If someone on that day had the audacity to mistreat a slave, a wrathful Tezcatlipoca would strike the brute with sickness or sudden poverty. He listened to the prayers of slaves. If one were continually mistreated, Tezcatlipoca would pity him and see that he was freed and the cruel master thrown into slavery instead.
As the spring and reservoir of all earthly power, Tezcatlipoca was also the patron of rulers. Through ritual, he offered humans a direct link to the creative force of the abstract——and otherwise inaccessible——Lord and Lady of Duality. While Tezcatlipoca channeled the ubiquitous life force of these distant and aloof creation gods down to the ruler, the emperor of Mexico in turn mediated between Tezcatlipoca and the common man.
Rulers claimed from Tezcatlipoca the authority to punish and reward. The emperor of Mexico was so exhalted that for a commoner to look him in the eyes meant a death sentence.
Even kings approached him barefoot. Yet the ruler himself was humbled and abashed before Tezcatlipoca. Why have you placed me on this reed throne?
For my merit? Then perhaps you have mistaken me for another. O master, may I not consider myself worthy of what I see even in my dreams. However, such is how you have determined it, and may you thus be provided with laughter on earth. Do not hide your mirror and torch with which you light the world. Do not let me lead my people over the cliff. Wretched, untrained, and ignorant as I am, what will happen when I have ruined this city?
Use me for your eyes, ears, and voice, as you would bring sound from a flute. Warmth, freshness, tenderness, and sweet fragrance arise from you. I know that you may send peaceful well-being and contentment by your grace; or else paralysis, blindness, poverty, and death as you see fit.
But lend me a little bit of your light, be it no more than the flicker of a firefly. You by whom we live, you have made me from my teeth down to my nails, and I am your backrest. Tezcatlipoca was impossible to predict, and at times could be very generous to humankind. Back in the beginning of the fifth and final world he gave mortals one of the greatest gifts we have ever known: Music. After the earth monster Tlaltecuhtli had been transformed into enchanting landscapes, and animals and humans were formed, Tezcatlipoca still felt that something was missing.
He knew that music would delight the soul, but humans had never been exposed to it, for the mysteries of music were jealously guarded by the god of the sun. The Smoking Mirror determined to find a way to share this music with the rest of the world.
The sun has retained all of the singers and musicians with him in his home, and will not share the knowledge of music with the world. Order them to build a bridge for you that will stretch all the way across the ocean to the house of the sun. There you may select the most talented musicians to bring back to earth and share the secrets of their music. Some say these were a whale, a sea turtle, and a sea cow. The three constructed the enchanted bridge and Quetzalcoatl crossed over it to the house of the sun, from which came the marvelous sound of music.
Inside were a great number of musicians wearing uniforms that reflected their own specialty. Those who played lullabies and songs for small children dressed in white, wandering minstrels wore blue clothing, flute players dressed in golden yellow, and the singers of love songs wore red.
Here there no sad songs and no dark clothing. Music was for his private enjoyment alone and he had no intention of ever letting the wind god recruit his musicians. He commanded them to stay hidden and be silent.
Over and over Quetzalcoatl called for them to come with him to the earth, but not one of them took a step or made a sound. Now Tezcatlipoca had grown angry with their disobedience. If they would not come when called then he would frighten them from the house of the sun.
That god of darkness summoned a mighty thunderstorm which swirled across the sky in a raging mass of black clouds and lightning. At last the sun himself was swallowed up and hidden from sight in the darkness. This time when Quetzalcoatl called, the terrified musicians ran to him.
Holding and gently protecting them, the wind god carried them safely back to earth. The singers taught their arts to the people of earth, who held celebrations and sang songs to honor the gods. In the old days, even the divine ones would descend from the sky to sing with the people and join in their dances. Yes, Tezcatlipoca could be sweet to humankind.
He created the first man and woman, brought fire to the earth, and now he introduced music. These little babies were as precious as jade or turquoise to Tezcatlipoca. On the sad occasion of their passing away, a special heaven was reserved for them. Infants, too young to transgress, were still closer to the world of gods than of men. Their souls were thus returned to Omeyocan, the highest heaven, and watched over by the Lord and Lady of Duality.
This magical tree had countless, bountiful breasts dangling from her boughs. From these the souls of infants happily sucked, waiting for Tezcatlipoca to call them, to be reborn on earth and given a second chance at life. But for all his generative power, the creative godsends of Tezcatlipoca to mankind had nothing on his eternal rival, the Plumed Serpent. Instead of scales, however, his body was covered with the emerald-green feathers of the rare quetzal bird.
Ancient cultures reported seeing this god as a venerable sky dragon, writhing and whipping in loops over the sierras, his deep hiss striking fear into the hearts of men. Snakes were thought to be one of the most spiritually charged of animals, rising up from rifts in the underworld as they did, quiet and watchful yet wild and fearsome. Because they shed their skins and rose from the near-death of hibernation, they were considered creatures of resurrection.
So precious were they it was forbidden to kill them. Fowlers stunned them with blowguns, plucked the twin tail feathers, and released the birds. The powers of earth and sky thus combined in the form of this ancient creator god. Quetzalcoatl was a great friend to mankind. He created the people of the Fifth Sun with his own hands, and he loved them.
Because of this he was the only god to refuse human sacrifice, asking only for offerings of snakes and birds, butterflies and flowers. In order to make the world a kinder and gentler place he gave mankind the gift of knowledge: Books, the arts, the calendar, painting, urban planning, the working of feathers, metal and gems——all these were taught to humans by the Plumed Serpent.
Wisdom and civilization itself were the bounty flowing from his generous hands. While Tezcatlipoca was the patron of the public schools, Quetzalcoatl oversaw the private schools of the priesthood.
He was the patron of penitence and self-sacrifice. Instead of the usual square pyramid he preferred his temples to be round, perhaps so as not to spoil the flow of his wind currents as they passed over its surface.
These shrines were decorated with serpents and had a conical, thatch-roof top. The entrance was sometimes through the mouth of a giant snake, and the cave-like interior was a reminder that the god often used deep caverns as the birthplace of his winds. This was the god of wind in a human form. His skin was painted black and he always wore a large, red mask. This mask had a broad square nose and a wide duckbill, with a pair of curving canines at the jaw.
Ehecatl wore a conical cap made from a jaguar hide. In one hand he held the incense bag of a priest, in the other a serpent. He wore a great deal of jewelry made from shells, the showpiece being the "Wind Jewel" around his neck. This talisman was a cut, spiraling conch shell as big as a breastplate. It was a symbol of his powers over the wind and even life itself. For the air he ruled was thought of as fertile, not only scattering seeds but enriching our lungs.
Yet unlike other fertility gods such as those of rain or corn Ehecatl never deprived us of his gift, the breath of life. It was in this manifestation that Quetzalcoatl had descended into the underworld to steal the bones. The circling of the wind god through Mictlan to bring humans to life was remembered by the old shamans, who used deep breathing and circling as part of a magic spell that attempted to bring the dead back to life.
They believed that while we humans are made of mostly earth and water, it is the air and inner fire that enlivens us.
The Lord of Dawn was a fierce and dangerous god. It was he remember, the Great Star, who had fired an arrow at the arrogant Tonatiuh. Taking a human form, the Lord of Dawn appeared as a warrior whose weaponry was covered with green feathers, his face painted with white dots like the stars. He was the paragon of warriors who have fallen in combat. As the priests sounded a drum on top of his temple, the Lord of Dawn rose triumphantly before the sun, hurling his rays of light with a javelin-thrower.
Coming directly from the world of the spirit as he was, his beams were still dangerously charged with tremendous power, and they could inflict injury to early-rising humans. Up he rose, into the fifth heaven that was all his own, the Heaven of the Morning Star. Because he disappeared behind the sun and then reappeared at night, the Lord of Dawn was a symbol of rebirth. Later in the evening his rays would flash on the dark water like so many serpents of light.
So much, in fact, that he alone once decided to be born on to this earth as a human, and to taste the life of a mortal man. Up in the highest heaven, the Divine Couple dropped a little jade stone down to earth. This precious stone was just like the ones the Aztecs would place in the mouths of the recently deceased to embody the departed soul.
The jade fell down, and dropped right into the mouth of a young woman in fact, who accidentally swallowed it. From that moment on this woman, who was named Chimalma, was divinely impregnated with the spirit of Quetzalcoatl.
It was left to the powerful goddess Cihuacoatl to raise him up to adulthood. This was the goddess who had helped the Plumed Serpent to create the new human race from blood and bone. The world at this time was a rough place. People were still hunters and gatherers, migrating with the herds of deer and chasing rabbits and birds.
Even snakes went into their pot. Corn grew wild and ignored. Their clothing was made from hides, and houses were unknown. The nearest large tribe was ruled by a queen who worshiped a violent-minded goddess named Itzpapalotl Eets-pah-PAH-lowtle. She was the "Night Butterfly," a mistress of death and war. Into this rugged scene the grown Topiltzin arrived to bring enlightenment to the world with a wave of his hand.
Under his guidance a marvellous city was built: Tollan TOW-lawnwhose people would be known as the Toltecs. He was the fount of knowledge, from whom all wisdom and abilities began to flow. Within a generation the Toltecs went from being savages to the most sophisticated culture the world had known. Nothing was difficult for them.
