Tony Gurr

Posts Tagged ‘Association of Adaptation Studies’

Adaptation – the “art” & “science” of LEARNing

In Conferences, Our Universities, Research on 02/10/2011 at 2:06 pm

I’ve just returned from a trip to İstanbullove the place, hate the place, love the place, hate the place…OK…let’s stay with the “love”)!

The trip was mostly to attend a conference on “Adaptation” hosted by Yeni Yüzyıl Üniversitesi for those lovely people at the Association of Adaptation Studies.

Location, location, location… the Anadolu Kulübü on Büyükada (…love İstanbul…love the Princess Islands…love the fact that they do not allow cars on the island)! Brilliant…just brilliant.

The full title of the conference was – THE INTELLECTUAL SILK ROAD: CROSS-MEDIA and CROSS-CULTURAL ADAPTATIONS – but even before I arrived, I was feeling like a “gate-crasher” at a wedding!

But, hang on – “the AAS” (yes, almost an unfortunate acronym there, if you do not spell it out) is an “Akademe community” and we all know that these communities thrive on discussion of all the THREE pillars of the university “purpose”:

They’d asked me along (with Şahika and Şebnem, from Ankara University) to run a LEARNing and TEACHing “show” – and balance the scorecard on the EDUcation front.

I’d taken a look at the conference planner – and nearly died when I saw some of the titles. How could LEARNing and TEACHing “compete” with:

  • The Oriental as Absence in Minghella’s The English Patient
  • Traveling East: Orientalism and the Costume Drama
  • Adaptive Performances: ReViewing Cross-Cultural Adaptation Through Performance Studies

or even,

  • Constructing the British Hero by Exclusion: Adaptation and the Colonization of Sherlock Holmes

In truth, Sherlock beat us hands down (in terms of attendees)!

I thought it might have been all my fault – afterall, I did begin my paper by noting my very clear “bias” towards allthingslearning in the “university”:

  • Student LEARNing is the inescapable bottom line for a university…
  • …and the LEARNing produced is the most important result a university can achieve.

I also touched on a couple of “truths” that many in the Akademe do not enjoy “hearing”:

And then, the question no academic wants to hear (I was “quoting”, guys):

Come on – “fair dos”; I mean no self-respecting university-based research team would “hire” someone who had not been “trained” in the art and science of allthingsresearch (and have a string of citations) – so why should we think it’s OK to put “teachers” into lecture theatres and classrooms without some “training” or evidence of Educational Literacy and TEACHing skills?

I think they “got” that – and nobody threw anything at me!

I was also surprised that so few flinched when I “translated” the three pillars into what we all know happens in most universities:

I must admit – I did get a bit of a “response” when I noted Pope’s critique of the Ivies and their clones:

But was saved by a giggle or two when we brought Pope’s view “home” with a very real example:

I still maintain that Harvard should lose its “teaching license” for that one alone! Besides, “academic feedom” being what it is – even ex-Rectors and ex-Deans from Harvard can make a pretty penny from books exposing far more than I ever could

Obviously, the “model” of adaptation that I was discussing is very different to the the understandings and conceptualısations that “adaptation insiders” have – what I was saying was that “adaption is an essential part of the human condition“:

I think (and LEARN), therefore I adapt!


And, for educators that want to make a real difference to lives of others:




The funny thing was that participants would have only heard these things if they had come along to the session – this left me wondering why so many of the conference participants would not want to come to a session on LEARNing and TEACHing

Especially, as some told me later – 50 to 70% of their workload is frequently given over to TEACHing…OK – most of them were younger TAs (and their “average” was 85% of their time – allowing their “senior profs” to “publish, publish, publish”)…

What the conference LEARNed me was that perhaps we need more papers on allthingslearning – at more conferences! And, perhaps…we need more people to get excited about LEARNing and TEACHingand how we can all do it better!

Thank you Günseli and Laurence – for being so brave!


The highlight of the session for me, however, was seeing Şahika and Şebnem “translate” all this into “practice”. Their session was an honest, open and frank exposé of their “adaptation journey” to the role of “teacher trainers” over the past 2 years.

