Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon (1975) back into Thackeray’s novel, in which she finds not merely a crudely satiric treatment of Barry’s villainy in the broad manner of Fielding’s Jonathan Wild but a rigorous deconstruction of Enlightenment moral positivism. The elegiac cultural critique that marks Kubrick’s adaptation, she argues, is present in Thackeray’s novel, but the continuities between the two have been obscured by the fact that the film focuses on an individual transgressor and the novel focuses on a dysfunctional social system. The attempt to rescue the nineteenth-century novels that have engendered apparently more adventurous film adaptations requires Eberle-Sinatra and McDonald, following Sarah Cardwell, to break with the traditional practice of reading the novels as sources to which the films owe due respect and instead treat both novels and films with equal respect.
Other contributions question more sharply the continuing value of one-one-one comparisons of novels and films in the light of the criticism many adaptation scholars have recently leveled against such studies. Different chapters announce sharply differing positions. Ellen Moody considers a wide range of influences on The Pallisers and acutely observes that the recent films that are most faithful to Trollope’s overarching view of the relations between individual actions and social culture are not based on Trollope novels.She concludes by defending the primacy of the recognized author of eponymous source texts of films as the only basis for a practical, feasible methodology of “close comparative reading” (p. 169). Christopher Palmer, by contrast, urges that in teaching adaptations, “the literary texts are not [to be] treated simply as transparent preludes to the films” (p. 226).
Whichever positions they take on the relations between adaptations and their eponymous source texts, all of the contributors agree that one-to-one studies, even if they offer limited frameworks for everything adaptation studies might want to say, can provide focal points for more general arguments by reframing Victorian fiction and Victorian culture. They remind one as well that even the allegedly original Victorian classics have been framed—packaged and presented in many ways, but never unframed—from their first appearances. Of all the contributors,