112th Annual Conference - Riverside Convention Center, California
Friday, October 31 - Sunday, November 2, 2014

This page is about the 2014 conference. For 2015 conference info, go to PAMLA 2015.

Literature-to-Film Adaptations: Pregnant with Possibilities

Mary H. Snyder, Diablo Valley College

This paper puts forth a unique approach to examining literature-to-film adaptations. In their writing, Julia Kristeva and Hélène Cixous show how maternal metaphors can be applied to the creation of texts. I propose applying such metaphors to literature-to-film adaptations as an effective means to understand and explore further these adaptations.


When I first began to study and research literature-to-film adaptation, I approached it from a unique perspective, that of a literary creator. I initially based my quest on establishing a “partnership” between literature and film in the process of adaptation, and coined this partnership a marriage of media, primarily in an attempt to quell my own anxiety triggered by film adaptation, or the idea of a novel or short story of my own creation being made into a film. In my book, Analyzing Literature-to-Film Adaptations: A Novelist’s Exploration and Guide, I devote a section to the metaphors applied to literary texts and extending those metaphors to suggest a different way of looking at the literature-to-film adaptation process/product. An enlightening perspective from which to view literary texts being adapted to film may require applying a maternal metaphor to the process/product of film adaptation. In this paper, I would like to explore maternal metaphors for literature-to-film adaptation in more detail, by first examining yet moving beyond the patriarchal and paternal metaphors put forth by Roland Barthes, T. S. Eliot and Harold Bloom, and then introducing maternal metaphors to more effectively describe the complex concept of literature-to-film adaptation. I will build from a foundation created by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar in their book Madwoman in the Attic, explaining the idea of women’s anxiety of authorship and their hesitance to “pick up the pen” to write, as opposed to the "anxiety of influence" with which Harold Bloom maintains authors struggle. I will draw from the works of Julia Kristeva and Hélène Cixous, among other theorists, who engage in discourses that include maternal metaphors to describe with subtlety the creation of a text, appropriately referring to pregnancy and motherhood to substantiate their arguments. In her essay, "The Laugh of the Medusa," Cixous refers to childbirth as bringing "the other" to life. She states: "Women know how to live detachment; giving birth is neither losing nor increasing. It's adding to life an other." I propose that maternal metaphors offer an effective means for describing what a literary text offers when it is adapted or created into another rendering of itself and that establishing an apt maternal metaphor allows for a distinct exploration into the anatomy of literature-to-film adaptation. Perhaps it can help reconfigure the conflict that confounds many discourses around film adaptation concerning the sanctity of the source text and the validity of its film adaptation. A maternal metaphor might offer those involved in both the practice and scholarship of adaptation a much-needed reprieve in that we can all agree that adaptation is indeed pregnant with possibilities.