Adapting to New Media: Early Experiments in Remediation (Panel)

Comparative Literature / Cultural Studies and Media Studies

Yair Solan (Queens College, CUNY)

The boom in contemporary scholarship on transmedia storytelling, media convergence, and narrative remediation has largely focused on the interactions between old and new media modes in our digital age. But to what extent have literary narratives exhibited similarly transformative cross-media/cross-genre exchanges during earlier periods in media history? This panel examines how literary fiction was adapted, remediated, and remixed by popular media and performance platforms during the mass culture explosion of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Panelists are invited to explore literary works’ intersections with, and re-envisioning by, modern media of various stripes: textual, visual, aural, performative, or hybrids of multiple modalities. These experiments in adaptation practice and intermedial translation may involve, but are not limited to, theatrical dramatizations and stagecraft; song publishing and sound recording; magic lantern shows, phantasmagoria, and other sensational amusements; the gamut of illustrated print culture; and emergent media industries such as film and radio. The radical dimensions of literary texts’ remediation by popular forms and historical “new media” will allow us to think through the ways in which this process serves to challenge cultural barriers, national borders, and aesthetic hierarchies. In doing so, this panel will consider literature’s changing relations with a global media culture and the wider commercial marketplace, blurring strict categories of high, low, and middlebrow art.

This panel invites papers that explore literary texts’ adaptation (broadly conceived) in the emerging media modes and mass cultural forms of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It will be open to a variety of national literatures and popular cultures of this period. While examining the ways in which literary narratives were re-envisioned and remixed by mass culture and historical “new media,” we will consider how these early experiments in narrative remediation challenge cultural barriers, national borders, and aesthetic hierarchies.