Topiltzin taught them the sciences of agriculture and astronomy, the names of the stars, the motion of the planets, and how to read an astrological calendar. These Toltecs were rich: Squashes were six feet around, and corn cobs so tall and fat that you could barely wrap your arms around them. Any smaller than that and the Toltecs would simply toss the stunted cobs as kindling to stoke their steaming sweat baths.
Chocolate flowed, and the popular amaranth stalks grew so tall that children played in their branches. Dyes were unknown and unneeded——cotton grew in every color of the rainbow. Beautiful birds flocked to the city and sang happily in their arbors. Because no one knew want, covetousness was unheard of. Topiltzin taught the fine arts to his people: Stone carving, casting gold, jewelry tooled from conch and coral, and the setting of his namesake——quetzal feathers——into their beautiful headdresses.
Once-humble pottery began to be painted with scenes from the lives of the gods. Topiltzin also taught his people how to hunt for precious stones.
Before sunrise, he would lead a few of them out to the hills overlooking the countryside. As the sun rose he told them to scan the fields for little puffs of steam coming from the earth. Cracking her open, the victorious prospectors would find a softly breathing jade or a turquoise inside.
Tollan prospered and children were everywhere. Topiltzin wanted to show his people what it meant to live the pure and holy life of a priest. He would invoke the four directions to send up humble and penitent prayers to the Lord and Lady of Duality, they who maintain and give order to the universe.
At midnight, when the sun was at the bottom of the underworld, Topiltzin would go down to the river to cleanse and invigorate himself in the freezing water. He drew blood from his calves and offered it with the finest of burnt offerings to heaven. The Toltecs built a pyramid to Quetzalcoatl with stairs so narrow they had to be climbed on the balls of the feet.
At its pinnacle, a temple to the Plumed Serpent was under construction, its pillars sculpted in the form of snakes. It was here that Topiltzin increasingly took his spiritual retreat. Now, his exterior was a far cry from his beautiful soul: Topiltzin had a battered ruin of a face, almost inhumanly ugly.
Topiltzin had reached fifty-two years old. His skin was very pale, his hair reddish-brown, and he wore a long and wispy beard like an Asian sage. He had a pointed cap made of jaguar skin, a long blue robe draped his shoulders, and he wore sandals of sea foam green. Topiltzin had given his followers a startling announcement: Human sacrifice was never to be performed again. Quetzalcoatl had created humans with his own two hands, and he loved them, and would never want to see them come to harm for his sake.
Instead, he suggested the offering of birds and butterflies as a token of respect. Quetzalcoatl did not want blood from the bodies of men, but rather chastity and service.
The people were in paradise. Neglecting their responsibilities they abandoned themselves to pleasure. All the while up in heaven dark Tezcatlipoca was looking down and growing very jealous. One end he lashed to the clouds, dropping the other to the earth. Down this silken cord Tezcatlipoca made his descent, sliding closer and closer to the city of Tollan. There were the sorcerers, followers of the Smoking Mirror, who scoffed at the mild Quetzalcoatl and tried to trick Topiltzin into offering human sacrifice.
Tezcatlipoca honored two of these sorcerers with his presence, and sat down to hold a council with them. If he drank it now, when he is supposed to offer penance, he would be corrupted. He has never seen it before. How do you suppose he will find it? When Tezcatlipoca reached the temple of Quetzalcoatl he began a transformation. His muscular body became crooked and stooped, and his hair turned stark-white until he seemed no more than a little old man. Tottering up the pyramid steps with a bowl of agave wine, he confronted the temple guards.
A guard stepped in his path. The master is feeling ill and you would only bother him. What body of mine could he bring here? Examine his present first, then you may let him in.
He alone will show it to you. Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl were face to face once more. But the Plumed Serpent was at a disadvantage: While Tezcatlipoca was simply a god in human form, Quetzalcoatl had taken upon himself all the weaknesses of mortal life. You must be weary. But let me now see this body of mine. Tezcatlipoca was silent. After all, a body can always be covered in fine plumes, a face with a beautiful mask, and no one need be the wiser.
The little old man brought out just such a lovely costume, and helped Topiltzin to try it on. Now he looked almost superhuman, Tezcatlipoca assured him, and the mask merely brought his inner beauty to the outside. Having been awoken to his own mortality, he could never return to an innocent life of pure spirit. Soon, his deformed body would be followed by a corrupted soul. What is it that ails you? Tezcatlipoca now revealed the little honey jar that he had filled with agave wine, called pulque POOL-kay.
Drink it. It is a very good medicine and will soothe your aching body. First it goes to your head and cures your body of its ailments. Next it works on your heart. You will cry, for you will think upon death, and you will think about how you must now travel far away to an unknown place. He pushed forward the honey pot held in his withered hand. Drink the potion and you will be merry. Anyhow, has it not intoxicated people to the point of stealing their lives?
There, now all you need to do is touch the tip of your honorable finger to it and give us a taste. But when his moistened finger touched his lips, something stirred inside him. Topiltzin took a deep draught from the pot. Where did the pain go? I will have three more drinks, grandfather! The spent cup fell from his hand and a saucy Topiltzin called in all of the temple guards, shouting for them to make merry as well.
As the bowls were passed and all was festive, Tezcatlipoca tried to start up a song. I know a song: Of feathers and coral I built my houses, but oh, how I must leave them now! I want us to sing, drink, and be together! She was on Mount Nonohualcatepec, lost in quiet meditation, when the drunken party stumbled upon her.
Let us go. At last, Topiltzin left the revelry for his private chamber, taking his sister with him. When the harsh and sober dawn arose, the two were filled with abject misery. Topiltzin had known full well the effects of alcohol, and had suspected from the start that the old man was a trap. He had no one to blame but himself. The old man was nowhere to be found, and Topiltzin sang a song of lament while his court set into a deep mourning.
Topiltzin lay his body down in a stone sarcophagus as if he were dead, and there he lay weeping. Four long days passed while his city was lost without him.
I will now leave this city Let us now let go of all the wealth we have brought into this world. At his orders they burnt the Houses of Fasting to the ground, glittering with silver and shell as they collapsed. All the magical wealth of the city was buried off in the canyons, and Topiltzin turned the beloved trees of the cocoa bean into the harsh mesquites. The lushly feathered songbirds were dismissed and they flew off toward the east. Poor Topiltzin wanted to found a perfect life of the spirit here on earth, where corruption was unknown and flesh immaterial.
As Tezcatlipoca taught him, there will always be sin as long as there is an earth, and all faces must ultimately wither. Now that Tezcatlipoca had vanquished his archrival, his next task was to bend the city of Tollan to his rule. He would show the people whose hand the world rolled about in: His. And he would demand his dues of human sacrifice. When Topiltzin departed for the east Huemac was left to rule Tollan by himself.
But it was as if the magic blessing had left the town and the people now had to work harder than ever. King Huemac had a beautiful young daughter and she was showered in offers for marriage. Her father, however would not hear of it and so she remained with him in the palace.
Tezcatlipoca now assumed the form of an eastern barbarian, going aroundas was the custom of the hinterlandsstark naked. He strode through the public marketplace until he was right before the palace doors. There he shook out a blanket, and placed upon it hot chili peppers for sale. That day, the princess was out for a stroll in the market when suddenly she saw the well-formed barbarian, with everything hanging out for all to see. The princess rushed back inside the palace, hot and tense, and swollen with desire for this stranger.
Word traveled around the palace that the princess was indisposed, and the king rushed to her chamber. What happened? Now she is burning with desire for him. Something of a fetishist it seems, he had once exhausted his men to the point of mutiny by sending them to hunt for a woman whose hips were a roomy four hand-lengths wide.
Find him and bring him to me. Tezcatlipoca chose this very moment to reappear, right where he had first been seen. Now the humiliated servants rushed to tell the king they were mistaken. The wild man was quickly siezed and brought inside. I sell little chilis. Is this any way in which to live? Put a loincloth on and cover yourself up! Are you telling me that you must kill me in order to cure her? And me, just a poor old vendor! But you will cure her.
They gave him a haircut, anointed him with oils, and made him put on a loincloth. In this spruce condition, he was returned to the king. She is yours now. From that moment on, the girl was flush with good health. All around the kingdom, Huemac soon became a figure of fun.
After days of mockery, the king could take no more, and called his councilors to him. Once the battle begins, you will abandon him and he will be crushed.
In his footsteps came his troops, but as all courtly entertainers were in those days, they were a ragtag bunch of misfits: Acrobatic dwarves, musical hunchbacks, and crippled clowns.
Now the barbarian and his crippled army were abandoned, and the dwarfs and hunchbacks clung to his legs with fear. If you lose heart, they will cut you down right now. But this I know: Though every one of you could come home with many captives today, we shall finish them here, and they will perish in our hands! Now brothers, now uncles, move! Back in Tollan, the cowardly generals reported the success of their plot to King Huemac, assuring him that the pepper man and his minions were now doubt slaughtered by now.
The king was pleased with this news yet filled with shame, though whether he felt shame for his cruel deception or merely for his lingering humiliation we do not know. At that moment, a great cry of victory rose up from a crowd gathered outside. Well then, we must go and greet these men with the honors of war.
