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The representation of climate change in novels and their film adaptations

Name: Nandita Mahajan 

Department: Humanities and Social Sciences

Name of supervisor: Prof. Suddhaseel Sen


Description of research work: 

This essay theorizes the manifestation of the theme of climate change in the reception of novels and their film adaptations. To this end, I draw from and adapt Amitav Ghosh’s conception of textual hybridity: asserting that the era of climate change perhaps requires a movement beyond language to the image, which he believes is better capable of representing physical form, Ghosh prophesies that literature will evolve to incorporate hybrid forms that entwine text and image, such as the graphic novel. Drawing from Gérard Genette, as well as from various adaptation theorists’ descriptions of the doubled perception of an adaptation by audiences acquainted with its source text, I suggest a shift from Ghosh’s idea of hybrid creation to that of hybrid reception. I argue that the reception of a film adaptation of a novel as an adaptation, rather than as a standalone cinematic text, involves a palimpsest-like superimposition of literature and cinema—text and image—in the spectator’s mind, constituting a rich, hybrid experience that can potentially enhance the recipient’s perception of environmental issues in both texts involved. I demonstrate this theory via close readings of Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games trilogy and its film adaptations, and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and its film adaptation, illustrating the various kinds of intertextual relationships that arise out of what I call palimpsestuous reading, and ultimately indicating the value of adaptation in an age of environmental crisis.