1.1. Identity in Canada (1999) discusses American cultural imperialism

1.1.         Background to the Study


It is not easy to go through Margaret Atwood’s writing without thinking of Canada and of women (Fiamengo, 11). Atwood is always afraid of losing her country/identity: ‘We need to know about here (Canada) because here is where we (Canadians) live’ (Survival, 19). Margaret Atwood (1939) is a Canadian novelist, poet, critic, and dramatist.  She produces literature to embody how Canada and women are humiliated and defeated (Grace, 1980). Canada is a country made up of different ethnicities of the Natives, the English, and the French. It has suffered a lot because of the atrocities of divergent colonization. This influence of ownership has not only on military and materialistic fields but also deepens its roots into cultural identity, economy, and sociology. Canadian culture is dominated by American influences as Eva Mackey in The House of Difference: Culture Politics and National Identity in Canada (1999) discusses American cultural imperialism since ‘Similar images of marginality are used by Canadians outside of Quebec (the majority) to define Canada in relation to the United States. They center on revolting against risks of societal and colonial subjugation (129).’

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!

order now

In Atwood’s writing, feminism and postcolonialism are interrelated and both struggle against injustice and oppression. Her women, as well as countries, are displaced and exterritorial and women’s weak bodies and fertile lands are being conquered and raped (Andreja, 7). The female body is colonized by repeated pregnancy (Clara in The Edible Woman), rape (Offred in The Handmaid’s Tale), and traditional sex (Anna in Surfacing). Women are double colonized, as their bodies are occupied by men and their psychology victimized by the society. Margaret Atwood explores political realities in the relationships into power-patterns are shaped by an awareness of the ways in which people are trained by their society from childhood to hold one set of attitudes towards women and men. Her portraits of men and women, and of the relationships between them, demonstrate how this double standard has destructive consequences for both sexes, among them the suppression, denial and eventual atrophy of feeling, resulting in relationships governed not by love but by subtle power-games which are portrayed by insensitivity and ruthlessness and in which men hold the advantage.

In Survival (1972), Atwood says, “Stick a pin in Canadian literature at random, and nine times out of ten you’ll hit a victim (39).” Victimization and survival are the two major themes, which Atwood introduces in many of her works. She represents four basic victim positions in her thesis Survival (1972), which include “denying victimization”, “acquiescing in victimization”, “repudiating victimization”, and becoming a “creative non-victim” (19). In the first position of victim, her women deny their victimization as they are little better off than the other in the group, and so are afraid of losing the privileges they possess. In the second position, though the fact of being a victim is acknowledged, the responsibility for it is transferred to something vast nebulous and unchangeable. The third position is pro-active and dynamic as it is about rebellion and definite decision. A person in this position may move progressively to position four or slip back in regression to position two. In the fourth position, there is liberation of one’s self from the oppressor. By becoming a creative non-victim, one can set oneself from the gender power struggle. In Survival (1972), Atwood offers a “map” of Canadian Literature, and emphasizes the number of victims to be found therein and the extent to which survival is a preoccupation with Canadian writers. An inconsistency is apparent here, for, although she touches upon sexism, she does not explore the ways in which sex-role conditioning encourages women to play victim roles. Atwood’s own analysis of politics in woman-man relationships in the novel Surfacing (1972) is inconsistent with this omission in Survival; the failure in that book to deal with the realities of sexism in Canadian Literature indicates that Atwood’s analysis of sexism is incomplete.

Atwood’s numerous intellectual works has been given to the screen and still they are considered un-filmable. Atwood’s Surfacing (1972), pursues and develops further her feminist vision in The Edible Women (1969), by foregrounding protest against the female sex role, and the predatory and aggressive attitude and behavior of men towards women. Claude Jutra, in 1981, attempted to adapt Surfacing (1972) into a motion picture. His work and career remained under constant criticism on account of some controversies that feature his personal life. Jutra is a famous French Canadian director, actor, editor, writer, and cinematographer. According to Canadian Film Encyclopedia, he was a central figure in the development of direct cinema in Quebec in the period of 1950s and introduced a new developing approach to film documentary at National Film Board. He made his contribution in Canadian National Cinema through his successful work Mon Oncle Antoine (1971) while his various English dramas rank among the best Canadian films made for television. He returned to feature filmmaking with the adaptation of Atwood’s  Surfacing (1972) which is a critical and commercial failure due to the difficulty of funding for his projects in Quebec. This was a time when film adaptations were considered mere copies of valuable literary works.

