Loosely adapted from… Stories, codes, travels, mediations between literature and cinema

Donata Meneghelli


Starting from a survey of the most recent studies on the topic, the essay proposes a critical reflection on adaptation and the (possible) borders of this cultural practice. It particularly focuses on the issues raised by cinematic adaptation of literary texts, a phenomenon which needs to be contextualized in the larger field of relationships between literature and cinema. Such issues, however, do not emerge in the same way for any text: they are especially urgent when we tackle the cinematic adaptation of canonical texts, that is, of the ‘great’ works of western tradition. It is mainly in this context that the question of fidelity crops up. Such a question is not a neutral one: it always hides an implicit hierarchy, a defensive attitude toward literature and its supposed axiological superiority. Literature, in short, would be a ‘higher’ cultural form, characterized by dignity, a creative and original dimension which cinema, as popular and mass art, would lack.

Against this implicit axiology, which was already denounced by French critic André Bazin in the late 1940s, the essay focuses on the complexity of narrative’s ‘travels’ from literature to cinema. Taking as a case study the 1962 cinematic adaptation of Svevo’s novel Senilità by director Mauro Bolognini, the essay ends by exploring some of the implications and lines of inquiry raised by Linda Hutcheon’s suggestive notion of «instability of narrative identity».


Adaptation; Cinema; Literature; Transmediality; Codes; Value; Travels

Full Text:

PDF (Italiano)



Andrew, Dudley, “Adaptation”, Film Adaptation, Ed. James Naremore, New Brunswick (NJ), Rutgers University Press, 2000, pp. 28-37.

Baetens, Jan, La Novellisation. Du film au roman, Bruxelles, Les Impressions Nouvelles, 2008.

Baldelli, Valentina, Il romanzo allo specchio. Senilità da Italo Svevo a Mau-ro Bolognini, Centro Mauro Bolognini, Pistoia, 2011.

Bazin, André, “L’adaptation ou le cinéma comme Digeste”, Ésprit, 7, Juillet 1948, pp. 32-40.

Bazin, André, Qu’est-ce que le cinéma?, Paris, Éditions du Cerf, 1962, trad. it. Che cos’è il cinema?, Milano, Garzanti, 1999.

Bocchi, Pier Maria - Pezzotta, Alberto, Mauro Bolognini, Milano, Il Ca-storo Cinema, 2008.

Chatman, Seymur, “What Novels Can Do That Film Can’t (and Vice Versa)”, On Narrative, Ed. W.J.T. Mitchell, Chicago and London, The University of Chicago Press, 1980, pp. 117-136.

Chatman, Seymur, Coming to Terms: The Rhetoric of Narrative in Fiction and Film, Ithaca (NY), Cornell University Press, 1990.

Ejzenstein, Sergej Michailovič, “Dickens, Griffith e noi” (1944), Id., La forma cinematografica, Torino, Einaudi, 2003, pp. 204-266.

Elliot, Kamilla, “Literary Film Adaptation and the Form/Content Dilemma”, Narrative across Media, Ed. Marie-Laure Ryan, Lincoln and London, University of Nebraska Press, 2004, pp. 220-243.

Fischlin, Daniel - Fortier, Mark, “General Introduction”, Adaptations of Shakespeare: A Critical Introduction, Eds. Daniel Fischlin - Mark Fortier, New York and London, Routledge, 2000, pp. 1-22.

Greenberg, Clement, “Avant-garde and Kitsch” (1939), Id., Pollock and after, New York, Harper and Row, 1985.

Groppali, Enrico, Georg W. Pabst, “Il Castoro Cinema”, Firenze, La Nuova Italia, 1983.

Hutcheon, Linda, A Theory of Adaptation, New York and London, Routledge, 2006, trad. it. Teoria degli adattamenti. I percorsi delle storie fra letteratura, cinema, nuovi media, Roma, Armando Editore, 2001.

Kranz, David L. – Millerski, Nancy C. (Eds.), In/Fidelity. Essays on Film Adaptation, Newcastle (UK), Cambridge Scholar Publishing, 2008.

Leitch, Thomas M., “Twelve Fallacies in Contemporary Adaptation Theory”, Criticism, 2, Spring 2003, pp. 149-171.

Naremore, James (ed.), Film Adaptation, New Brunswick (NJ), Rutgers University Press, 2000.

Ozick, Cynthia, “What Only Words, not Film, Can Portray”, New York Times, 05.01.1997, section 2, p. 1.

Pierotti, Federico, “Dalle invenzioni ai film. Il cinema italiano alla pro-va del colore (1930-59)”, Svolte tecnologiche nel cinema italiano. Sonoro e colore, Ed. Sandro Bernardi, Roma, Carocci, 2006, pp. 85-139.

Ryan, Marie-Laure, “Toward a Definition of Narrative”, The Cambridge Companion to Narrative, Ed. David Herman, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2007, pp. 22-35.

Truffaut, François, Le cinéma selon Hitchcock: édition définitive, Paris, Ramsay, 1983, trad. it. Il cinema secondo Hitchcock, Edizione definiti-va, Parma, Pratiche, 1985.

Truffaut, François, “Una certa tendenza del cinema francese” (1954), Id., Il piacere degli occhi, Venezia, Marsilio, 1988, pp. 179-194.

Vanon, Michela (Ed.), Camera Work. La rivista di fotografia di Alfred Stie-glitz, Torino, Einaudi, 1981.

Welsh, James M. - Lev, Peter (Eds.), The Literature/Film Reader: Issues of Adaptation, , Lanham (MD), The Scarecrow Press 2007.


Lulù (Die Büchse der Pandora), Dir. Georg Wilhelm Pabst, Germania, 1929.

Senilità, Dir. Mauro Bolognini, Italia, 1962.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13125/2039-6597/691

NBN: http://nbn.depositolegale.it/urn%3Anbn%3Ait%3Aunica-17350

Article Metrics

Metrics Loading ...

Metrics powered by PLOS ALM


Between is published by the University of Cagliari - Maintenance for this OJS installation is provided by UniCA Open Journals, hosted by Sistema Bibliotecario di Ateneo.

Between Journal was founded in 2011 with the financial contribution of Fondazione Banco di Sardegna (years 2010-2011).

ISSN 2039-6597 

CC-By lockssDOAJ seal SPARC Europe