Migration, Symbolic Geography and Transforming Identities When Death Comes to Pemberley

Carol Poole, Ruxandra Trandafoiu

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    Published in 2011 as a crime sequel to Pride and Prejudice, Death Comes to Pemberley was adapted for BBC One and first aired on Christmas Day 2013. It subsequently aired on PBS in the United States in November 2014 and has had several re-runs on the British based free to view Drama channel. P.D. James, one of the most successful and revered British crime writers of the twentieth century, produced a worthy homage to her favourite writer (James 1999: 227), published in time to celebrate the two-hundred-year anniversary of Pride and Prejudice in 2013. As a multi-genre sequel, P.D. James’s novel mixes Austen’s comedy of manners and love story with a crime caper and whodunit, police procedural and journalistic court reporting, infused with Gothic elements and fan fiction tributes. The result is a multi-authored fluid text that should be read in the context of authorship and genre polygamy, whereby both novels, together with their adaptations for television and cinema, co-exist and travel in multiple fields of meaning, defined by in-betweenness. Although the ensuing analysis will focus on Death Comes to Pemberley and its screen adaptation for the BBC, we will inevitably and simultaneously also refer implicitly or explicitly to Austen’s work and its numerous television and film adaptations, thus offering a contextualised socio-historical approach. Any text that has endured various adaptations, sequels, and mash-ups, can be considered a migrant on a journey of exile, resettlement, adaptation, and cultural translation, resulting in “contrapuntal”(Said 1994: 36) co-presences, multiple embodiments and shifting identities. It is therefore appropriate to use diasporic theory, as described in the following section, to better understand the text’s journey of migration from one space to another, from page to screen and back again. Identities are shaped by departures and arrivals, emigration and immigration, and in-between experiences, and we borrow from the arsenal of diasporic theory concepts such as alienation-adaptation, journey-capital, multiplicity-hybridity, change, place polygamy, symbolic geography, homeness, trauma, and memory. These concepts expand on already existing theories in adaptation studies, such as Stam (2005), Hutcheon (2006), and Sanders (2006), who examine hybridity and transtextuality through authors from Bakhtin to Kristeva and Deleuze to Genette. However, while these approaches still put the text at the centre of a mainly literary analysis, diasporic concepts offer new tools for a socio-historical analysis and a sociology of adaptation, which is a more fitting method of investigating identity, change, and multiplicity.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationRoutledge Companion to Adaptation
    EditorsD Cutchins, K Krebs, E Voigts
    Place of PublicationLondon
    Number of pages406
    ISBN (Print)9781138915404
    Publication statusPublished - 11 Apr 2018


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