The cheering crowd followed him to the edge of the city, where the warriors returned, their trumpets roaring, singing songs of victory and dancing as proudly as lords.
The faces of the dwarfs were painted like heroes, with bright red and yellow stripes. Now take a seat, my son, and rest your feet. While Tezcatlipoca was enjoying such casual success, far to the east, Topiltzin was slowly travelling with his own melancholy train of hunchbacks and dwarfs. Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl, we might as well say soon came upon a tall, sturdy tree, whose thick branches spread out overhead.
I have grown old already. He picked up another, and another, throwing them angrily until the tree was crusted with stones from the top to the bottom. Quetzalcoatl grew tired of walking, and sat down to rest on a great boulder. Looking back toward the west, he could still see the city of Tollan in the distance. He wept.
Tears dropped from his cheeks as heavy as hailstones, carving two little hollows in the rock. Beneath the weight of his grief, the boulder became as soft as wax. His hands and haunches sunk into the stone, and their marks can still be seen to this day. So wanton would be his ravaging, the Tollans would drop to their knees and worship him above all other gods. First he called for a dance, to celebrate the Tollan victory over Grass Mountain.
Tezcatlipoca, still disguised as a handsome barbarian, struck up a beat on his drum and the happy crowd began to dance. He called out the lines from a song of his own making, and the young people sang them back to him. Hand in hand they leaped through the air, the men grasping their ladies from behind, and the music crashed like waves across the valley. Darkness fell, and Tezcatlipoca led the happy band out of town and off to the canyons.
He guided the innocents to the edge of a cliff, but the dancers could not control their frenzied motions, for Tezcatlipoca was working his godly powers on them. So intoxicated by his magic were they that no one had any regard for his own safety or that of others. Soon, one youth was bumped from the crowd and fell to his death on the crags below. Then one after another began to tip over, as a panic ensued.
The frightened mob tried to swarm across a narrow stone bridge, but Tezcatlipoca shattered it into fragments, and all were lost in the ravine. That night, the god of darkness turned all of the fallen bodies into stones, and wiped the horrid memories of the night from the minds of all survivors. At sunset the next day, Tezcatlipoca once again beat on his drum, and once again the young people gathered.
As Quetzalcoatl trudged to the east, he came upon a broad, unfordable river. With inhuman strength, he made a bridge by laying boulders in the water, and carried on across it with his retinue. Whether these were malicious spirits or merely human sorcerers has been lost to history. But you must leave all of your arts and knowledge behind: Stonecarving, gold casting, bookmaking, and feather work.
You can not take them with you. As a testament that the world would keep the knowledge he had introduced, he tore the jewels from his neck and dropped them into the water. The spirits were satisfied, and let him pass. Tezcatlipoca, freshly disguised, returned to the marketplace.
This time he was accompanied by his favorite of all the other gods: His brother Huitzilopochtli. Tezcatlipoca found a seat while brother shrunk down to the size of a doll. And this here is Huitzilopochtli! Amazed by the novelty, a crowd quickly jammed in to get a closer look.
As before, however, Tezcatlipoca overwhelmed their judgment, and amidst the pushing and shoving of the mob many people wound up trampled to death. Why not find some rocks and just stone me to death?
Grabbing whatever stones were on hand, they pelted this terrifying mind-stealer. Soon Huitzilopochtli had disappeared, and the stranger lay dead on the ground. From the fresh corpse, a miasma of carrion stench poured out. As the bystanders were struck by these fumes of corruption, they fell down in a deadly sickness.
Why not drag me out of town with a rope, before you wind up getting killed? Unable to disobey, the onlookers found their heaviest log-hauling ropes, and tying them around the body began to pull. Several casualties later, the hateful body at last was safely out of town, but once more the memories of the men were wiped clean by the god. Marching eastward, Quetzalcoatl was soon halted by another dark supernatural. No one passes without sampling my wine. Now, why not be cheerful and drink it!
He felt weak, and a failure, and had no resolve to stand up to much. Nonetheless, the liquor overpowered him. He dropped to the ground and snored like thunder. When he woke, the spirit was nowhere to be seen, only his dwarfish companions.
One is named White Woman, and the othera volcanoSmoking Mountain. The only way between these peaks is through a high and frozen pass, and it was here that Quetzalcoatl took his way. Snow began to fall, until it became an icy blizzard. The way on was as far as the way back. The cold was too much for his little assistants, and one by one the poor men froze to death. He had broken his fast, sinned with his human sister, lost his kingdom, abandoned his people, and now he had led his most loyal followers to their deaths.
He was alone in the wilderness. Through moans and tears, however, he kept going, and dropped down into the warm country beyond. It was as if he had reached the bottom of his pain, and wanted to rise back up. His thoughts began to turn from death to creation and rebirth. Quetzalcoatl now began to build, and the works of his idle hours would stand for centuries as great monuments: A stone court for the ballgame, so large that its center line was made from a canyon; a huge rock balanced in such a way that a finger could rock it, but even several men could never tip it over.
Even the scar left behind where he slid down a hillside would be held in later years as a relic. Finding two silk-cotton trees, a symbol of life, he tossed one like a spear right through the other, so that they formed a sort of cross.
He even constructed an subterranean entrance into Mictlan. Naming all of the mountains and all the lands he passed, Quetzalcoatl continued east, making his way to the ocean.
A nearby mountain burned at night, the flames rising high. Food became sour and bitter. Stones rained on the Toltecs, until finally a large sacrificial stone dropped from heaven. The victory was final: Tezcatlipoca had replaced Quetzalcoatl as the chief deity, and human sacrifice was performed once again. Soon the passion for bloodletting became such a vogue that people literally lined up for tickets to let themselves be sacrificed, handed out by an old woman sent by Tezcatlipoca himself.
Huemac increasingly took the blame for the sinfulness of his people. They even whispered that he had prevented his daughter from marrying because he had been saving her for himself. Summoning his godly powers, he created a raft for himself woven from live serpents.
Stepping aboard and pushing off from shore, he disappeared into the distance as the sea was swept by a steady wind. After passing through a realm of the spirit, Quetzalcoatl arrived at one of his rightful domains, the house of dawn, the land of writing and of wisdom.
His sojourn as a human being had come to an end, as of course they all must do. In the rosy sky, the banished flocks of bright birds suddenly reappeared. Those macaws and spoonbills who had joined their master in exile now flew into the heavens above his head. With that, Quetzalcoatl stepped into the blaze, and his earthly shell was consumed.
The mighty spirit of the god was now released in all his power. For four days wandered as a fleshless skeleton. Four days more were spent in the underworld as the Lord of the House of Dawn fashioned his arrows, the brilliant beams of the Morning Star.
Part of this pleasure, I want to argue, comes simply from repetition with variation, from the comfort of ritual combined with the piquancy of surprise. Recognition and remembrance are part of the pleasure and risk of experiencing an adaptation; so too is change. Rather, they carry that aura with them. It is not just at times of economic downturn that adapters turn to safe bets: nineteenth-century Italian composers of that notoriously expensive art form, opera, usually chose to adapt reliable—that is, already inancially successful—stage plays or novels in order to avoid inancial risks, as well as trouble with the cen- sors see Trowell A best-selling book may reach a million readers; a successful Broadway play will be seen by 1 to 8 million people; but a movie or television adaptation will ind an audi- ence of many million more Seger 5.
Does the manifest commercial success of adaptations help us under- stand why the ilm he Royal Tenenbaums directed by Wes Ander- son with a script by Owen Wilson opens with a book being checked out of a library—the book upon which the ilm implicitly claims to be based? Because, to my knowledge, this ilm is not adapted from any literary text, the use of this device is a direct and even parodic recall of its use in earlier ilms, but with a dif- ference: the authority of literature as an institution and thus also of the act of adapting it seems to be what is being invoked and emphasized.
But why would a ilm want to be seen as an adaptation? And what do we mean by a work being seen as an adaptation? If we know that prior text, we always feel its presence shadowing the one we are experiencing directly. When we call a work an adaptation, we openly announce its overt relationship to another work or works.
Cardwell 9. I take such a position as axiomatic, but not as my theoretical focus. Although adaptations are also aesthetic objects in their own right, it is only as inherently double- or multilaminated works that they can be theorized as adaptations. Today that dominance has been challenged from a variety of perspec- tives e. Of more interest to me is the fact that the morally loaded discourse of idelity is based on the implied assumption that adapters aim simply to reproduce the adapted text e.
Adaptation is repeti- tion, but repetition without replication. And there are manifestly many diferent possible intentions behind the act of adaptation: the urge to consume and erase the memory of the adapted text or to call it into question is as likely as the desire to pay tribute by copying. If the idea of idelity should not frame any Confrontational Reality Of Perversion of adaptation today, what should?
As the next section will explore in more depth, the phenomenon of adaptation can be deined from three distinct but interrelated per- spectives, for I take it as no accident that we use the same word—adap- tation—to refer to the process and the product. First, seen as a formal entity or product, an adaptation is an announced and extensive transposition of a particular work or works.
Transposition can also mean a shift in ontology from the real to the ictional, from a historical account or biography to a ictionalized narrative or drama. Second, as a process of creation, the act of adaptation always involves both re- interpretation and then re- creation; this has been called both appropriation and salvaging, depending on your perspective.
