The rhetorical core of adaptation studies is a comparison between two texts, and the type of comparison that has sparked the most reactions, whether in its use or in speaking out against it, is fidelity criticism. As David Johnson and Simone Murray point out, fidelity criticism has long been rejected as an unscholarly mode of interpretative analysis because it is caught up in subjective value judgments and imprecise conjectures of a text’s “essence.” I contend, however, that the understanding of essences is critical to understanding both fidelity and the adaptation experience because something like essence is fixed in the human consciousness. Recent research in neuro-studies suggests that the mind creates “essences” by recognizing networks of structural elements in objects (namely texts for the purposes of this paper). The essence then becomes an experienced-based abstraction that can be recalled whenever useful. The individual is able to use the abstraction the mind creates to interpret the world, including the object itself, other objects, and the relationship all those objects have with him/herself, the individual. That relationship, in turn, influences and changes both the object and the individual interpreting the object. Thus the concept of a text’s essence, though often disregarded, becomes a useful interpretative tool when understood through a combination of overlapping theoretical traditions. Combining a reception-based structural and Heideggerian utilitarianism with recent neuroscientific findings grants productive insights clarifying our understandings and definitions of essence, especially in regard to adaptations in particular.
College and Department
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Althoff, Christopher T., "Reconsidering Essence" (2020). Theses and Dissertations. 8432.
adaptation, fidelity, essence, phenomenology, cognitive science, neuroscience, global judgments, memory