Editorial: "Lost Clauses"
By David T. Johnson
Volume 42, Number 1
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Isn’t it curious that we still refer to these openings as
letters? “Editorial introduction” might be more appropriate, since they function more like first pieces in scholarly collections, albeit briefer, rather than the typical letter, a word that has grown slightly more remote with the migration of most professional and personal communication into electronic forms. Yet within the larger generic implications, letter still has value, since, as in this very opening, there is a permissiveness associated with the term, in both style and subject matter, that my colleague Elsie Walker and I take advantage of each time we begin a new issue. Of course, this permissiveness can present its own difficulties. Published collections of letters, for instance, provide valuable scholarly resources, but they also must make the original authors, however thoughtful and witty in compositions to friends, lovers, colleagues, and others, more than a little ill at ease. Reflecting on the prospect of his own volume, Dalton Trumbo, in the foreword to
Additional Dialogue: Letters of Dalton Trumbo, 1942-1962, confesses, “Surely these pages, obsessed with money, filled with endlessly reiterated objects, lost clauses, metaphors not merely mixed but macerated, trivial grievances, contradictions, false prophecies, unkept resolutions, high purposes brought low and low ones here and there brought high—surely these letters weren’t the me I knew so well and remembered so differently” (10). While Trumbo’s tone may be tongue-in-cheek, his statement carries the wince of the look backward, all of that prose now set in print, unrevisable, imperfections laid bare, an exaggeration of the impulse almost anyone who writes anything feels at one point or another. Perhaps that is in part their value, a reminder of the “lost clauses,” and moments, that one hopes to recover in some further piece of composition down the line, though no one who has read Trumbo’s own correspondence is likely to find it lacking. And perhaps, too, the value of the letter is in such permissiveness finding its way into our more formal research, the most direct example being the epistolary criticism we see from time to time, where two or more critics write and respond to one another (a form, incidentally, I would welcome seeing more of). Regardless, we hope our journal will remain a forum for such critical exchange, epistolary or otherwise, in the years ahead.
This issue begins with a note of remembrance for our Co-Founding Editor Jim Welsh, who died in October of last year (pictured in a lovely likeness on our cover, by Jim’s close friend and frequent collaborator, John Tibbetts). Since we have provided a separate introduction for that section, I will not speak to it here but instead introduce the fine essays that follow. John Blakeley’s “Derek Jarman and the ars longa vita brevis Tradition” examines Jarman’s film
The Angelic Conversation (1985) for its adaptation of Shakespeare’s sonnets as well as its intertextual connections to Jarman’s life and the political climate of Thatcher’s England. Setting off from some intriguing reflections on Jarman’s memoir
Dancing Ledge, written in this same period, and concluding by drawing out resonances with his last film
Blue, Blakeley anchors these other aspects within close readings of
The Angelic Conversation, in light of Shakespeare and Ovid, in their “claims for the eternal life of their poetry in the context of human existence’s inescapable ephemerality” (353). Following Blakeley, Wieland Schwanebeck examines the adaptational strategies of Woody Allen’s screenplays and thus puts the term original into question. In “Oscar’s Unrecognized Adaptations: Woody Allen and the Myth of the Original Screenplay,” Schwanebeck challenges the dichotomy drawn by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on original versus adapted screenplays in a reading of
Midnight in Paris, which he also sees as consciously “deliver[ing] a highly satirical take on Hollywood’s adaptation policy in general, which fails to conceptualize adaptations in a wider sense …” (359). Next, Leslie Kreiner Wilson reflects on the challenges of screen adaptation in the classical Hollywood era in “Frances Marion, Studio Politics, Film Censorship, and the Box Office: Or, The Business of Adapting
Dinner at Eight at MGM, 1933.” Focusing on the archival correspondence surrounding the production of
Dinner at Eight, as well as other historical sources, Wilson observes that “little scholarship exists that pauses to examine the quotidian notes given to and changes made by screenwriters, as well as other studio creatives, subjected to such business issues while adapting a source text” (374). And rounding out our full-length articles, Viki Zavales Eggert’s “Authentic Monsters and Artificial Mothers: Maternal Frustration in Pedro Almodóvar’s
All About My Mother” explores the film and three of its intertexts—A Streetcar Named Desire,
All About Eve, and Yerma. Through these connections as well as a larger engagement with many prominent scholarly statements on gender and cinema, the piece examines each character in depth, noting how for all of them, “perhaps it is maternal frustration more than motherhood itself that unites them” (389). Finally, we end our issue with three book reviews. Ezra Claverie praises
Media Franchising: Creative License and Collaboration in the Culture Industries as a “thoroughgoing and inspiring contribution to the study of transmedia adaptation” (401), and Laurence Raw equally has great things to say about
The Men Who Knew Too Much: Henry James and Alfred Hitchcock, which he reports “offers a series of inspiring discussions …” (404). He presents a more mixed assessment of
Adaptation Studies: New Challenges, New Directions, noting that “[d]isappointingly the majority of contributions restrict their focus to literature, film, and media studies,” though he still finds “much to admire” in many of the book’s offerings (406).
Trumbo, Dalton. Additional Dialogue: Letters of Dalton Trumbo, 1942-1962. Ed. Helen Manfull. New York: M. Evans, 1970. Print
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