Great post, Andrea! While I’m not particularly invested in fidelity between text and adaptation (though I do admit to some amount of skepticism regarding some decisions made by Benioff and Weiss), what strikes me about this particular change is the fact that the episode makes a point of showing Talisa being stabbed in the womb. To me, this heightens my awareness of the extreme violence against women in the television adaptation of the novels, as well as to the ways in which their physical biology renders them all the more susceptible to male violence.
Admittedly, both Martin’s work and HBO series clearly suggest that this is a world that is not in the least friendly to women and that this is a problem that should, by implication, be addressed in our own world. However, it also seems to me that sometimes the latter errs on the side of excess, preferring to titillate or shock audiences with violence against women, rather than condemning it or prompting further critical reflection. The fact that the incident is so dramatically different from the novels—in which Jeyne Westerling, as of the most recent novels, remains a prisoner—calls for interrogation of not only why the change was made, but how this reflects the series’ own investments and politics.
Andrea, thank you for your contribution. What a dynamic way to kick off our Game of Thrones week with your examination of a key **SPOILER** which is one of several that arguably helped catapult GoT into the pop culture zeitgeist. The translation of source material is always hotly contested between fans-as-readers and those new to a text, and I am struck by your pre-disposition to know and gauge the reactions of those watching ‘Rains of Castamere’.
It appears you present a theoretical extension through naming the ‘spark of the unknown’ that I estimate may play a larger role in your research. Would you say that it is ‘necessary’ for viewers familiar with the source material to be offered such unknown sparks in an effort to re-present the “newness” of the text? The phenomenon you describe reminds me of what genre theorists identify as the tensions between imitation and innovation that underlies a genre text. In this case the episode and artifact are of the same genre source and instead must undergo a process of translation from one medium to another. Yet just as every word on a page cannot translate fully onto the screen, GoT writers and producers therefore capture the “emotion” of a chapter in ways that sometimes require playing with narrative anticipation.
Sarah also raises important points as to the role of adaptation as a creative process. In terms of fandom, Benioff and Weiss are starting to demonstrate a kind of fan-fic through their savvier interpretive moments. Indeed, some of the TV series’ strongest character scenes and interactions were creative interpretations original to the show and not represented in the source material (notably, Arya and Tywin’s exchanges in season two or the climactic encounter between Brienne and The Hound in season four). It is clear the showrunners will continue to make such adjustments perhaps as insurance in the event that they may (well likely) surpass George R. R. Marin’s production schedule. Thus, we may see a bizarre reversal of fortune by series’ end where the TV property establishes one ending only for the literary finale to re-usurp expectations among readers and audiences alike.
Hi Sarah, thanks for the comment.
I hadn’t thought about the degree of flexibility that the genre gives to the narrative, as you say, the way in which the ‘undead element’ has been used so far has added an interesting dimension to the show.
I have found that, even for those fans for whom the changes in the adaptation are not a major concern with regards to their enjoyment of the texts, comparisons between the texts comprise the majority of topics of discussion. So even though academic discussions about adaptation try to steer away from the subject of fidelity, I think it’s important to keep in mind that it is still a concern for the fans of those adaptations or their source material. Considering an adaptation’s fidelity to other things than plot, imagery or dialogue, gives us a way to think about fidelity that allows for the subjective experiences of the audience.
Interesting, Andrea. I have often wondered how fans received the adaptation of the Jeyne/Talisa narrative particularly with regard to her and the unborn baby’s murder at The Red Wedding. I suppose the magical land of not only TV but also the genre of Fantasy could still bring the baby back into the narrative just as Cat gets brought back, albeit transformed into Lady Stoneheart. I found the scene in which the white walkers transform the baby into a fellow white walker interesting in this regard as that scene was also not in ASoIaF and may be foreshadowing to the adapted narrative of HBO’s GoT. But this is speculation, which we are left to do until Martin releases further texts.
However, the undead element can lend itself to the HBO adaptation in interesting ways. If an adaptation can take liberties with the original text, what all can HBO do with the characters? (b/c I really don’t want The Hound to die).
As a side note, I, for one, do not get hung up on fidelity. Adaptation of a text can make a it more dynamic and I thought the Red Wedding scene, and all its textual changes, was just that. I half-expected Talisa to escape. I wasn’t prepared to see her womb being stabbed. As viewer, I thought I was prepared for that scene but HBO’s changes made it so those who thought they knew what was going to happen still got to have a surprise.