For every aggressive appropriator outed by a political opponent, there is a patient salvager. African ilm adaptations of traditional oral legends are also seen as a way of preserving a rich heritage in an aural and visual mode Cham It is its own palimpsestic thing.
But, from a pragmatic point of view, such a vast a deinition would clearly make adaptation rather dif- icult to theorize. My more restricted double deinition of adaptation as process and product is closer to the common usage of the word and is broad enough to allow me to treat not just ilms and stage productions, but also musical arrangements and song covers, visual art revisitations of prior works and comic book versions of history, poems put to music and remakes of ilms, and videogames and interactive art.
It also per- mits me to draw distinctions; for instance, allusions to and brief echoes of other works would not qualify as extended engagements, nor do most examples of musical sampling, because they recontextualize only short fragments of music.
Plagiarisms are not acknowledged appropriations, and sequels and prequels are not really adaptations either, nor is fan iction. With adaptations, we seem to desire the repetition as much as the change. Exactly What Gets Adapted? In law, ideas themselves cannot be copyrighted; only their expression can be defended in court. And herein lies the whole problem. But all three are arguably equally subjective and, it would appear, diicult to discuss, much less theorize.
Most theories of adaptation assume, however, that the story is the common denominator, the core of what is transposed across difer- ent media and genres, each of which deals with that story in formally diferent ways and, I would add, through diferent modes of engage- ment—narrating, performing, or interacting. As Millicent Marcus has explained, however, there are two opposing theoretical schools of thought on this point: either a story can exist independently of any embodiment in any particular signify- ing system or, on the contrary, it cannot be considered separately from its material mode of mediation What the phenomenon of adaptation suggests, however, is that, although the latter is obviously true for the audience, whose members experience the story in a particu- lar material form, the various elements of the story can and are consid- ered separately by adapters and by theorists, if only because technical constraints of diferent media will inevitably highlight diferent aspects of that story Gaudreault and Marion Psychological development and thus receiver empa- thy is part of the narrative and dramatic arc when characters are the focus of adaptations.
But they may well change—often radically—in the process of adaptation, and not only but most obviously in terms of their plot ordering. Pacing can be transformed, time compressed or expanded. Shifts in the focalization or point of view of the adapted story may lead to major diferences.
When David Lean wrote, directed, and edited the ilm version of E. In other cases, it might be the point of departure or conclusion that is totally transigured in adaptation. In other words, a personal crisis is made to replace a political one. It was too abstract. On the soundtrack, their voices merge as well. If we move from considering only the medium in this way to consid- ering changes in the more general manner of story presentation, how- ever, other diferences in what gets adapted begin to appear.
As we shall see in more detail shortly, being shown a story is not the same as being told it—and neither is the same as participating in it or interacting with it, that is, experiencing a story directly and kinesthetically. With each mode, diferent things get adapted and in diferent ways. To show a story, as in movies, bal- lets, radio and stage plays, musicals and operas, involves a direct aural and usually visual performance experienced in real time. If a ilm can be said to have a three-act structure—a beginning in which a conlict is established; a middle in which the implications of the conlict are played out; an end where the conlict is resolved—then a videogame adaptation of a ilm can be argued to have a diferent three-act structure.
Acts one and three obviously do the narrative work—through showing—and set up the story frame, but both are in fact peripheral to the core: the sec- ond-act gameplay, with its intensity of cognitive and physical engage- ment, moves the narrative along through visual spectacle and audio efects including music and through problem-solving challenges.
Story, in this case, is no longer central or at least no longer an end in itself, although it is still present as a means toward a goal King Although there has been a long debate recently about whether inter- activity and storytelling are at odds with one another see Ryan ; Ryan c:what is more relevant in a game adaptation is the fact that players can inhabit a known ictional, often striking, visual world of digital animation.
Similarly, Disney World visitors who go on the Alad- din ride can enter and physically navigate a universe originally pre- sented as a linear experience through ilm. Even screen and stage media have diiculty with this dimension, because when psychic reality is shown rather than told about, it has to be made manifest in the material realm to be perceived by the audience. Are some kinds of stories and their worlds more easily adaptable than others? Or did it? Linear realist novels, it would appear, are more easily adapted for the screen than experimental ones, or so we might assume from the evidence: the works of Charles Dickens, Ian Fleming, and Agatha Christie are more often adapted than those of Samuel Beckett, James Joyce, or Robert Coover.
Historically, it is melodramatic worlds and stories that have lent themselves to adaptation to the form of opera and musical dramas, where music can reinforce the stark emotional oppositions and tensions created by the requisite generic compression because it takes longer to sing than to speak a line. Today, spectacular special efects ilms like the various he Matrix or Star Wars movies are the ones likely to spawn popular videogames whose players can enjoy entering and manipulating the cinematic fantasy world.
But most end up admitting defeat: the word has stuck for a reason. Yet, however straightforward the idea of adaptation may appear on the surface, it is actually very diicult to deine, in part, as we have seen, because we use the same word for the process and the product.
Adaptation as Product: Announced, Extensive, Speciic Transcoding As openly acknowledged and extended reworkings of particular other texts, adaptations are often compared to translations. Just as there is no such thing as a literal translation, there can be no literal adapta- tion. Although this seems commonsensical enough, it is important to remember that, in most concepts of translation, the source text is granted an axiomatic primacy and authority, and the rhetoric of com- parison has most often been that of faithfulness and equivalence.
In many cases, because adaptations are to a diferent medium, they are re-mediations, that is, speciically translations in the form of intersemiotic transpositions from one sign system for example, words to another for example, images. Sometimes the text being paraphrased or translated is very immediate and available. In fact, a Life magazine article by P. But in artist Pierre Huyghe asked the real robber, John Wojtowicz, to reenact and narrate—in efect, to trans- late or paraphrase—the original event for his camera.
In the process, a second-level adaptation occurred: as the perpetrator relived his own past, what became clear was that he could not do so except through the lenses of the subsequent movie version. In efect, the ilm became, for him, as much the text to be adapted as was the lived event preserved in either his memory or the media coverage.
In other words, it is a paraphrase or translation of a particular other text, a particular interpretation of history. Of course, he also had to ind two major narrative climaxes to replace the three of the trilogy. Obviously, not all adaptations involve simply cutting.
Short stories, in particular, have often inspired movies; for example, John M. Short story adaptations have had to expand their source material considerably. Of course, there is a wide range of reasons why adapters might choose a particular story and then transcode it into a particular medium or genre. As noted earlier, their aim might well be to economically and artistically supplant the prior works.
If this sounds somewhat familiar, there is good reason, given the long history in the West of imitatio or mimesis—imitation—as what Aristotle saw as part of the instinctive behavior of humans and the source of their pleasure in art Wittkower Imitation of great works of art, in particular, was not intended only to capitalize on the prestige and authority of the ancients or even to ofer a pedagogi- cal model as the Rhetorica ad Herennium argued [I.
In both, the novelty is in what one does with the other text. Beginning to Theorize Adaptation 21 For the reader, spectator, or listener, adaptation as adaptation is unavoidably a kind of intertextuality if the receiver is acquainted with the adapted text.
It is an ongoing dialogical process, as Mikhail Bakhtin would have said, in which we compare the work we already know with the one we are experiencing Stam By stressing the relation of individual works to other works and to an entire cultural system, French semiotic and post-structuralist theorizing of intertextuality e.
Instead, texts are said to be mosaics of cita- tions that are visible and invisible, heard and silent; they are always already written and read. So, too, are adaptations, but with the added proviso that they are also acknowledged as adaptations of speciic texts. Often, the audience will recognize that a work is an adaptation of more than one speciic text. In all cases, the engagement with these other works in adaptations are extended ones, not passing allusions.
Part of both the pleasure and the frustration of experiencing an adap- tation is the familiarity bred through repetition and memory. His muscular male swans and their homoerotic, violent, and sexually charged choreography allows, among many other things, the traditional pas de deux between the prince and the swan to be a dance of equals—perhaps for the irst time.
Not everyone in the audience will enjoy this transgression of and critical commentary upon the sexual politics of the balletic tradition. But no matter what our response, our inter- textual expectations about medium and genre, as well as about this speciic work, are brought to the forefront of our attention.
As audience members, we need memory in order to experience diference as well as similarity. Modes of Engagement A doubled deinition of adaptation as a product as extensive, particular transcoding and as a process as creative reinterpretation and palimp- sestic intertextuality is one way to address the various dimensions of the broader phenomenon of adaptation.
An emphasis on process allows us to expand the traditional focus of adaptation studies on medium- speciicity and individual comparative case studies in order to consider as well relations among the major modes of engagement: that is, it per- mits us to think about how adaptations allow people to tell, show, or interact with stories.
We can be told or shown a story, each in a range of diferent media. However, the perspective, and thus the grammar, changes with the third mode of engagement; as audience members, we interact with stories in, for instance, the new media, from virtual real- ity to machinima.
In the telling mode—in narrative literature, for example—our engagement begins in the realm of imagination, which is simultane- ously controlled by the selected, directing words of the text and liber- ated—that is, unconstrained by the limits of the visual or aural. We can stop reading at any point; we can re-read or skip ahead; we hold the book in our hands and feel, as well as see, how much of the story remains to be read. But with the move to the mode of showing, as in ilm and stage adaptations, we are caught in an unrelenting, forward- driving story.
