The material on this page is available to AustLit subscribers. If you are a subscriber or are from a subscribing organisation, please log in to gain full access. To explore options for subscribing to this unique teaching, research, and publishing resource for Australian culture and storytelling, please contact us or find out more.
'John Forbes was an Australian poet who lived from 1950 to 1998 and was one of the so-called ‘generation of 68’ who were deeply influenced by contemporary American poetics and culture. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)’s Radio National paid tribute to Forbes’s life and work in 1999, in the posthumous radio adaptation A Layered Event. This article analyses representations of national identity in A Layered Event, using Deleuze and Guattari’s concepts of the ‘arboreal’ or unified versus the ‘rhizomic’ or networked. I argue that, through edited biographical interviews on the one hand, and adaptations of Forbes’s poems on the other, A Layered Event cultivates two distinct images of national identity—arboreal and rhizomic—and that it plays these off against each other. The article asks why Forbes and Forbes’s work is represented in these ways in the program. I use this reading of A Layered Event to reflect on the ABC’s role as a national public service broadcaster at the turn of the millennium. I argue that A Layered Event’s handling of national representations may be read as an allegory for the ABC’s negotiation of its Charter aim to ‘contribute to a sense of national identity’, in an age of increasingly trans-national and fragmented identities and audiences.' (Publication abstract)
'This article explores the discursive context surrounding John Curran’s recent adaptation of Robyn Davidson’s Tracks (1980), suggesting that the mutual imbrication of the film and its source texts works against the grain of recent trends in adaptation studies that seek to distance them, and to consider screen adaptations as independent creations. At the centre of the red carpet at international film festival premiers as well as the broader publicity campaign promoting Tracks stands author Robyn Davidson, whose nuanced understanding of the adaptation process and savvy relationship to the media have enabled her to retain a firm grip on her original material, at the same time as establishing for herself a pivotal role in enunciating the film’s greater significance and authentic ‘Australianness’ for both local and global audiences. Davidson’s role impacts, ultimately, on the positioning of the film in terms of genre, character, nationality, history, race, and gender politics and ecology—as well as making the adaptation process an explicit subject for discussion in Tracks’ wider articulation and framing.' (Publication summary)
'Philosopher Raimond Gaita’s acclaimed and much-loved memoir of his childhood in 1950s rural Victoria, Romulus, My Father (1998), was adapted for a feature film in 2007, starring Eric Bana and Franka Potente. Gaita worked closely with the film’s director, Australian actor Richard Roxburgh, and scriptwriter, English poet Nick Drake, throughout the scripting process, and wrote an extended introduction to the published screenplay. While speaking highly of the film’s production team and admiring the finished film in this introduction, Gaita’s subsequent writing in After Romulus, a collection of essays published in 2011, reveals his unease with the film’s portrayal of the character Christina, based on his mother who suffered from an undiagnosed mental illness and committed suicide at the age of 29. This article examines the dialogic relationship between the three texts of memoir, film, and essay and their attempts to empathetically imagine the life of Christine Gaita.'
'This paper explores the role of fantasy in E. Phillips Fox’s historical painting, ‘Landing of Captain Cook at Botany Bay 1770’ (1902) through two contemporary adaptations of the work in The Rabbits (1998) by John Marsden and Shaun Tan, and Daniel Boyd’s painting, ‘We Call Them Pirates Out Here’ (2006). Although markedly different in terms of their material production and aesthetic approach, the adaptations of ‘Landing of Captain Cook’ recapitulate its colonial fantasy by displacing the hyper-real contents of the original with surrealistic and pop elements, respectively. I suggest that as ‘after-images’, these adaptations usefully complicate the signification of ‘Cook’ and in so doing, engage with dialogues about how ‘Australia’ is constituted, and how it might be imagined. In this sense, the adaptations consciously draw out the fantasy of ‘Australia’ in the original through their later aesthetic permutations.' (Publication abstract)
'This paper interrogates the adaptation of two literary bushranger narratives to film during the Australian Film Revival in the 1970s and 1980s: The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (Fred Schepisi, 1978), an adaptation of Thomas Keneally’s 1972 novel of the same name, which itself was based on the true story of Jimmy Governor, and Donald Crombie and Ken Hannam’s 1985 adaptation of Rolf Boldrewood’s 1889 novel Robbery Under Arms, a text that has seen numerous other adaptations on both stage and screen. Analysis of these case studies demonstrates that the narratives’ ideological positions regarding Australia’s past can be understood in relation to the western genre, their narrative structures, selective deviations from their respective source materials, and the similitude of their bushranger characters to Graham Seal’s ‘outlaw legend’. I relate each film’s ideological stance on bushranging to its production context and argue that Robbery Under Arms depicts a romantic idealisation of Australian history that is closer to Alfred Dampier and Garnet Walch’s 1890 stage melodrama version than the original novel in its appeal to populist nationalism, while The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith attempts a visual translation of the novel’s revisionist approach to bushranger and colonial legends.' (Publication abstract)
'Since it burst onto the literary scene in 1886, the reception history of Fergus Hume’s The Mystery of a Hansom Cab has been uneven. Initially a huge success with readers, the text also strongly influenced Australian crime fiction in the 1880s and 1890s. As the twentieth century wore on, however, its critical reputation fell away, only to re-cover more recently as attention returned to popular crime fiction. As a result, the novel might not seem an obvious, straightforwardly canonical, source for a major adaptation produced by the national broadcaster. This essay argues, however, that as a text poised between the classifications of ‘popular bestseller’ and ‘classic’, The Mystery of a Hansom Cab was a surprisingly attractive proposition as a new classic adaptation for the adapters who produced it for the ABC in 2012. The essay explains why this was the case, analysing the meanings and effects of the telemovie in relation to several different frames, including recent developments in the contextualisation of the classic adaptation genre, the production context of Australian television drama in this period, and other generically similar historical series screened just before it. In this particular case study, the adaptation’s relationship with these cultural and generic networks is shown to be more significant than the status of the source text.' (Publication extract)