Recitation, Quotation, Interpretation: Adapting the Oeuvre in Poet Biopics


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    6 Citations (Scopus)


    This article examines the adaptation of poems in recent biographical films which take poets as their subjects. Examples include The Edge of Love (Dir. John Maybury, UK, 2008) which takes as its subject Dylan Thomas, Bright Star (Dir. Jane Campion. UK/Australia, 2009), John Keats, Regeneration (Dir. Gillies MacKinnon, UK, 1997), the First World War poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, and Pandaemonium (Dir. Julien Temple, UK, 2001), the Romantics
    William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It considers poetry in these films as acts of double adaptation: the poems are both themselves the subjects of the adaptation process and are simultaneously used in these films to support, underline or illustrate the adapted narrative of the life of the poet that the film proposes. The biographies of literary figures are contested sites of meaning in intellectual culture, which makes their adaptation into other media particularly ripe for dissection and critical analysis. However, it is the process of adapting the works of the poet for a different medium to which I turn particular attention here. Though film and poetry are sometimes compared as media—with critics arguing for parallels between the work of some filmmakers and poetic composition—there are no sustained studies of the transferal of pre-existing poems from the page to the screen. In this article, I catalogue some of the strategies used within poet biopics to perform, adapt, or interpret poetry in a different medium, and how this is used within the overall framework of the story of the poet’s life.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)365-383
    Number of pages19
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 11 Nov 2013


    • film and television industries


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