And we have moved from the imagination to the realm of direct perception—with its mix of both detail and broad focus. On the other hand, however, a shown dramatization cannot approximate the complicated verbal play of told poetry or the interlinking of description, narration, and expla- nation that is so easy for prose narrative to accomplish. Telling a story in words, either orally or on paper, is never the same as showing it visu- ally and aurally in any of the many performance media available.
Some theorists argue that, at a basic level, there is no signiicant diference between a verbal text and visual images, that, as W. See also Cohen b. In other words, no one mode is inher- ently good at doing one thing and not another; but each has at its dis- posal diferent means of expression—media and genres—and so can aim at and achieve certain things better than others.
Consider, for example, the interesting technical task the British nov- elist E. Forster set himself at one point in his novel Howards End: how to represent in told words the efect and the meaning of per- formed music—music that his readers would have to imagine, of course, and not hear. In a telling mode, a novel can do this: it can take us into the minds and feelings of characters at will. Panic and emptiness! Totally moved, not to mention upset, by the end of the piece, she inds she has to leave her family and be alone.
Because we can only see Helen on ilm and not get into her head, we can only guess at her thoughts. In fact, Helen, from what we can see, seems rather more bored than upset by the whole experience. We do get to hear the full orchestral version of the symphony on the soundtrack nondiegeticallybut only after she leaves the hall, pursued by the young man whose umbrella she has taken by mistake. Although Forster uses this scene to tell us about the imaginative and emotional world of Helen Schlegel, the ilm makes it the occasion to show us Helen meeting Leonard Bast in an appropriately culturally loaded context.
In terms of plot action, that is indeed what happens in this scene, and so this is what the ilm aims to achieve.
Of course, this ilm contains lots of performed talk about music, art, and many other things, and not only in this rather overt lecture form. Interacting with a story is diferent again from being shown or told it—and not only because of the more immediate kind of immersion it allows.
As in a play or ilm, in virtual reality or a videogame, language alone does not have to conjure up a world; that world is present before our eyes and ears.
But in the showing mode we do not physically enter that world and proceed to act within it. Stories, however, do not consist only of the material means of their transmission media or the rules that structure them genres. But media distinctions alone will not nec- essarily allow the kind of diferentiations that adaptations call to our attention. Considering medium alone would not be useful to getting at the success or failure of this adaptation: although this machinima is in a digital medium, it is not interactive.
If anything, the act of interpreting what is really a shown story here is even less actively engaging than reading the told version.
Beginning to Theorize Adaptation 27 his is not to say that we do not engage diferently with diferent media, but the lines of diferentiation are not as clear as we might expect. When we play a irst-person shooter videogame and become an active character in a narrative world and viscerally experience the action, our response is diferent again.
Medium alone cannot explain what hap- pens when an interactive videogame is adapted into a museum-dis- played digital work of art, for it becomes a way to show, rather than interact with, a story. In reversing the intended out- come by breaking all the rules of game action, the artist has ensured that the audience cannot and does not engage in the same manner as it would with the interactive game.
Framing Adaptation Keeping these three modes of engagement—telling, showing, and inter- acting with stories—in the forefront can allow for certain precisions and distinctions that a focus on medium alone cannot. It also allows for linkages across media that a concentration on medium-speciicity can eface, and thus moves us away from just the formal deinitions of adaptation to consider the process.
We engage in time and space, within a particular society and a general culture. In shifting cultures and therefore sometimes shifting languages, adapta- tions make alterations that reveal much about the larger contexts of reception and production.
Even a shift of time frame can reveal much about when a work is created and received. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, has been adapted many times for the stage and for the movie and television screens.
To get a sense of the whole range, see Geduld For economic reasons, adapters often rely on selecting works to adapt that are well known and that have proved popular over time; for legal reasons, they often choose works that are no longer copyrighted.
Technology, too, has probably always framed, not to mention driven, adaptation, in that new media have constantly opened the door for new possibilities for all three modes of engagement. Lately, new electronic technologies have made what we might call idelity to the imagina- tion—rather than a more obvious idelity to reality—possible in new ways, well beyond earlier animation techniques and special efects.
We can now enter and act within those worlds, through 3-D digital technology. One of the central beliefs of ilm adaptation theory is that audiences are more demanding of idelity when dealing with classics, such as the work of Dickens or Austen.
But a whole new set of cult popular classics, especially the work of J. Tolkien, Philip Pullman, and J. Rowling, are now being made visible and audible on stage, in the movie theater, on the video and computer screens, and in multiple gaming formats, and their readers are proving to be just as demanding.
Although our imaginative visualizations of literary worlds are always highly individual, the variance among readers is likely even greater in fantasy iction than in realist iction.
Now that I know what an enemy orc or a game of Quidditch can look like from the moviesI suspect I will never be able to recap- ture my irst imagined versions again. Palimpsests make for permanent change. As this suggests, a further framing of adaptation across all modes of engagement is economic. Broadway adapts from Hollywood; noveliza- tions are timed to coincide with the release of a ilm.
November saw the infamous simultaneous international release of the ilm and multiplatform videogame versions of the irst installment of the story of Harry Potter. General economic issues, such as the inancing and distribution of diferent media and art forms, must be considered in any general theorizing of adaptation. To appeal to a global market or even a very particular one, a television series or a stage musical may have to alter the cultural, regional, or historical speciics of the text being adapted.
Like others, I have found myself asking whether we could use any less compromised image to think about adaptation as both process and product. Stories also evolve by adaptation and are not immutable over time. Sometimes, like biological adaptation, cultural adaptation involves migration to favorable conditions: stories travel to diferent cultures and diferent media.
In short, stories adapt just as they are adapted. Some have great itness through survival persistence in a culture or reproduction number of adaptations.
Adaptation, like evolution, is a transgenerational phenomenon. And the ittest do more than survive; they lourish. Forms As it proved, among my best memories of the ilmmaking are the conversations drunken or otherwise I had with [director] Fred [Schepisi], in which we both acknowledged, I think, that, difer- ent as ilm directors and novelists are, our abiding obsession was the same: the mysteries of storytelling—of timing, pacing and the exactly judged release of information and emotion.
But as W. My emphasis on adaptation as process as well as product means that the social and communica- tion dimensions of media are important too, even when the particular emphasis, as in this chapter, is on form. When a change of medium does occur in an adaptation, it inevi- tably invokes that long history of debate about the formal speciicity of the arts—and thus of media. As we have also seen, however, adaptation recalls as well, and usually to its disadvantage, that idea of a hierarchy in the arts.
And this evaluative framework has had a signii- cant role in this debate about speciicity and diference throughout the centuries. Rather, it is when adaptations make the move across modes of engage- ment and thus across media, especially in the most common shift, that is, from the printed page to performance in stage and radio plays, dance, opera, musical, ilm, or television, that they ind themselves most enmeshed in the intricacies of the medium-speciicity debates; so too when works are adapted from either print or performance to interactive media, with their multiple sensory and semiotic channels Ryan c: But a dance work, a musical, a television show each has its own composite conventions and, some would say, even its own grammar and syntax that all operate to structure meaning for the perceiving audience.
Like all formal conventions, this grid both constrains and enables; it both limits and opens up new possibilities. On the contrary, a novel, in order to be dramatized, has to be dis- tilled, reduced in size, and thus, inevitably, complexity. Most reviewers saw this cutting as a negative, as subtraction, yet when plots are condensed and concentrated, they can sometimes become more powerful. Another way to think about this distillation is in terms of narrative redundancy giving way to narrative pertinence, as in some ilm noir adaptations Cattrysse Sometimes even the novelist agrees on the beneits of changes in his or her work.
A cut has been made; a motivation inserted, and an artistic clarity is the result. In ilm, no such disguise will be toler- ated by the viewer. When we watch a man do something on screen, our guts much more than our brains will tell us the truth of the ges- ture. It cannot be fudged.
Of course, ilm adaptations obvi- ously also add bodies, voices, sound, music, props, costumes, architec- ture, and so on. When Raymond Chandler adapted James M. Additions in performance adap- tations might range from this kind of stylistic and even ethical material to inserting new characters or increasing suspense.
Most of the talk about ilm adaptation, however, is in negative terms of loss. Sometimes what is meant is simply a reduction of scope: of length, of accretion of detail, of commentary Peary and Shatzkin 2—8. But at other times the change is perceived as less a question of quantity and more one of quality. Smith In other words, the customary theoretical general- izations about the speciicity of media need to be questioned by looking at actual practice.
But irst let us look at these formal elements from the point of view of each of the three modes of engagement open to adaptations. Film adaptations of almost any medium are themselves open to re- novelization today: K. When we work in the other direction—that is, from the telling to the showing mode, especially from print to performance—a deini- tional problem potentially arises.
In a very real sense, every live stag- ing of a printed play could theoretically be considered an adaptation in its performance. Miller 48 ; it is up to the director and actors to actualize the text and to interpret and then recreate it, thereby in a sense adapting it for the stage.
A visual and aural world is physi- cally shown on stage—be it in a play, a musical, an opera, or any other performance piece—created from verbal and notational signs on the page.
