Transfiguration Maxima!: Harry Potter and the Complexities of Filmic Adaptation

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Shafer, Philip M.
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Middle Tennessee State University
This dissertation is divided into three major sections. The first section identifies eleven of the major concerns that adaptation studies needs to address as it matures into a more cohesive field of inquiry. These concerns include issues of objective methodology, the fallacy of fidelity, properties of medium specificity, equality of artistic forms, and narrative translation. The second section constructs a working formalist topology of seven major adaptation practice categories developed in response to these adaptation studies issues (INCLUSION, EXCLUSION, COMPRESSION, EXTENSION, SUBSTITUTION, RE-SEQUENCING, INVENTION). These seven categories represent many of the most significant procedures of literary adaptation that recur across all eight of the Harry Potter films as they (re)cast J. K. Rowling's novels into the medium of film. The third section examines how the first two directors of the Harry Potter films, Christopher Columbus and Alfonso Cuarn, use these seven adaptation strategies similarly and differently as part of their concurrent operations as tellings and retellings of Rowling's first three novels in the series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Indeed, the Potter film adaptations are not just reworkings of the stories found in the novels, but also of the narratives and the storyworld as well. Therefore, this study explores the paradoxical relationships that simultaneously bind an adaptation to its source materials (through the related texts' similarities) while also enabling the adaptation to (re)engender its own version of its source materials (through the related texts' differences). Across all three of these major sections this dissertation constructs a model of some of the most frequent ways a film, as a multimodal form (visual, auditory, verbal), might (re)express the meanings constructed in a novel, a single-mode form of communication (verbal). Rather than merely an ad hoc framework for the analysis of the first three Potter films, then, this approach is being offered as a more objective alternative to the heavily value-laden analyses that tend to dominate so much of contemporary adaptation studies.
Adaptation Studies, Adaptation Theory, Film Studies, Harry Potter, Harry Potter Films, Harry Potter Novels