Melville Electronic Library

A Critical Archive

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Adaptation

Since the Melville Revival of the 1920s, writers and artists have adapted his works in various genres: children’s books, abridgments, and comic books; illustrated editions; stage, radio, television, and screen plays; renderings in the fine arts; and musical versions from Rock to Opera. Translation, too, is a form of adaptation.

These kinds of adaptive revision extend Melville’s fluid text.  Just as authors revise their own works in manuscript or in revised editions, and just as editors or publishers demand revisions as a condition of publication; so, too, do readers, for various reasons, and without authorial involvement, adapt texts to shape the work in new ways.  Their adaptations are embedded interpretations of Melville’s work that help us measure the critical distance between the culture in which Melville wrote and the subsequent cultures that revised him.

MEL’s archive will assemble adaptations, and our proposed workspace Melville ReMix will enable users to link Melville texts and adaptive texts for comparison and close analysis.  Currently, MEL has affiliated with the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies (dir. Jonathan Eller) to enable MEL Researchers in developing an adaptation project focusing on Ray Bradbury’s screenplay for John Huston’s 1956 film Moby Dick. MEL is also negotiating with the estate of artist Stephen B. Grimes, the assistant art director for the Houston film, to digitze Grime's storyboards for the film.