115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Modernist Eye in Tim Booth's Animated Adaptations

Thomas Walsh, Arts University Bournemouth

The paper offers a simultaneous reading of written texts and animated adaptations to consider the Modernist notions of embodied sight. Tim Booth’s films Ulys (2000) and The Prisoner (1983), adaptations of Joyce’s Ulysses and Yeats’ The Lake Isle of Innisfree respectively, will be used to consider the structural ambivalence of Modernism that can be subversive and unstable, or alternatively prescribe a dynamic violent order through acts of seeing.

Proposal: 

The Modernist Eye in Tim Booth’s Animated Adaptations

 

This paper will examine the relationship between the Modernist literary text and the animated film, both forms emergent from the scientific and industrial revolutions of the 19th Century, and both Modernist works of representation that prescribe a geometry of imagination related to the embodiment of sight.

An inherent ambivalence in the structure of the Modernist literary object, in part as a result of the operation of written linguistic sign systems, allows for the adaptation of literary sources into other representational forms such as animated film. The foregrounded instability and ambivalence of the Modernist novel or poem is a structural aspect shared by animated filmmaking, making it the most appropriate form for a filmic literary adaptation to take.

This ambivalence can be seen to be made manifest in moments of metamorphosis, which is a key structural element of the animated form. Utilizing metamorphosis animation can behave like the literary text, moving seamlessly between interior and exterior states, transfiguring the operation of metaphor, the animism of pathetic fallacy and interrogating the abstract nature of language. The literary text too is an animated and animating object; the movement of the eye across a sequential order of signs transmutes into meaning, thought and action, thereby intimating an internal persistence of vision that determines the impermanent geometry of the imagination.

Paul Wells uses a Barthesian model of anchorage and relay to describe the transformative power of animated adaptation that actively interrogates the fixity of the literary text. It is the art of the animator that informs this movement between anchorage of an initial literary object to the relay animated object, and this animation process can be regarded as similar to the act of writing itself.

Given the relationship to be drawn between animated and literary forms, this paper will consider how a simultaneous reading of literary sources and animated adaptations might help us to understand the ambivalence of Modernity and human experiences of this ambivalence.

Tim Booth’s films Ulys (2000) and The Prisoner (1983), adaptations of Joyce’s Ulysses and Yeats’ The Lake Isle of Innisfree respectively, will be used to consider the ambiguity of Modernism that can be subversive and unstable or alternatively prescribe a dynamic violent order through acts of seeing. By simultaneously reading these literary texts alongside their animated adaptations, we might better understand how the physical sensation of sight is understood, ordered and transfigured as ambivalence in the Modernist literary object, and how the animated object can help us make sense of saccadic jumps of embodied seeing.  The analysis will consider what Suzanne Buchan calls a  ‘visual polysemy’ which is present in Joyce’s experimental use of language and imagery in Ulysses, an observation that might also be applied to the operation of metaphor in Yeats’ poem The Lake Isle of Innisfree. This polysemy enacted through metamorphosis in the animated image, can reveal an ambivalence inherent in Modernity that resists an omniscient perspectival gaze in favour of a fragmented and fleeting glance.

 

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