David Houston Jones
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Beckett and new media adaptation
From the literary corpus to the transmedia archive
in Beckett’s afterlives
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This chapter considers ‘borderline’ forms of Beckettian adaptation in new media art and video games. Linda Hutcheon’s classic account defines adaptation as an ‘extended, deliberate, announced revisitation of a particular work of art’. Hutcheon’s emphasis on scope presents Beckettian adaptation with significant problems: self-conscious reference to fragmentation and ending is common within Beckett’s body of work itself, and spreads to later adaptations. Recent new media work revisits such problems in citational titles or, more broadly, in the exploitation of a universe or ‘heterocosm’ which is recognisably ‘Beckettian’. This chapter considers two simulations by the artist John Gerrard – Exercise (Djibouti) (2012) and Exercise (Dunhuang) (2014) – and, finally, James Meek’s Beckett (2018), in which the Beckettian ironies of voice and narration are recontextualised in gameplay characterised by a searching enquiry into media. New media forms complicate storytelling (one of the key preoccupations of many theories of adaptation) with a reflexive attention to the target medium and sometimes elaborate a vast secondary architecture based on fragmentary reference to source material. The seemingly infinite scale of the game world is matched by an impression of endless duration, as the simulation unfolds according to multiple variables, and of a potentially infinite number of iterations. I analyse the construction of a Beckettian heterocosm in the light of the notion of the transmedia archive, in which ‘adaptations’ are reconceived not as versions of a pre-existing essence but rather as instances in the iterative, diachronic elaboration of the work.

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Beckett’s afterlives

Adaptation, remediation, appropriation


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