But most theories draw the line here and claim that only some dramatic productions merit the designation of adaptation. Although it is not only stage and ilm directors like Peter Brook though he is infamous for doing this who edit a printed play text heavily, rearrange plot events, reassign lines, or cut characters, radical reinterpretations- in-performance like his usually qualify as adaptations in the sense that they are extended critical and creative engagements with a particular text.
But when most of us consider the move from print to performance, it is usually the common and familiar phenomenon of the adaptation of novels that comes to mind.
In the move from telling to showing, a performance adapta- tion must dramatize: description, narration, and represented thoughts must be transcoded into speech, actions, sounds, and visual images. Conlicts and ideological diferences between characters must be made visible and audible see Lodge — In the process of dra- matization there is inevitably a certain amount of re-accentuation and refocusing of themes, characters, and plot.
Because of the required changes, the epistolary novel would seem to present the most obvious diiculties for dramatization. But when Roger Vadim had adapted and updated the novel inhe had used the more literary device of a voice-over narration for some of the letters.
When theorists talk of adaptation from print to performance media, the emphasis is usually on the visual, on the move from imagination to actual ocular perception.
But the aural is just as important as the visual to this move. Soundtracks in movies there- fore enhance and direct audience response to characters and action, as they do in videogames, in which music also merges with sound efects both to underscore and to create emotional reactions. In opera, music is arguably as important a narrating component as are the words; this function is in addition to its manifest afective and even mimetic power. Adapting a novel into a radio play brings the importance of the aural to the fore, for the aural is everything in this case.
Yet there were formal attempts to incorpo- rate the complexity of temporal and ontological states: the stage version used a large diagonally split movie screen at the back to present both historical scenes and magic realist ones.
Yet, that is not how this point is usually made. More often we are told that the camera limits what we can see, eliminating the action on the periphery that might have caught our attention when watching a play on stage. Not only is the kind of attention and focus diferent in a theatrical production but plays also have diferent conventions than ilms or television shows.
Neither performance medium, however, has an easy time trans- coding print texts. Telling is not the same as showing. Both stage and screen adaptations must use what Charles Sanders Peirce called indexical and iconic signs—that is, precise people, places, and things— whereas literature uses symbolic and conventional signs Giddings, Selby, and Wensley 6.
Graphic novels are perhaps adapted more easily to ilm for this reason. If those manuals written for screenwriters are to be believed, realist ilm requires cause-and-efect motivation, basically linear and resolved plot development, and coherent characterization.
When Luchino Visconti transfers this character to the screen in Morte a Venezia, he only allows viewers to see his contradic- tions progressively Carcaud-Macaire and Clerc He also makes him into a composer, whose musical creativity is arguably easier or at least more potentially interesting to represent aurally and visually than that of a cerebral and verbal writer.
Avant-garde ilm, of course, ofers other means to the adapter, and interestingly these devices have been exploited most in the transfer of poetic texts to the screen.
Poems simply set to music are also adaptations from the telling to the showing mode when they are then performed. But this adaptation is only an ampliication of the long Lieder tradition of poems set to music and sung to piano or orchestra accompaniment.
When operas and musicals adapt literary works, the move to the showing from the telling mode has the usual formal consequences, because condensation is crucially necessary for both plays and novels. Librettos are usually shorter than the texts of ordi- nary dramas [not to mention novels] …. Repetitions are frequently called for …. A French stage farce, La cage aux folles, became a ilm director: Edouard Molinaroand then had two movie sequels and before becoming a Broadway musical in and then being remade as an American story he Birdcage .
But both ilm and television are relatively realist media. What happens when a manifestly artiicial performance form like an opera or a musical is adapted to the screen?
All but two of the characters are played by nonsinging actors, and the prerecorded music is lip-synched—but never perfectly. Using Bre- chtian alienation efects, Syberberg refuses to coordinate sound and image. He also casts two actors as Parsifal—a woman Karin Krick and a man Michael Kutterbut retains only one voice the male one of Rainer Goldberg. More naturalistic than either the John van Druten play I Am a Camera  or the Har- old Prince-directed musical book by Joe Masterof and John Kander; music by Fred Ebb the ilm allows only one major plot char- acter to sing and that is Sally Bowles—because she is a singer by trade, like the MC—and even then, she only sings at the Kit Kat Klub, where her singing can be realistically explained.
Television shares with cinema many of the same naturalistic conven- tions and therefore the same transcoding issues when it comes to adap- tation. However, in a television series, there is more time available and therefore less compression of the adapted text is required. When Tony Kushner adapted his own plays from the s, Angels in America, for television inthe running time was approximately the same six hours for the series as for the plays, and the verbal text and dramatic scenes were not altered substantially.
In contrast, the novel had taken its time to describe places and characters and to give biographical information about relationships in order to set up the two very diferent worlds of the two protagonists; the television version did this very quickly and efectively.
Less intuitively obvious is the fact that television has also provided adaptations for the operatic stage, most controversially with Jerry Springer—he Opera music by Richard homas; libretto by Steward Lee.
In a inal ironic twist, a televised version of the opera adaptation was broadcast by the BBC inbut not without considerable outrage from the public who found its anti-Christian allegory inappropriate for an opera on television!
In the adaptation, 48 ilm characters are reduced to 16 singing parts, and the multiplotted, difuse, and chaotic because improvised screen story is focused more narrowly. Hybrid forms that provide sung music for existing ilms often silent are partial remediations that also function as adaptations. Miller People appear to sing in the open air, but the sound we actually hear is that of a concert hall or recording studio.
Of course, the miniaturization that occurs with video or DVD viewing of these ilms reverses the efects of this gigantism of the close-up on the big screen. All the media discussed above are performance media. Not all showing is the same. Computerized gaming, however, is the most frequent form taken by this particular adapting process. Female bosses with definite opinions can be categorised as overbearing and unfeminine. And this is where women are genuinely at a disadvantage.
Firstly, yes, I am a man. Feminists, allow me to introduce you to someone: persecution complex although I think you know her well. Has it never occurred to you that perhaps gender has nothing to do with it and that there are just horrible, stupid, patronising or whatever people in the world? People very often do bad things to other people.
It is not always because of their gender. In any case, fighting gender generalisations with more gender generalisations is a really winning strategy, way to go. The police officer sat with me as I filed a report and gently told me how it was my fault for walking through the room, by walking into the unlocked classroom I invited it, because he was In Charge, and so when he ran at me, screaming, that was his way of being in charge.
The officer took my statement very poorly, the statement did not resemble my remarks at all, and the officer would not fix it when I repeatedly protested. The man assaulted another woman that same month, then people started to speak up and it ended up the guy had a long history assaulting female students, but each time it was like for me, probably other twisted statements and police officers who helped keep him in power.
So he got a temporary firing, and came back later. The ombudsperson at the university said it was my job to learn his schedule and avoid him.
This is daily for women, and the mansplaining is part of the constant self-reinforcement that illegitimate power has to engage in or it crumbles. This is definitely a man thing. In the course of the meeting, one of the men asked a question, and instead of letting me answer and do my JOB, three different men, each with more convincing authority than the previous, gave three completely ridiculous answers.
When I gave the correct answer, the level of annoyance was palpable. It was a real lightbulb moment. It seems traditional gender habits are difficult to break on both sides. It might be an existing problem. But everybody in this conversation sould be aware that there is always a sender a receiver.
This is very strong focused to a male sender. At least, such has been my experience among my testicled brethren. A very very long article. I loved finding this article when it was first published in A lot of men on here claim that Mansplaining happens to them as well. Are we to discount their experiences? Is it at all possible that insufferable boors grate on both sexes equally, but that because of the climate of sexism, women experience this as misogyny?
Remember, everyone experiences an explainer, but few ever experience the motive for why they explain. I too have seen the ashen look on the face of an explainer when their conceit is exposed. From my perspective, it appear to come from a crack in their facade of confidence. I found it very hard not to see sexism and martyrdom in this article.
Then, only 3 days after reading this essay and most of the comments following it I watched Mansplaining in action on Real Time with Bill Maher. Episoderound table the first half. Three men including Bill and one woman are in discussion.
The more I think about my own life and working with men and women the more I see this as a reality. I would never say that this is exclusive to men; women do this to other women just as much when they are in the position do so. We are all the problem, from the Explainers male or female to the docile victims who laugh politely or bite their tongue. PS I really enjoied the well thought out comments, left by either sex. The comments are twice as informative as the essay for me.
This article is a complete disgrace toward real feminists who are trying hard to create and authentic discourse. This article is really about being transparently absurd so as to create an angry and polarized response.
Solnit should be ashamed of herself and so should anyone who is gullible enough to print this. He asked a very straightforward question. We are left to wander how bad of a faux-pas he actually made if she subtracted all the hyperbole. Here, let me just say that my life is well sprinkled with lovely men, with a long succession of editors who have, since I was young, listened and encouraged and published me, with my infinitely generous younger brother, with splendid friends of whom it could be said—like the Clerk in The Canterbury Tales I still remember from Mr.
And then, as if in a 19th-century novel, he went ashen. Some men disagree with you and its sexism by default? Not much credible information to go by here. So why is Solnit trying so hard to not be credible? High post-modern irony? It is reprehensible. Why is she writing this article if she sees how horrible it is when women are not trusted?
