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East-West Dialogues: The Transferability of Concepts in the Humanities

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Edited By Christoph Bode, Michael O'Sullivan, Lukas Schepp and Eli Park Sorensen

This is an edited collection of essays drawn from collaborative events organized jointly by The Chinese University of Hong Kong and Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. The book focuses on how literary and cultural perspectives from different humanities academic environs in Asia and Europe might contribute to our understanding of the "transferability of concepts." Exploring ways in which these traditions may enter into new and productive collaborations, the book presents readings of a wide range of Western and Eastern writers, including Shakespeare, J.M. Coetzee, Yu Dafu. The book contains a virtual round table followed by four thematic sections – "Travels and Storytelling," "Translation and Transferability," "Historical Contexts and Transferability," and "Aesthetic Contexts and Transferability."

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Chapter 7: From Page to Screen: Kubrick’s Ambiguous Translation of Thackeray’s The Luck of Barry Lyndon: Lukas Schepp

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Lukas Schepp

From Page to Screen: Kubrick’s AmbiguousTranslation of Thackeray’s The Luck ofBarry Lyndon

The art of adaptation from page to screen is riddled with a whole plethora of different challenges. From a film’s inherently visual nature and its limited access to a true first-person perspective to the restrictions it might pose on the audience’s imagination, there are many reasons why literature seems to “resist film” (Seger 13).1 Of course, the above concerns are all valid to varying degrees in their own right. However, it seems that at the root of them lies the difficulty of preserving the artistic ambiguity contained in the source text throughout the adaptation process. Indeed, at least some of the fascination of reading a great work of literature stems from the ever-increasing cobweb of potential interpretations created by the textual oscillation between single words’ primary references and their contextual meanings in their respective linguistic surroundings (cf. Bode 80–5).2 Hence, not translating this web of meanings might likely lead to an artistically inferior work.

The question, therefore, is: how can ambiguity be preserved and ideally, even amplified when translating a novel to the silver screen? In an attempt to answer this, I will examine Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of William Thackeray’s The Luck of Barry Lyndon with regard to visual language, auditory language, and narrative perspective. Finally, I will analyze a sample scene from Barry Lyndon to demonstrate how all these aspects can work together and achieve a...

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