There are a couple of threads operating here. Perhaps the main one was a friendly critique towards the performativity literature (which is gaining some traction in Economics through the very useful work of Callon, MacKenzie, etc.). While they emphasize, and rightly so, the role in which discursive practices (representations) are constitutive of the social world, the only way in which some negativity (or “unmaking”) enters the frame is either due to “unintended consequences” or due to a conflation of contradictory vectors. In short, to my reading, for the performativity literature, negativity is always a by product and subordinate to the constructive emphasis. This is partly because the flattened ontology of performativity theory allows no room for a category such as “death drive”—that which is simultaneously making and unmaking the world. Making the world, because with its repetitive loop drive is that which solidifies the materiality; unmaking the world, because the very same repetitive loop knows nothing about moderation. Aesthetic representations, if they are not merely participating in the pragmatic making of the world, they must always entail also an unmaking of the world. In my understanding, they do so whenever they are able to render “visible” (or better yet, perceivable) the effects of different material conjugations of death drive as an immanent cause—this in itself has a dislocatory effect on the viewer. In this case, I presume the pipeline itself (and of course as it is represented in the image) is a conjugation of the death drive. I am not sure if I am able to convey what I mean successfully, but at least I thought I should give it a try.
Fascinating note and photograph. Your analysis implies, as does any analysis faithful to Ranciere, that the “partage du sensible” is logically (and somehow temporally) prior to economic activity, and economic activity ends up qualified as “mere. I wonder what would happen to the analysis, to for example the category ‘documentary,’ if one were truer to Marx, Benjamin, Panofsky and Eisenstein, and instead of securing an aesthetic sphere in the priority of perception, we posited perception as formed by the demands of economic activity and struggle against it. What happens when we start to follow the demands made on perception by the labor capital relation: by the wage, its mediated form, and the modes of repression necessary to keep it in place. This might lead us from seeing Burtynsky’s project in terms of a problematic of making seen within a restricted, occluding visual field into one of the creating of new percepts and affects in the process of more or less specific topographies of struggle. In other words, I wonder whether assuming that a distribution of the sensible is a condition of possibility of the economy, instead of the economy’s product, one doesn’t end up with a period eye utterly subjected to it’s limitations, instead attempting to assert itself against it’s limitations as it does in Baxandall.
Dear Yahya (if I may), all I can say is that I am grateful for the generous reading of my short comment. It appears to me that we are in agreement here. The question of the making and unmaking of the world is especially of interest to me, so if you could say more about that issue, I would be grateful.
Adam, there are moments when I am actually slightly disturbed by Burtynsky’s photographs because I see in them an excess of “artistic” aestheticization. I feel that these are the moments when he is going for an artistic “special effect” rather than what I envisioned in my descriptions above. (Some of his photographs would make perfect screen savers, for example.) I chose this photograph precisely because it avoids the overly formalistic aspects of some of his other works. It is more brutal for me in that sense: this photograph appeals to me because there is something “anti-artistic” about it in the sense that it looks like a photograph taken either by misguided tourist (who does not know what he is up to) or by a documentarian with a purpose (who is simply taking an account of what he can find in the world). Somebody’s uncle could have taken this photo. To respond to your question, then, I would like to expand the aesthetic possibilities of the visibility of the economy as an immanent cause beyond the traditional definitions of “art.”
In the first paragraph, I was worried about the possible ways in which rendering the economy visible may collapse into the imaginary register. Yet, in the second paragraph the problem of visibility gained a Real dimension. In the past, I tried to think through aesthetic representation as a possible means for “encircling the Real”. What Vegso refers to as “immanent cause”, as “something that only exists in the forms of its effects”, I read as the Real—not as an ontologised ground but rather as (to use Vegso’s formulation) “force of division” which is constitutive of much more than mere distribution of oil to the markets. My initial sense is that this way of formulating the matter provides a non-reductionist way of thinking through the relation between aesthetic representation and the social formation, rejecting both the representationalist as well as the performative frames. It is a rejection of the representationalist frame because it renders visible something which is not there (or there only in its effects). It is a rejection of the performative frame because in the sense articulated here aesthetic representation is not a pragmatic means of making the world but rather a “documentary” of conditions of both making and unmaking of the world and as such an intervention that dislocates the viewer.
Fascinating take Roland, thanks for your contribution. I’m curious what you might add as it regards “art” in this context. Burtynsky’s photographs are quite interesting and I’m wondering if this call for “aesthetic representation” is specific to art? Put another way, is this mode of representation possible with images that circulate within wider, mainstream circuits (i.e., instagram, twitter, etc.), or would these modes of circulation evacuate the possibility for the seeable to become thinkable in the way Ranciere might suggest?