Bonus points if he is explaining how you are wrong about something being sexist! People like Solnit are tools, political hacks, who will stop at nothing to disrupt honest debate. Thank you for writing this back in and for sharing it with us now! Oh how it resonates! The comments section provides quite an illustration, as well. I try not to behave this way, but honestly, I suspect I sometimes do. You WIN! If so, thank you very much. Take an honest look at who says what to you, how and when. My brother, a lawyer, proposed some kind of deal with the family trust of which he is trustee asking for the approval of my siblings and myself.
I sent him a series of questions I wanted answered before I made my decision. Interesting that all the comments taking exception with this article are coming from MEN. Why are you defending yourselves? This woman says this happened to her. That means it happened to her.
How is this different? We have become Confrontational Reality Of Perversion society wholly obsessed with ideology and hence, martyrdom. This may come across as mansplaining to you, but that would say more about you than the explanation. T Clark — All of your comments in this thread have been dismissive, rude and quite frankly, irrelevant. Please stop before you hurt yourself.
Brilliant, entertaining and insightful article, thank you …… And judging by the pompous long winded and somewhat embittered responses from many of the male critics it clearly irritates the very same male egos that you so skillfully eviscerate, once again ….
Thank you. How can you dissect and fix the issue without open discussion? The same goes for the opposite. Men must allow women to integrate into their formerly closed circles without resistance, but who wants to do that when our views are tossed aside?
I stumbled upon this article after a google search because I wanted to know if this sort of thing happens to anyone else.
Thank you for sharing this piece. It made me feel a little less alone in a world where I feel that everyone Confrontational Reality Of Perversion always explaining things to me. Most recently, my husband was lecturing my on how difficult it is to play songs by Franz Liszt on the piano because someone with hands my size would not be able to reach all the keys. Sort of incredulously Since I took classical piano lessons for twelve years from a very gifted pianist, the answer is of course, my teacher assigned quite a bit of Liszt for me to play.
Also, one facet that may not always get attention is one of cultural differences. I am a half American and half South Indian woman. There are a number of times where a Caucasian man has lectured me at length about the features of my own culture. I am beginning to think that at its core, this is less of a gender issue and more of a power and privilege issue. But I do believe that it likely masquerades as a gender issue because positions of power and authority have traditionally been held by men.
Really glad to have come across this piece. She does not end this relationship in spite of how bitterly she feels its impact on her.
This is the point where I ask what else the situation is giving her or enabling for her — or, a more nuanced way of asking, why is she remaining there? The man needs to alter his behaviour AND the woman needs to alter hers. These are not behaviours that are ever exclusive to women but they are structurally reproduced in us and by us. Or that men can not have opinions on feminism or history, or that all men are always guilty of patronizing women. Rather she seems to be giving an account based on her experiences, and those of women she knows, that a pattern exists and is culturally promoted in which men are often uncomfortable with listening to and learning from women, and as such attempt to discredit or silence them.
As men I think we suffer in this situation as well, because we miss out on valuable perspectives, experiences, and knowledge that can enrich our lives. I believe men in general are trained to boast and carve their intellectual territory as a means of proving themselves and their worth, which is unfortunate.
Because it has a tendency towards dogmatism, fundamentalism, and closed-mindedness. We might just learn a thing or two. I just reread this. I feel like we are literary and imaging daughters of Dale Spender and Judy Chicago. At least I am. The responses, IMHO, are such a waste of anything productive for me. I think there is so much lack of comprehension of where we are as people. Find what does. Same with women driving race cars, girls climbing trees and playing with hot wheels, boys playing with dolls and men cooking the family meals.
This fact of social norm by group that exists does not mean that everyone and everywhere that only ONE thing happened. We are not at a stage in conversation between the sexes where this confusion about what is going on is articulated. If one is on a ladder — as people are in hierarchies of relationships — for one person the rung of the ladder is up if one is below it, and the same rung is down for the person above it.
It makes their position different in the world. The key is to get out of the domination of assuming that the reality of our world is the same for all of us when it is not as if one size fits all and at the same time to find the places where what IS the same for all of us on this planet is what is right for all of us. I mean, both can exist. Did you ever have a rope or string that was all knotted up and pulled on the string that made the knots tighter and caused the knots to bunch up?
Well, when you stop pulling and you loosen up the string at different places, you begin to unravel the knot. When things are all knotted up, they are neat and in order and aligned and symmetrical. They are chaotic and twisted and back and forth. Thank you Rebecca for putting into words an experience that I was having as a woman writer and artist whose got a brain and a need to express my inners moreso than many others.
I heard it said once that what women Confrontational Reality Of Perversion for a lifetime, men experience for a few moments…. Men may experience the same thing from OTHER MEN — which is why the Declaration of Independence for Freedom was written, but they did not and do not experience a social world where they are confined to a home or social space because of a body part they have at the hands of women presidents, women organized militarily and women in control of the government.
And they may not experience a world where it takes so damn long to explain the most simplest of their experiences and then get accused of taking up too much space in a world where we are all reduced to a whole new kind of literary dehumanizing which is mentally perceiving a whole person from reading about two paragraphs, or even five. Just a few accusations before I leave.
The ultimate of trashing people, IMO. When someone writes to share their subjective experience of something, I can either find it illuminating and thought-provoking, or not.
Being an aging latino male, I find all this talk so confusing! Just stop dating short men! Now I will go find a wall to sit and lean against and drink tequila until I pass out and my sombrero touches my knees….
I will try to listen to myself more carefully to reduce the number of times I find myself engaged in this behavior. Your experiences and your wisdom to put them in a perspective and context are helpful to me. Great article. Thanks to Rachel Maddow for indirectly exposing me to it, and Ms.
Solnit for writing it. Made me reflective of my own attitude towards my interactions with women, and men as well. And thanks to the many, many fellow men who read and commented on this article and helped mansplain it to the rest of us. Thank you for writing this. Beside the grotesque examples, this exists in the dept of our Western society in a all accepted, more hidden but therefore nasty way. But there is a very elegant and beautifull cure, that helps and almost always works: humor.
Thanks for the re-print. I came across the original article a couple of years ago and it opened my eyes. A few comments suggest that Solnit believes men should not be allowed to question women, and that men are doubted just as much as women. But this is not the point being made. Men are doubted in stereo-typically feminine arenas such as child care.
Women receive less backlash for preforming roles outside of their gender norms. However, there are inherent negative stereotypes against women in stereo-typically masculine roles, which creates volatile stereotype-threat. Women are doubted firstly on sex alone, in addition to other available stereotypes, until they are able often at the permission of men in power to prove their worth.
While women suffer harsher restrictions in their prescribed roles, men suffer greater backlash for violating masculine gender-roles. Such a case would be detrimental to both sexes, and is a symptom of gender-roles in society. The really troubling thing to me is, in spite of a solid belief in gender equality and at times being a good listener, I suspect that I may be completely unaware of the times when I become a Man Who Explains Things.
Hard to believe that gender does not enter into that equation. I think I will ask my wife to read this article too. It may prove to be illuminating and I hope not too painful. This was an interesting read, but I think she beats her drum a little too loudly here, thereby unwittingly giving credence to the very thing she is protesting. Look what happened to the sleezebag mayor of San Diego. That is a good thing. This woman keeps referring to her many authored books, as though those define her worth to be heard.
Simply by virtue of her having a voice, any voice, she has a right to be heard, gender notwithstanding. The following link by Bozo Biden also infers that women are somehow weak and in need of separate legislation.
The Constitution affords ALL of us equal protection. Some men are certainly jerks, but so are some women. The real blessing is ridding our lives of all who are anything but lovely. We need to stop all this divisiveness and become unified. We are all humans. We are all Americans. We all love, feel pain, laugh, cry, eat, sleep, drink, mourn, and on and on. We should emphasize our vectors where we intersect and build on that. I liked this essay very much.
Therefore I want the following to be taken in its proper context. Notwithstanding the offensive tone of the man with whom Ms.
I suspect that Mr. Very Important IIlike many people vaguely familiar with American politics, assumed that this is the period of activity to which Ms. Solnit referred, and I think that his assumption was not idiosyncratic. But its downfall — in any interesting sense — occurred before What Ms. Solnit it cannot know, because she is not a man, is that even in a group of only men, the same men who mansplain to women tend to mansplain to other men.
We quietly sigh to ourselves about it, maybe crack jokes behind the back of the worst offenders. It is mostly a non-sexist personality flaw that is rampant in men.
It happens because men are socialized to desire to seen as authoritative, wise. The solution here is to teach women confidence in the same way men are taught it, but also to teach men humility in the same way women are taught it.
This is the reason Gen-X women date younger men. This article reminds me of a recent conversation with my dad, who is definitely guilty of mansplaining. I know the difference! I have a masters degree in climate change! My only question is why did you write this piece? It comes across to me as if you are angry about something that while it matters — matters little. You should just be proud of your accomplishments as a writer and realize the following: There will always be someone more knowledgeable and many less so.
So why dwell on it? Congratulations on all your books! I have yet to write one! This was a great article. Everything you report I have witnessed and has made me ashamed of my gender. After a life in broadcasting and journalism I know that women have a far greater ability to understand, analyse and explain. It is that uniquely feminine sensitivity that takes their thoughts and words far beyond the simplistic male.