They described their motivations for wanting to embark on such an adaptive journey – they noted their fears, insecurities and frustrations over the whole process – and, they outlined how they had grown as professional LEARNing educators (and how they still continue to “adapt” today).

They communicated these ideas with passion and authencity – presenting themselves as “real people“, asking participants to get involved (and reflect on their own experiences) and using powerful and effective visuals to tell their stories.

Ohhh, if only all conference presenters had the same level of “visual literacy”… and common sense!

They won’t mind me telling you this – but this was their first major presentation at an International Conference. They not only kicked “Sherlock’s ass” in terms of engagementbut also in terms of relevance to the lives of all educators and “what matters” in education!


Post-script…for all you lovely ineks!

What exactly is “Adaptation Studies”?

I asked myself this question when I was first approached to do a session at the Silk Road conference. Being a simple man…I always looked at “adaptation” in terms of  “human transformation”! Being a bit of a “part-time film-buff” (and an “older” comic book “geek”)…I knew of many of the woes of filmmakers trying to do justice to so-and-so’s book (and the way directors are so often “slated” by critics and academics – for just doing what they do)…Being an avid learner…had to find out more!

Besides, I guessed I would have to “chew the adaptation fat” over a glass of red (or several)…on Büyükada!

My first port of call was Linda Hutcheon’s “A Theory of Adaptation” – I really did not think I would have the stamina to get through Robert Stam’s “three volumes” (though I’m sure he’s a great bloke). What Linda learned me was that I had to “get” that I could not truly understand “adaptation” by thunking about novels and movies aloneSmart woman that Linda…she learned me that I could also look at pop songs, fairy tales and even roller-coasters (OK – that one took me a few re-reads).

So, adaptation is not only about book (or movie) LEARNing – it touches on “real life”…told you she was a smart cookie!

The problem was – I left the book without finding the “theory” that the title promised me! Little did I know that I was not alone…

Someone else told me that Julie Sanders’ (2006) book – Adaptation and Appropriation – was the “bible”. So, I took a gander. What that individual did not tell me…was that I would have to learn a “whole new lexicon”…

OMG…recontextualization, tradaptation, reduction, simplification, condensation, abridgement, special versioning, reworking, remediation,  and re-visioning. We then move onto inter-semiotic, intra-lingual and inter-lingual adaptations – not to mention interpretants (including both the “formal” and “thematic” varieties)! Oh, yes and all that talk about “orientalism”, “aesthetic politics” and “cultural imperialism”. On “wiki” this shit is not…

OK – not all of this fell from Julie’s book (more the sources she directed me to). She is another very smart woman…

I had kinda worked out (a fair few years back) that “nowt is original” – everything is adapted and appropriated (or “robbed” as we used to say when I was a kid growing up in North Manchester). What I did not know was how confused researchers in Adaptation Studies seem to be – all those bloody “theoretical movements” just getting in the way, all that baggage from Translation Studies, all that…

This was brought home to me at the conference itself – I just did not “get” (or perhaps “care” enough) why everyone was running around screaming “We need a THEORY of adaptation”…. – all I could say was “just bloody do it, then”…

As I said, I am a simple man…and I can be a bit “thick” from time to time! It just seemed to me that all this talk of the “silver bullet” was…a bit of a storm-in-a-teacup.

But, then – who am I to judge?

Although many academics and commentators have been considering the issues related to allthingsadapatation for over 50 years, it seems that “Adaptation Studies” is “new” – all bright and shiny!

Who would’ve thunk it?

The problem seems to be (IMHO) that it is a bright and shiny “teenager” wrestling to assert its independence from its overbearing mother, “Translation Studies” (and all her “theories”), and the not-always-present father, “Intertextuality”.

The problem is that this “teenage rebel”, as with all teenagers, is “synaptically-disabled” (my daughter always hated it when I said this to her – at the age of 21, she now agrees). Its supporters seem to be saying that “if only” Adaptation Studies could just get a fırmer handle on its “theoretical framework” – all would be well in the world!

Not so sure, I am…but maybe I need an “expert brain” to comment on this!