In the history of adaptation studies and film departments, studies in film and literature began emerging in the United States and the United Kingdom in the 1960s and 1970s. These inherited the assumptions of New Criticism and liberal humanism as dominant modes of thinking and receiving literature (Aragay, 12). One of the first theoreticians of film adaptation was George Bluestone. In his Novels into Film (1957), Bluestone clued-up about the differences between the two media.  He perceived distinction in the linguistics of literature and the visual essence of film-presentation. The problem of fidelity stands important in this regard. The idea of fidelity often proposed to a direct comparative analysis of the study WU1 that heads to focus only on the source text. However, this method has slightly been decreasing in adaptation studies in search WU2 of what is beyond comparisons and discriminations. Hutcheon’s (2006) theory of adaptation argues that there are many and varied motives behind adaptation and few involve faithfulness (13). According to Thomas Leitch in The Oxford Handbook of Adaptation Studies (2017), one of the starting points of a way forward (as a follow-up to Hutcheon’s formulations) is to consider adaptation as an autonomous act and not to focus only on source texts. Hutcheon’s theoretical perspective is both “formal” and “experiential” which helps to dig out different aspects from both mediums. A close analysis of Jutra’s film foregrounds the distinctive cinematic qualities and the response it has received from reviewers and critics.

1.2. Statement of the Problem

This research sets the target of finding narrative connections between Atwood’s Surfacing (1972) and its film adaptation in order to demonstrate the enhancement of subject between two different mediums of art, rather than conceiving it as a mere binary exchange between film and literature. The mutual blending of literary and dramatic aspects through various mode of engagement (drawing on Hutcheon’s (2006) Theory of Adaptation) discovers further possible explanations of the text. An incomplete sexism within Atwood’s narrative discourse is detected, and this is related to a wider representation of victimization, masculinity, femininity, and sexuality to Atwood’s Surfacing (1972). Despite the generic diversity of the novel, its action-adventure film adaptation focuses on some form of conflict associated with the narrative of quest. Finally, the study will see how far the film version of the novel stands as an autonomous work as well as an extension to its source text that enables its reader to experience an adaptation with an enhanced perspective.

1.3. Significance of the Study

Unfortunately, the rich body of Jutra’s works and his efforts has never received the attention it deserves. Moreover, his adaptation of Surfacing (1981) is not considered impressive or even faithful to the source text, though Jutra’s garrison style of visualizing the scenes, with his cinematic apparatus, describes the victimization of Atwood’s protagonist in a way that is arguably more credible and undeniable. The presence of protagonist’s schizoid personality can clearly be felt by following the camera in how the director plays with the sense of narrative ambiguity. This study provides a challenge to traditional adaptation assumptions, because this process creates infidelities, which generate new meaning to contemporary audiences, urging them to see Canadian identity itself to require re-compositions of the text. Moreover, this study contributes a new concept to adaptation studies by foregrounding a film adaptation an extension to the source text instead of considering it merely a familiarity bred through repetition and memory.  

1.4. Objectives

This study aims at demonstrating the importance of moving away from fidelity discourse in the field of film adaptation studies while taking into account different aspects for the evaluation of a film. Therefore, following are the objectives of this research:

·         To explore how the film adaptation of a literary work is not always a replica of its source but can also be its extension, by adding significance to it.

·         To investigate how Jutra maintains his presence through his garrison style of visualizing the scenes in his film adaptation using his cinematic apparatus (camera).

·         To probe how Jutra’s film fills the narrative gapes of Atwood’s Surfacing (1972) through typical visual codes and conventions which demonstrate the enhancement of subject between two different mediums of art.

·         To observe how Hutcheon’s (2006) theory of adaptation needs to rediscovers further possible explanations of the film studies.

1.5. Research Questions

1.      What sort of details Jutra’s film adaptation expands on its adapted text?

2.      What are the qualities that make his film distinctive?

3.      Which style he has used to adapt Surfacing (1981)?

4.      How did pre-production become an obstacle in the failure of the film?

5.      How the poor reception did brought the repute of both authors in danger?

6.      To what extant Hutheone’s three-parted structural analysis supplies advance permissible explanations of the film?

1.6. DelimitationsWU3 

This study limits its exposure to the comparative study of Jutra’s (1981) adaptation, and Atwood’s groundbreaking novel Surfacing (1972).

1.7. Chapter Breakdown

In the first chapter, I offer a thorough introduction to the context of this thesis along with statement of the problem, significance of the study, objectives, research questions, delimitation of the study and the organizational layout of the entire thesis.

The second chapter is about a detailed literature review that supports the arguments and unmasks the context of this venture while determining the research gap.

The third chapter discusses the theory and methods taken up for this study as well as a brief history of the film tradition. For its theoretical underpinning, this thesis draws on Linda Hutcheon’s (2006) theory of adaptation which focuses on the appeal of adaptation, different modes of engagement, forms of adaptations, adapters, audience, and the context among several other matters.

The fourth chapter discusses the corpus in detail. It forms the first,

The fourth chapter is dedicated to the analysis of Margaret Atwood’s Surfacing (1972) with Claude Jutra’s (1981) adaptation, which uncovers details how the film adaptation of a literary work is an extension and go deep down into the politics of text and its film adaptation.  Furthermore, the reception of the film will be demonstrated by presenting excerpts from the selected interview.WU4 

The fifth and the last chapter is about the conclusion of the study. It also sheds light on areas for further study, as offered by the present research, especially in the context of film adaptation studies.