Oliver.  “5 Things you Might not Know about David Lean’s ‘Lawrence of Arabia.’”  Indiewire 18 May 2012.  Web. 28 Aug. 2016.

Manguel, Alberto.  “Shelf Life.”  TLS 4 Dec. 2015: 8-9.  Print.

Monk, Claire.  Heritage Film Audiences: Period Films and Contemporary Audiences in the UK.  Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP., 2011.  Print.

Munslow, Alun.  The Future of History.  Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2010.  Print.

Raw, Laurence. “T. E. Lawrence, the Turks, and the Arab Revolt in the Cinema: Anglo-American and Turkish Representations.”  Literature/ Film Quarterly 33.4 (2005): 252-61.  Print.

------, and Defne Ersin Tutan.  “Introduction.”  The Adaptation of History: Essays on Ways of Telling the Past.  Ed. Raw and Tutan.  7-23.  Jeffersoon: McFarland, 2013.  Print.

Spartacus.  Dir. Stanley Kubrick.  Perf. Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Charles Laughton.  Bryana Productions, 1960.  Film.

Thomson, David.  “Orson Welles – The Most Glorious Film Failure of them All.”  The Guardian, 22 Oct. 2009.  Web. 3 Sep. 2016. 

Watkins, Vernon.  “In Defence of Sound.”  (1958).  Vernon Watkins on Dylan Thomas and Other Poets’ Poetry.  Ed. Gwen Watkins and Jeff Towns.  246-7.  Cardigan: Parthian, 2013.  Print.

------.  “Poetry and Experience” (1961).  Vernon Watkins on Dylan Thomas and Other Poets’ Poetry.  Ed. Gwen Watkins and Jeff Towns.,  152-67.  Cardigan: Parthian, 2013.  Print.

Weimann, Robert.  “Past Significance and Present Meaning in Literary History.”  NLH 1 (1969): 91-109.  Print.

Wilson, Edmund.  To the Finland Station: A Study in the Writing and Acting of History.  1940.  New York: Doubleday, 1953.  Print.

Wise, Sarah.  “Treading Gingerly.”  TLS 31 July 2015: 30.  Print.

[1] According to the National Library of Turkey (Milli Kütüphane), the first translation did not appear until 2014.
[2] Critic David Thomson makes an apt summary: “Citizen Kane – was a collection of all the new ways of making film, but it was a celebration of the old ways, too. It was brilliant, yet it could not resist lampooning Hearst (a jab that ruined its chance of success)” (“Orson Welles: The Most Glorious”).
[3] The relationship between Trump and Citizen Kane was discussed more recently by Marina Hyde (“What Citizen Trump Can’t Stand”).
[4] Only recently Dr. Neil Faulkner, a member of the Bristol University Great Arab Revolt Project, claimed that “Lawrence has something of a reputation as a teller of tall tales” (“Bullet Supports,” 44).
[5] By a quirk of fate (or is it irony), this is precisely what Chomsky claims, as he shows in his most recent book how the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution has been abused by US Corporations, “established and sustained by state power,” who have assumed full rights to persons of flesh and blood – in fact, far greater rights, thanks to their scale, their immortality, and the protections of limited liability” (93).
[6] This mode of interpretation was equally popular two and a half centuries ago.  Norma Clarke notes the tendency of Gothic novelists such as Ann Radcliffe to employ “sentimental fiction” to fill historical gaps, based on established binaries of good vs. evil, hero vs. villain, and so on (“Wonder Women,” 10).
[7] In using the terms “past significance” and “present meaning,” I am reminded of the article written as long ago as 1969 by Robert Weimann, claiming that the two concepts engage in a relationship which, in its interdependence, may illuminate either.  The dialectic nature of that relationship means that the deeper and richer understanding of a text’s genesis is, the more likely it will be that the achievement of a comprehensive re-evaluation will emerge in the present.  The only snag with that definition is one of terminology: how do we know when we have achieved a “deeper and richer understanding?” In a notorious modern-dress revival of Ben Jonson’s Bartholomew Fair at the Aldwych Theatre, London, in 1969, director Terry Hands claimed that his updated production of a Jacobean play had been founded on careful research and a careful scrutiny of the text in an attempt to show the need to establish a Republican Jonson Theatre in opposition to the Royal Shakespeare Company.  The production was a disaster (Crosser, “Bartholomew Fair: Stage History”), thereby proving the elusiveness of Weimann’s use of terminology.
[8] For more on genre reconstruction in Turkish cinema, see Ala Sivaş Gülçur, “Historical Epic as a Genre in Popular Turkish Cinema” (264-77).
[9] Watkins has this point to make about the power of pure sound: “The true theatre is the mind’s eye, and the true action of the theatre springs from solitude and darkness [….] art is interesting, too, and art does not need cameras” (“In Defence,” 247).

No comments:

Post a Comment