Now I must immediately buy and read your work, which, for my sins, I have never come across before… and yes, I am British. Thank you to him. I only want to ADD to his comment that my brain screams that what women have comes from what they are assigned to be and do.
It is WORK — that is concerted effort and time that women put into things so they can have the results. Work itself is framed in what men do. The results are seen globally.
The results being that mothering itself is being driven by doctors with medications and statistics that does not translate into mothering. Like the loss of farming, the loss of the work of mothering is being turned over to big business and unless women can start getting respect for what they do know and that knowledge being valued as much as Bill Gates or Stephen Hawkings contributions to the world, there is and will be needless human suffering because of the lack of that knowledge.
I hope this makes sense. It is very destructive to have men dominate the world and conversations as if their work and knowledge is the superior and only valueable. More can be see at karendee Thank you Karen…we are all people and carry equal responsibility for our work and lives. Every gender brings unique qualities to solve every problem. We all deserve equal respect. Thanks for such an insightful article! It is so easy to criticize men as a group, and everyone knows they can get away with it.
This article takes advantage of the fact that society tacitly approves of anti male sentiment, while harshly punishing any kind of criticism against women. For anyone who thinks this article is fair and reasonable, I ask you this: would you be just as comfortable with an article on how women can be such nags? Thank you, Ms. Solnit, and please continue to also fight the battle on behalf of women older than you. Since my hair has turned gray, I find myself increasingly interrupted and marginalized, to the point of invisibility.
My experience is considered irrelevant and dated. Second that, Katy. Besides, they were mansplained so much while young, it all make them glad to associate with others of like gender and age and leave the younger women to deal with mansplaining.
Now we are living longer and I look forward to Ms. Reading articles like this I am struck by how much of the behaviour described could easily be an Alpha male talking down to a Beta male.
It seems like there is a hierarchy of alpha, then beta, and women get to slot into their default position underneath both. It would then logically seem that equality would mean that women have as much of an opportunity to become an alpha or beta themselves. Would we really want to perpetuate this system, though? So you have condescension at Alpha, resentment and bitterness at beta, and women get to be held on a pedestal that has no actual power or respect.
They are the trophy and the currency, but have no agency in this system. I feel like they are all parts of the same problem. Like there is this system and we are all stuck in it and encouraged to play our roles.
Like the whole house needs to be demolished. If we all keep pecking we are just changing our position in that system, not stepping out of it. Not breaking it. Am I mansplaining here? I would be interested in feminist perspective of my man-theories. Women commenting here would not have to ask that.
A man lacks the experience so he has nothing to contribute. Just worked a lifetime to articulate this mess in hopes of creating a harmonious world and good relationships. Question to provoke thought: Does this phenomena, arrogant men who explain things, tie in to the innocently ignorant conversationalist who asks for things to be explained while a discussion above their pay-grade is going on?
The other day I met with a man about 65 years old. He kept reminding me how young I was. But then I mentioned my parents, and mentioned my father would disagree with what he just said. Now I should mention this meeting was a professional meeting, this man knows nothing about my family or my father. I should also mention my father is 70…. For men to comment on this subject is a daunting no-win situation.
Nevertheless — I think it is important to call out several issue from a male point of view. The Wildlife profession was one of the worst offenders in terms of lack of female representation. However the last 15 years shows an interesting and positive development: the growing majority of wildlife graduate students and new professionals are female….
I find articles like this extremely discomforting. One of the biggest pitfalls of humanity is to make nonsensical correlations between two things with no cause and effect relationship.
Like equating a mass shooting episode with a generalized misogynistic male culture, as opposed to a specific case of mental illness recent news. Or connecting the struggles of college educated female Americans with the life or death plight of a woman in a specific third world nation with zero cultural linkage to our homeland.
The bottom line is that there is a growing number of normal men and women leading normal lives that find harmony with the opposite sex in the workplace and at home, but find the surrounding culture of gender awareness to be an increasing pain in the ass:. One of the surprising outcomes of equality in the workplace is the opportunity for men and women to share in the frustration having bosses, feeling under-appreciated, spending too much time away from your children, and feeling stressed out all the time.
One of the worst parts of equality is that it produces a partnership with two work-stressed people who still have to be a family. I reserve the right to explain myself:. As so the war rages on. Because usually women with crazy exes are dead. Who is explaining it to you? A man? So… men think they know better than women, AND other men. I had to explain the term mansplaining to my husband. Wait, do I do that? On a different note, Andye brings up a useful point.
I think perhaps we can make long-term change by simply pecking away at the problem, and we may have to settle for long-term pecking, actually, because to address mansplaining and the whole alpha-beta construct simultaneously would make our goals all too clear to the invested alphas, who have nothing to gain. That might bring more violent backlash than is safe for those of us at the wrong end of a gun during an armed tantrum.
I want to be alive when it happens. The idea seems to be that men are trying to prove their superiority to everyone. This article is the epitome of gender arrogance and hypocrisy. Congratulations Rebecca Solnit. Sexism at its finest. I live with four women — a wife and three daughters. During my grad school tenure, my mother-in-law twice informed me that my dissertation topic involving evolutionary biology was ridiculous.
I guess my point is: People are rectal orifices, in general. A good percentage of people are dismissive, overconfident pains-in-the-ass.
Aspen-guy seems like a self-important tool who was shocked that a woman would have authored an important book. He sounds a lot like my female gender psychology professor, a woman who made it abundantly clear on a daily basis that no male had anything of worth to say about gender issues, least of all an undergraduate.
As a matter of fact, in my research consulting practice, I am routinely challenged by clients about the necessity of value of certain procedures. Some ask questions about the reasoning or expected results. However, it has been almost uniformly the female clients in leadership positions who make unequivocal yet utterly ignorant declarations dismissing the value of what are in fact routine industry practices.
The project gets derailed and time is lost in explaining fundamental practices and reversing their positions and eventually starting over. And, in response to a post above, I am interrupted in meetings by women far more often than by men. I went with the definition that means persuasive but with little or no meaning.
Then I said, oh, yes, it can also be a general term for that, as in, for instance, the traditional educational trivium, where you study grammar, logic, and rhetoric.
People, especially people like the author of this condescending and highly generalizing article, would get upset and sound the feminist clarion. Do women want equality? Or do they want special privileges whereby they can say whatever they want, while all men have to walk on eggshells to avoid saying anything slightly politically incorrect?
I think they want special privileges. Has the author of this article never met any arrogant women? I certainly have. Loads of them. There are lots of rude, arrogant, and condescending people—male and female. The author of this article is obviously one of those people.
In all of the examples you provided, you have had leaps of logic. I find this article to be hurtful to any feminist agenda as it promotes Misandry. If you actually stand for equal rights, then attack the behavior. If Women Ruled the World: we would all be geared towards communication and connection rather than competition and dominance. There is like a lapse in understanding who can have an opinion. Many of these comments actually are a continuation of the very subject of the article.
Especially if I am a man, I can claim reality about women. And men can somehow keep responding to women who describe being a woman as if they are women. We all grow up surrounded by what all the fathers did to create our world and women fall off the radar screen.
Men who are not women or do not have the experience have no basis to comment. And comparing men and women as if there is no sex segregation is actually delusional. Thank you, this was a great essay and has made me want to check out your books. No way being a contrarian, know-it-all asshole is simply male behavior aimed at females, but it really seems we get it in mind-boggling ways. Once an ex-boyfriend mentioned the deal he got on a newly-bought fishing reel.
There is also no way they would actually explain these things to other men. I would explain what I mean by that, but… I feel rather silenced at the moment. So the men in this comment section who are detailing why the author is wrong are basically proving her point.
Do men mansplain to other men, or just women? Do they do it more frequently or in a different fashion when speaking to a woman? I had not. Debate is silenced, people are muted or blocked or banned. The alpha male continues on regardless, as she would do were he not there. I look forward to hearing her article about the first time she is accused online of mansplaining. Congratulations, now you know exactly what women have been experiencing for thousands of years.
First, I want to say that I generally applaud your empowering message to women. It is important that all human beings, regardless of gender, have the right to speak up. I do feel, however, that over-feminizing the topic strongly detracts from your message. Even in some of your most potent anecdotes, you seem to be making many assumptions. So the old man was imposing, and he had made a lot of money.
Clearly, he was arrogant and patronizing. But about what? Sure he cut you off when you mentioned your latest New York Times Bestseller. Perhaps he was merely bragging about being well-read or well-informed of the latest novels.
Indeed, if the old man was truly familiar with the New York Times review of your book, he would have known that the book was written by a female author.
Where is your evidence that he was so blinded by his feelings of masculine superiority that he completely overlooked that fact and assumed that Rebecca was a male name?
Up to this point, the unwarranted assumptions fall short of being harmful. The Aspen idiot was arrogant, ignorant, and deserved to be put in his place. But at some point, the feminist assumptions potentially Confrontational Reality Of Perversion the line and become dangerous. Your Iraq anecdote is a perfect example of this. I have no doubt Coleen Rowley made invaluable contributions in making those early warnings about al-Qaeda, but your critique implies that the Bush administration went to war out of smugness.
But what smugness? How, then, is it possible that the supposed masculine smugness of the Bush administration could not be countered by male experts?
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